Et Tu, Brute? Haiti’s Betrayal By Latin America

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For the 10th year since the forcible removal of elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti, the United Nations has renewed the mandate of an occupying “peacekeeping force” in the country. The unanimous vote about Haiti happened in an October 14, 2014 meeting of the Security Council that took less than 25 minutes.

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The UN’s occupation of Haiti with its Stabilization Mission (Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en Haïti, MINUSTAH) is not merely due to the high-handed decisions of its Security Council. At a meeting of the General Assembly on May 7, 2014, for example, when the Secretary General proposed a reduction of MINUSTAH’s yearly budget from $575.89 to $511.31 millions, Brazil proposed that the UN troops should be replaced with UN law enforcement for the same budget. Guatemala argued that the higher sum would be needed to support MINUSTAH’s “essential role in helping Haiti hold legislative and local elections expected later this year,” and Haiti’s representatives said that MINUSTAH could not withstand this 11.2 percent budget reduction because of its need for “a well-balanced budget to fight cholera, among other challenges.” The disparity between Haitian public opinion, which has for years demanded an immediate and total removal of MINUSTAH, and the statements of its politicians is to be expected. Haiti’s representatives were, after all, installed in UN-sponsored elections that excluded the Fanmi Lavalas party and 80 percent of the electorate.

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For their repression of Haitians, Brazil and Guatemala expect, not only prestige on the world scene, but also a significant chunk of MINUSTAH’s massive yearly budget. Other Latin-American occupiers of Haiti with similar aspirations include Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. The behavior of these countries’ heads of state is in accord with the expectations of Niccolo Machiavelli, who wrote in The Prince that one should expect the worst treatment from those whom one has helped, because no one wants to reminded of a time when they needed to be helped.

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Indeed, without Haiti’s help, there would not have been any independent country in Latin America. On January 1, 1816, when Simon Bolivar arrived in Haiti, downtrodden and desperate for help to fight the Spanish, the only two republics in the Western Hemisphere were the United States, where slave ownership was in force, and Haiti, which had fought for and earned its independence from France, Spain, and the United Kingdom in what is still the only successful slave rebellion ever in the world. Bolivar had been beaten by a massive Spanish expedition in his attempt to free the northern regions of South America. He had been refused help by the British in Jamaica. Before Bolivar, only two years after Haitian Independence, the Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco Miranda had sought and received help from Haitian founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines; Miranda had left in February 1806 carrying, among other things, a Venezuelan flag that had been designed in Jacmel, Haiti. Bolivar came to Haiti to seek an audience with President Alexandre Petion. Petion agreed to see him the next day.

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When the two men met, Petion was 46 years old and had already twice been reelected President of a republic of former slaves. By contrast, Bolivar was 33 and had once been a rich plantation and slave owner. Petion asked Bolivar: “How can you found a republic where slavery exists?” He agreed to help Bolivar on condition that all slaves would be freed in the liberated areas. The pact between these two major historical figures, almost half a century before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, was necessarily secret because Haiti’s assistance would have been considered an act of war by the United States and Spain. Petion gave Bolivar and his men food and shelter for three months in Haiti. He also built cohesion among Bolivar’s officers and prevented at least one rebellion that would have caused the loss of a ship. Among other things, he forbade the ship’s use for any attack not approved by Bolivar, and he generally warned the men that those who did not follow Bolivar’s leadership would be forced to stay in Haiti and not join the expedition.

MINUSTAH Peacekeepers Disperse Demonstrators in Haiti

Bolivar left Haiti on March 31, 1816 with plans to take Venezuela. He had with him about 250 men, most of them officers, and he was outfitted by Petion with a small fleet, a printing press for propaganda, and weapons for 6,000 men, including 4,000 muskets and 15,000 pounds of gunpowder, plus money and food. After a disastrous six-month campaign, some of which was blamed on Bolivar’s tactical mistakes due to a reckless appetite for women even in the midst of his battles, he returned to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Petion, who had just been elected President of Haiti for Life, helped Bolivar once again to recover and organize his most loyal officers. This time he supplied Bolivar not only with materials but also with Haitian soldiers. According to Bolivar’s later writings, “This group of Haitians that faced down 10,000 European tyrants numbered 300 men.” This second expedition left for Venezuela on December 21, 1816. Bolivar’s campaign would be tortuous, but ultimately he would win independence for an area that includes modern-day north-west Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, northern Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. As promised to Petion, Simon Bolivar declared slavery to be abolished in his territories.

MINUSTAH Peacekeepers Distribute Food Rations

This is where the narrative about Petion and Bolivar usually ends, and it is a great story if one believes in fairy tales. Latin America does not like to be reminded that its great liberator, Simon Bolivar, never formally recognized the Republic of Haiti and never sent any diplomatic representative of his new government to our island republic. In 1826, for the first meeting of the independent states of the Americas, i.e. the Congress of the American States in Panama, Bolivar invited United States President John Quincy Adams, a proponent of the Monroe Doctrine and supporter of the slave trade, but he excluded Haiti.

