CBC's The Current discusses MINUSTAH's credibility crisis in Haiti

Sept 8, 2011
Yesterday, CBC Radio One's The Current carried a 25-minute story on MINUSTAH, prompted by the reports of the assault by Uruguayan MINUSTAH soldiers on a young Haitian man in Port Salut, a village on Haiti's south coast, in July. The story consisted of interviews with two supporters of the UN role in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, the Humanitairian Coordinator of the UN in Haiti, and Michael Deibert, a writer whowelcomed the overthrow of elected government in Haitiin 2004.
Fisher told The Current that he and his colleagues have been "outraged and shocked by this incident." He said he has a "deep regret" for the young victim of the alleged assault and for Haitians more generally. Fisher explained that under the rules of Security Council intervention (so-called "peacekeeping"), allegations such as those in Port Salut are investigated by the participating country, in this case Uruguay, not by agencies of the UN. Nonetheless, he says, "There is zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour."
Fisher was asked what damage this event will cause to the UN mission in Haiti. He answered, "Well, of course, our reputation...is already mixed because, there is no doubt that, I think, there are some some Haitians who welcome what the military/police/civil affairs side of the mission does...It is helping with institution-building in key areas of prisons, of police, of justice, etc.
"But equally, Haitians are very proud people. I think many of them find it difficult to see so many foreigners and so many people in uniform in their country. So we all have a common interest in seeing this mission leave..."
Carla Bluntschli has lived in Haiti for the past 26 yearsand resides in the village of Gros Jean. The Current asked her thoughts about MINUSTAHand played a recording of her answer. "Un-useful, in one word," she said. "It is not contributing to the overall development on any level in the country. It's frustrating and un-useful."
The program later returned to more of its interview with Bluntschli. The program host noted the doubling of MINUSTAH forces since the earthquake. Bluntschli said, "MINUSTAH has repeatedly been accused of raping, killing, in general being disrespectful, and not being of use to the country as a whole. So there is much, much disdain towards the UN presence. It's very difficult for me because they have these tanks and guns pointed out in traffic. It's like you're in prison. Every time you see them it's like a reminder that you are, kind of, being watched and held hostage. And for what, for what reason?
"And on top of that, the cholera epidemic epitomizes how the Haitians feel about (MINUSTAH) 'doing more harm than good.'"
Responding to the comment, Fisher said, "Well again, many people say that here."
Michael Deibert said that during his two visits to Haiti since the earthquake, he has observed a "bit of a malaise" towards MINUSTAH compared to 2009. "Between 2006 and 2009, they (MINUSTAH) had a bit of a, kind of a 'golden era', you might say." Citing an alleged decline in violent crime during those years, he said, "The perception of them (MINUSTAH) by the general public during that time was positive."
In contrast, he continued, between 2004 and 2006 MINUSTAH was viewed by Haitians as "having done very little." Today, he says, "I feel like the earthquake...knocked (MINUSTAH) off balance in a way it has never really gotten back from." In the summer of 2009, he said, "there was a good rapport between the public and the peacekeepers." Now, MINUSTAH always patrols with its guns pointed at citizens.
There is a question mark over MINUSTAH today, Deibert says. It is supposed to keep the peace, but from whom? He says the Haitian National Police should be able to take over policing. The force has grown "leaps and bounds" in its functioning. MINUSTAH, meanwhile has gone from being "an asset to an obstacle." That's because the force's presence allows Haitian politicians to blame the UN for their own (politicians') failings.
"I think one thing that would be really productive (would be) a transformation of the peacekeeping mission into a development mission, maybe on a smaller scale. That would really have a positive impact," especially among peasants, he said, who he claimed make up, "90% of the population of Haiti."
This is the first report about Haiti on The Current since an April 7, 2011 interview on the program with Michel Martelly. Below is a letter written to the program three weeks ago by this writer.
There is a lively exchange of views on MINUSTAH between Michael Deibert and Joe Emersberger, editor of Haiti Analysis, on the website of Truth Dig, following that site's publication on Sept 1 of a commentary by Deibert on MINUSTAH. See the article and the exchanges here on Truth Dig. Below is the contribution by Joe Emeersberger that launched the exchanges.
Roger Annis

