March 2012        


Haïti events in Dublin

Wednesday 29 February was the eighth anniversary of the second coup d’état against the elected president of Haïti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A number of events were organised in Dublin to commemorate that awful event and to examine what is now happening in Haïti.
     On Saturday 25 February the Progressive Film Club, in association with the Latin America Solidarity Centre and the Radharc Trust, presented a day’s screening of films on Haïti.
     Three of the films were from the Radharc archive and provided an insight into the situation in Haïti at the time of President Aristide’s election. Extensive interviews with Aristide’s colleagues and scenes from the post-election celebrations illustrated his popularity and his revolutionary programme for government.
     Priest, Prophet, President examined how and why Aristide ended up as a presidential candidate and showed the background to his political activity as a young priest working in a poor Haïtian parish.
     Friends and Enemies of the President explored sources of support that President Aristide could rely on as well as showing the powerful enemies with whom he needed to negotiate.
     O, la Liberté! looked at the issues President Aristide needed to give priority to in beginning the work of putting his election promises into effect, in which he stated that liberation theology would be public policy.
     The films were made in 1991, and the Radharc team visited both rural and urban communities, filming people in their daily activities and in their work to ensure Aristide’s success in the election. They also showed the deposed dictator Duvalier and the wealthy elite in their luxurious environs, far removed from the majority who struggle to survive from day to day.
     The films’ research was extensive. The narrator, Peter Kelly, gave a concise history of Haïti’s beginnings as a young republic, forced to pay reparations to France for the loss of its slaves. The role of the dreaded Tonton Macoutes was also explained in preserving the status quo of the Duvalier regime.
     What a shame RTE did not show these films at the time of the 2010 earthquake, when the only information given to the public was that “Haïti is the poorest country in the world outside Africa,” without any explanation of why this is so!
     The fourth film shown was one made by the American journalist and filmmaker Kevin Pina. Very different in content and tone, it showed the horrific massacres perpetrated by the UN occupation force, which has brutalised and terrorised the Haïtian people since the occupation began. The film is called What’s Going On in Haïti? and contains scenes of men, women and children blasted to death by high-power gunfire from helicopters.
     It is interesting to note that these killings of innocent civilians have not garnered media interest, will not be investigated, and are not considered worthy of condemnation by Bill Clinton (now de facto ruler of Haïti) or Denis O’Brien, whose telephone business has its Caribbean headquarters in Haïti.
     On Tuesday 28 February there was a public meeting in the Pearse Centre, where the speaker was Elsie Haas, a Haïtian journalist, artist and filmmaker, who brought us up to date on what’s happening in Haïti now. She gave us a profile of the new “president” (elected by a tiny proportion of the electorate) and explained how the military occupation by the United Nations is facilitating the return of Duvalierism as well as oppressing the supporters of Aristide.
     Asked by a member of the audience what she would say to the minister for foreign affairs had he taken the time to attend the meeting, Elsie replied that she would ask him to push for reparations to the Haïtian people for the cholera that was brought to the country by the Nepalese UN contingent, and for the UN to withdraw its force immediately. Also needed were free and fair elections, with Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, allowed to contest them.
     Because Brazil is in charge of the hated occupying force, MINUSTAH, there was a demonstration outside the Brazilian Embassy in Dublin on Wednesday evening, led by members of the Latin America Solidarity Centre. Banners and posters demanded the withdrawal of the UN from Haïti and for Brazil to support the people of Haïti by facilitating that withdrawal.
     There was much interest from the public, whose awareness of Haïti has been dominated by the fund-raising publicity in the wake of the earthquake, with little or no information on the political situation there.
■ Elsie Haas’s artistic work will be on display in Connolly Books, East Essex Street, throughout March, the sale of which will facilitate her work with the Haïtian people.

Letter to the Brazilian ambassador from the Haïti Solidarity Group

Dear Ambassador,
     We urge Brazil, as the largest troop contributor to MINUSTAH to reconsider your country’s position in the continued occupation of Haïti, despite the increasing demands by a majority of Haïtians for the withdrawal of all UN troops from their country.
     We also urge Brazil to press the UN for full reparation for the 500,000 victims of cholera brought to Haïti by Nepalese members of the UN force.
     We also ask that MINUSTAH take full responsibility for the past and continuing crimes such as murder, rape and robbery, perpetrated by their soldiers against the civilian population of Haïti The perpetrators should not be allowed any form of immunity and should be brought to justice.
     Finally we urge Brazil to use its considerable influence in the region, to facilitate free and fair elections in which Haïti’s most popular party Fanmi Lavalas is allowed to participate. The recent elections should be annulled, as Lavalas was excluded, and less than a quarter of the electorate voted.
     As Haïti was the first country in Latin America to cast off slavery, we believe that all the peoples of the region owe it a debt of gratitude, not least Brazil whose people suffered greatly from slavery. As for the former slave-owning states, they owe Haïti reparations, for the crime of slavery and for the suffering they imposed and continue to impose on its people.
     Is it not now time for the ending of the present form of UN bondage? Is it not time for Brazil to throw in its lot with the suffering people and not with its oppressor?

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