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Ironically, current-day occupiers of Haiti from the regions that had been freed by Bolivar like to recall the “glorious relationship of Bolivar and Petion,” as if this could hypnotize Haitians and ever be a distraction as these occupiers continue a tradition of betrayal. Venezuela does not participate in MINUSTAH, but it is helping the current Haitian regime to build villas on Ile a Vache, an offshore island that the regime’s ministry of tourism is trying to expropriate forcibly from its residents. Leaders of countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Uruguay present themselves as being independent and anti-imperialistic, yet they do as the US says, as per tradition. All supply MINUSTAH with “peacekeeping troops.”

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Like any other occupation force, the UN troops harass, shoot, prostitute, infect and rape as a matter of routine. Moreover, they do so under cover of UN immunity. For example, in 2011, five Uruguayan troops raped a Haitian boy, Johnny Jean and, with their government’s complicity, they got away with their crime despite having videotaped it. Likewise, Argentinian, Brazilian, and Chilean (ABC) troops have faced no criminal charge for their massacres of thousands of Aristide partisans, some of which is immortalized on videotape. Ecuador has sung praises to Petion even as it embraced Michel Martelly and offered to train his army and paramilitary police. Of all the group, Brazil has been the most shameful in testing new military hardware in Haiti and making a lucrative business of training “peacekeepers” for deployment in Haiti, precisely because Haitians mistakenly consider themselves to be at peace. In addition, Brazil has secured Haitian reconstruction contracts for its more corrupt industries and trafficked Haitian nationals to work with its worst employers in an arrangement that amounts to slavery.

As Latin America contributes to UN occupation forces in Haiti and elsewhere, it is amassing a repressive army away from the prying eyes of its citizens. The size of this army is unprecedented; it can be activated at a moment’s notice against its home population, and it is loyal mainly to multinational corporations. As this army continues to grow, the so-called Latin-American democracies are becoming nothing more than banana republics with figurehead elected leaders and a powerful military that calls all the shots. We, Haitians, have no choice but to continue our revolution and follow Dessalines’ admonitions to: “Vow before me to live free and independent, and to prefer death to anything that will try to place you back in chains. Swear, finally, to pursue forever the traitors and enemies of your independence.” By denying Haiti, pretending that Haitian independence never happened and trying to destroy Haiti’s slave revolution, Latin America cannot become more powerful on the world scene, it can only lose its way and Haiti’s great gift of independence.

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Editor’s Notes:

This article is also available in Portuguese.

Photographs one, eight and nine from Blog Do Planalto; three, six, seven and ten from United Nations Photo;  four and five from the archives of the Presidencia de la Republica del Ecuador; eleven by Ansel.

For more from Dady Chery about Latin America’s conduct in Haiti as a Praetorian guard for the US, read We Have Dared to be Free: Haiti’s Struggle Against Occupation, available as a paperback from Amazon and e-book from Kindle and other vendors.

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16 Responses to Et Tu, Brute? Haiti’s Betrayal By Latin America

  1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Norman Trabulsy Jr.
    October 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Brilliantly written, eye opening, yet painful article.

    What is it that humanity must do to gain a taste of real democracy, honest representation, a modicum of social justice? What government is on the people’s side? I cannot think of one. Oh, I do envision a solution, yes, but no one would consider it pretty.

    • Dady Chery
      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
      October 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Norman. I agree that it is pointless to appeal to governments that are beholden to corporate power. Petitions and marches (to demand this and that) presume good will where there is none.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Jean
    October 18, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    It’s sad and shameful that the UN is such a deceitful organization that is advocating peace but is in fact the tool of the neo-colonialism. They play on the weakness of the corrupt Haitian politicians to advance their wicked agenda on a population that is hardly surviving. I doubt this occupational force would go anywhere voluntarily unless the relentless Haitian people put their lives on the line, one more time, to reconquer their freedom.

    • Dady Chery
      +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
      October 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      The UN’s fastest-growing branch is its “peacekeepers”, and it does its best around the world to drum up business for them.

  3. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1John Maxwell
    October 19, 2014 at 3:27 am

    Thank you for this article, it reflects many of my conclusions echoed for years.

    Just when I think Hellas! there is no way to recover from this century long mufti-national racist and greed agenda, someone like this writer reminds me of how resourceful and intelligent my Haitian comrades are, and rest assured that they eventually find a way, despite all the hatred against their people.

    Haiti and most African/Black nations are slowly coming to terms with the fact that organized world racism is 75 percent of their growth problems, when those factions in question are proving to be nothing but middle men even more dangerous than the principals, due to their hyper ambitions for recognition and fervor.

    Most of these Black nations have no choice but to reject with the utmost prejudice this mechanized world scheme that has long been the opposite of brotherhood and benevolence. That leaves one reflection: if “As above So below”, what type of god-liness model are these people practicing? Especially on this 300 to 1 racial arena, where a defensive posture is not even conceivable in this theater for Black people.

    Haven’t these ambassadors of these gods done enough, had enough, abused enough to realize what they are not?