Vancouver BC
August 18, 2011

To: CBC The Current
Subject: Haiti, President Michel Martelly and the humanitarian crisis

Hello The Current,

We are writing to encourage the Current to devote more coverage in the coming weeks and months to what has and has not been working in Haiti’s aid and reconstruction process following the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010. The political and humanitarian situation in the country is continually evolving, with new questions and challenges emerging that need to be addressed.

A string of penetrating reports and news articles over the past two months have cast serious doubt over the direction of the country and the international relief effort. Four days ago, the Washington Post published an editorial (enclosed below) that describes the presidency of Michel Martelly of Haiti as “stuck in the mud.”

An August 6 editorial in The Economist is sub-headlined, “Political deadlock may trigger unrest on the streets and fatigue among donors, hindering the slow recovery…”

The Post editorial argues, “Three months after his inauguration, the presidency of Michel Martelly, Haiti’s new leader, is dangerously close to running aground.”

“Rather than seeking reconciliation and new allies following bruising, deeply flawed elections,” it continues, “he has continued to rely on a small circle of friends and advisers.” The editorial describes the slow pace of aid and reconstruction in Haiti, saying it falls short of what is needed.

Economist editors say that the root of the deadlock“lies in part in the flawed general election of last November…”

“Mr. Martelly has not show himself to be a builder of consensus…”

The strong language of the two editorials does not surprise those of us who have been following events in Haiti. We recently directed a ten-day, fact-finding delegation to Haiti. Our delegation can certainly testify to the Post editors’ argument that “reconstruction efforts have been painfully slow.” That’s a message that many Haitians implored us to take back to Canada. We published our findings in a report on August 4 that we will shortly send to every member of Parliament. (The report is also published in French).

There have been a string of important reports and news analyses in the past two months expressing in great detail and urgency the need for sharp shifts in policy and direction on the part of the Haitian government and international powers present in the country. Perhaps the most important of these was the June 28 report of the International Crisis Group. Also of note is a lengthy article that appears in the August 4 edition of Rolling Stone.

There is also serious, ongoing questioning of the role and legal foundation of the 13,000-member foreign police and military mission known as MINUSTAH. Last April 6, the United Nations Security Council held a special meeting on Haiti in which many members countries, including the president of Colombia, acting president that month of the Security Council, expressed concern about the overarching dedication of UN resources in Haiti to police and military patrols.MINUSTAH spends close to $1 billion per year (!) yet contributes little to human development.

MINUSTAH’s background and operations are able to be more closely scrutinized thanks to a series of revelatory articles in the weeklies The Nation and Haiti Liberté that are based on the release of U.S. diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks organization to the two publications.

Dr. Paul Farmer’s recently published “Haiti After the Earthquake” situates much of Haiti’s present crisis in a history of failed, foreign intervention in the country.

Last April 7, you interviewed Michel Martelly and placed this rather hopeful note on your website notice: “Michel Martelly feels optimistic and says he offers fresh hope to Haiti.” At the time of the second round election on March 20, we noted that CBC news reporters treated the electoral process that brought him to the presidency as fair, notwithstanding the first round the previous November 28 on which the second round was based and which, at the time, CBC journalists variously described as a “sham” and a “complete fraud.” It seems to us that you owe your listeners some examination of what that election has produced. The only recent print article of which we are aware in Canada looking critically at this subject was published in The Mark on August 9.