    May the one true God bear witness to this mockery in his name.

    • Dady Chery
      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
      October 19, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      You are welcome, John. Thank you for your kind words and observations.

  4. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1JB
    October 20, 2014 at 7:49 am

    This is just a beautifully written article. Thank you. Some people out there still need to know about the Haitian history. There is an institutionalized, organized, unspoken punishment of Haiti by world powers. Just look at our history, from giver and helper to powerless and poor. Only God knows what his plan is for the Haitian people. We have survived all they threw at us. We will overcome these evils that continue to suppress us.

    • Dady Chery
      +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
      October 20, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Thank you, JB. You are welcome. We have few true friends, and this was always so. But consider what we have done: we took a piece of territory because we had literally slaved for it. This is one of the most audacious acts ever in human history. You cannot expect to be left alone after you do a thing like that. Expect the masters, the traitors… the whole caboodle. The revolution continues. We are neither powerless nor poor.

      • +4 Vote -1 Vote +1JB
        October 21, 2014 at 9:24 am

        I hope you continue to have success in your career and hopefully once in a while you bless us with other articles about Haiti

  5. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1david fisher
    October 20, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I believe I left a comment on the wrong article. I wanted to say that John Quincy Adams was not pro-slavery. In fact he fought against slavery in the House where he sat for many years after his presidency. As a lawyer he defended the escaped slaves on the Amistad as well, and continually challenged the Gag Rule of Congress that prevented anti-slavery legislation from coming to the floor for a vote.

    The article was excellent and I appreciate the information.

    Thank you

    • Dady Chery
      +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
      October 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Thank you, David. I agree that Adams’ position on freedom of speech was excellent, and he did successfully defend the Amistad slaves, much later in his life. While he was president, however, he wanted to keep the union together more than he wanted emancipation; he also shunned any requirement for reparations for slavery. Basically, he maintained the status quo. If he had been privately against slavery during his presidency, this was only so long as his stance cost nothing. He brought pressure to bear on Simon Bolivar to make sure Haiti was not invited to the Panama congress in 1826.

  6. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1JP
    October 20, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Interesting article. I fully agree that Bolivar and Latin America have been rather unfair to Haiti since its independence. Haiti has a beautiful history and others should have looked up to it.

    Nevertheless, respectfully, I also think the article lacks evidence to back up many of its statements and often fall into some level of ‘cliche’. For example, it fails to mention that a number of ‘Lavalas’ eminent personalities, including former president preval, have supported the presence of MINUSTAH. Also, it is unclear what you refer to when stating “massacres of thousands of Aristide partisans” by MINUSTAH troops. Are you refering to former gangs in Cité Soleil. If so, would you say these gangs were making people’s lives better in Haiti? Confusing…

    The article also fails to mention that the UN mission has brought the crime rates in Haiti down to the lowest levels in the Caribbean. There is no freedom in a society marked by fear and violence – this is therefore a good development.

    Otherwise, some interesting historical facts and food for thought.

    • Dady Chery
      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
      October 20, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      “Unfair” is quite an understatement. I say treacherous and stand by it.

      It is well established that MINUSTAH tried to depose Preval.

      As for the supposed gangs: there is a long tradition of occupiers and their collaborators calling patriots “bandits” or “gang members”, during foreign occupations. For example, the great Haitian hero (yes, we have many) Charlemagne Peralte, who fought the first US occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), was called “The Supreme Bandit” by the US and the Haitian elite, and his army was called a group of “bandits” even after it grew to 40,000 men and engaged the US marines on a daily basis.

      Haiti had the lowest crime rate in the Caribbean well before MINUSTAH came along; furthermore, 70 percent of those imprisoned in Haiti have never been tried. It is the UN-installed regime and its masters that have a monopoly on crime. Just as MINUSTAH has recast itself as a cholera-fighting mission after spreading cholera in the country, it pays itself generously to fight crime that it has introduced.

      Ironically, the reason why Latin America (especially Brazil) is using Haiti as a testing ground for its military technology and training ground for its armies is precisely because there is no risk to them in Haiti. They are in Haiti, not because Haiti needs “peacekeeping”, but precisely because it does not. High-level military from Brazil have said so again and again.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1kevin ward
    October 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for the info. I’ve been touting the cohesion of the revolutionary govt’s in SA especially for Haiti without seeing their Haitian/Hillary complicity. Glad to see Venezuela and Cuba are true as their word and are significant.

    • Dady Chery
      +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Dady Chery
      October 23, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      There was a time when they fooled me too, Kevin, with all the talk of solidarity with Haiti. Cuba has been true to its word. The case of Venezuela is more complicated. They help the Haitian regime with its requests, and this is usually bad. For example, the regime sells, at a profit, oil given by Venezuela, and it pockets much of the money. Another such deal, the worst in my view, has been the Venezuelan help with development of luxury villas on the offshore island Ile a Vache, on land that the Ministry of Tourism has grabbed from the residents. There is a fair amount of corruption in Venezuela, and this could help to explain these kinds of decisions, but ultimately somebody must answer for them.

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