I will be in Toronto and Hamilton on behalf of our solidarity network during the week of October 10 to speak at public forums and university lectures on the findings of our delegation. You can find details of those events as well as other speaking events of our delegation in other parts of Canada in the coming months at this link: http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca/events

Roger Annis
Canada Haiti Action Network www.canadahaitiaction.ca
778 858 5179


Haiti, stuck in the mud

Editorial, Washington Post, August 14, 2011

THREE MONTHS after his inauguration, the presidency of Michel Martelly, Haiti’s new leader, is dangerously close to running aground. Two of his nominees for prime minister have been rejected by Haiti’s opposition-dominated parliament. In the absence of a fully functioning government, international aid and investment have slowed to a crawl. So have Mr. Martelly’s own top priorities — resettling hundreds of thousands victims of last year’s earthquake still living in tent cities, and reviving the nation’s shattered public schools so that children have access to education.

No one expected miracles from the new president, a political neophyte whose celebrity as a bawdy carnival singer helped catapult him to the presidency. The keys to his elective success were his popularity as a performer and his status as an outsider. But, with no real party structure of his own, he’s also been unable to work his will in parliament. Hence the rejection of his two candidates for prime minister.

Mr. Martelly shares the blame. Rather than seeking reconciliation and new allies following bruising, deeply flawed elections, he has continued to rely on a small circle of friends and advisers. His first pick for prime minister, an intelligent American-educated entrepreneur, had no more political experience than Mr. Martelly. His second, a former justice minister remembered chiefly for reprisals and repression directed at his ideological enemies, stood no chance of confirmation — as Mr. Martelly was repeatedly and publicly warned.

Meanwhile, the president made five overseas trips in his first eight weeks in office — including one to Spain, a country of little significance for Haiti. It’s hard to know whether these rookie mistakes are the product of inexperience, incompetence or both.

Now the president says that it may be another six months before he manages to install a prime minister to lead his government. If that turns out to be the case, it will only compound Haitians’ suffering and confirm the growing international impression of a rudderless, politically querulous nation incapable of helping itself.

Already, reconstruction efforts have been painfully slow. More than 600,000 people, displaced from their homes by the quake, remain in tent-and-tarp cities in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince. Vast fields of rubble remain to be cleared. Of $5.6 billion pledged by international donors for what was to be the original, 18-month recovery period following the earthquake in January 2010, scarcely 40 percent has been disbursed, and far less has actually made its way to projects on the ground.

It’s not that the new president lacks decent ideas or instincts. He has proposed a solid pilot plan for resettling tens of thousands of displaced residents of tent cities, and he has wisely extended the mandate of an interim relief commission led by Bill Clinton and Jean-Max Bellerive, prime minister under the previous government. His program to provide free primary education to children, and to finance it with higher taxes on wire transfers and international calls, is sensible.

But if Mr. Martelly is to have even a slight hope of success, he needs to reach out to his adversaries in parliament, widen his circle of advisers and broaden his base of support. So far, he’s stuck in the mud.

© The Washington Post Company

Posting by Joe Emersberger to Truth Dig, September 4, 2011

Michael Deibert has been one of the most persistent apologists for the 2004 coup that deposed Haiti’s democratically elected government under Jean Bertrand Aristide. Under a US/UN backed dictatorship, at least 4000 Aristide supporters were murdered between 2004-2006. I’ve cited three of the most damning reports below - one them published by The Lancet medical journal. The murders were mostly carried out by the police and armed attaches with cover usually provided by UN troops. A person’s mind must be thoroughly warped by imperial assumptions to suggest - as Deibert does - that Haitians should be grateful to MINUSTAH for anything.

1) Athena R. Kolbe and Royce A. Hutson, “Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households,” The Lancet, Vol. 368, No. 9538, September 2, 2006
2) Thomas M. Griffin, University of Miami School of Law: Haiti Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004
3) Harvard Law School; “Keeping the Peace in Haiti?”;March 2005

Also, on the UK Guardian’s website, Deibert and I had an exchange in the comments section to a Mark Weisbrot article that may be of interest: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jan/18/haiti-usa?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

Wesibrot also did a fine piece recently on why MINUSTAH should go: