Solo: The Importance Of Haiti – Camille Chalmers
The Importance Of Haiti - Radio Mundo Real Interviews Camille Chalmers
translated with an introduction by Toni Solo
".... a white middle-class westerner believes it is his human prerogative not only to manage the non-white world, but also to own it, just because, by definition "it" is not quite as human as "we" are."
- Edward Said. 
London mourns its dead with the attention the victims rightly deserve. But around the world other bereaved and grieving people note that their dead, murdered by infantry, armour and bombers under the orders of George Bush and Tony Blair, seem insignificant, unworthy of notice. In Iraq, the oocupiers disdain even to count the civilians they murder.
United Nations allies of the United States copy the US and UK example in Haiti. On July 6th, the day before the London attacks, heavily armed forces of the UN mission in Haiti (Minustah) rampaged through poor districts of the capital Port-au-Prince shooting at random. Foreign observers report that in the course of their action UN forces murdered as many as fifty civilians.
Haiti is emblematic of what the United States and its allies have in store for weaker countries given half a chance. Like Iraq, Haiti is occupied by the US and its cronies many of whose forces are little better than mercenaries. Its economy is in ruins with few signs of improvement. Much trumpeted "aid" has failed to appear. A corrupt puppet government, totally dependent on US and allied support, holds temporary power pending makeshift elections without legitimacy or credibility. Death squads protected by the occupying troops terrorise the population. Thousands of people are unjustly imprisoned.
This interview with Camille Chalmers by Radio Mundo Real puts some context around United Nations aggression against Haiti's people in the period following the United States' coup against the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide:-
"Radio Mundo Real interviewed economist Camille Chalmers, Economics Professor at the University of Haiti and one of the most critical voices of the process of military intervention.
RMR. One of the arguments of Uruguayan soldiers who travelled in the last few days to join MINUSTAH was that they were motivated by the pay they were earning from the mission. Taking into account the basically economic crisis that Haiti is undergoing what do you make of their comments?
CC. It seems to me at once very significant and very paradoxical, because Minustah has been in Haiti for over a year but this has meant no meaningful advance with regard to the objectives defined in UN Security Council Resolution 1542. From a security point of view we are worse off than before the military intervention.
Furthermore, we have a transitional government that has failed in every way and a UN mission that cannot contribute to a resolution of the problem, because Haiti's problem is not fundamentally a military problem. 85 per cent of Minustah is made up of military, while many of the tasks they perform are of civilian security, a job for the police.
This military force has a great deal of equipment and is using economic resources that could be extremely useful in the struggle against poverty, for social schemes or education and health programs. Minustah spends US$25 million a month, a figure which could be used on many other things given the current situation of Haiti's people.
RMR: What then would be the real interests and objectives behind this military intervention?
CC: It is clear that the military intervention is not directed at stability or security problems in Haiti. Nor is it directed at the serious economic problems we face. The military intervention is a function of the objective of imperial domination and recolonization of the American continent pursued by the United States. To undertsand this process it is important to take into account the failure of the Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative and the importance for the Bush administration of having a strong presence in the Caribbean.
Minustah is a new experiment, given that it is made up from Latin American military forces which could be interpreted as solidarity-based intervention, but in fact achieves the objectives of empire. In Haiti, one sees clearly that one of the current priorities of the United States is the privatization of the main State businesses, and the World Bank has plans to accelerate this process. Minustah's presence obscures this situation and facilitates control of the national economy by United States multinationals.
RMR: What happened to the promised injection of financial aid that was agreed last year for the country's institutional rebuilding?
CC: Up to now what we have are many promises. For example in July 2004 there was talk of US$1.4 billion pending, that never arrived. Recently in the Cayenne conference, new promises were made, but we see that they are never kept. International interventions to relaunch our battered economy do not exist. Apparently, the powers are hoping to get the election results before sending cooperation funds. It is obvious that the delay in the disbursements demonstrates the limitations of the intervention and how little it has to do with the needs of the people of Haiti.
RMR: An international mission led by Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Nora Cortiñas recently visited Haiti and concluded that here "the future of all the peoples of the South is at stake". What do you think?
CC: I believe it is absolutely the case, because we are facing an "economic war" where the United States is trying to impose its dominion on the continent. Since it couldn't make the FTAA work, it has managed to complete various bilateral free trade agreements, which seems to be its new strategy.
It seems to me that the severe economic crisis affecting the United States explains its anxiety to speed up the process of controlling its backyard, namely the Latin American market. President Bush put it clearly to the US Congress when he sought the ratification of the trade agreements with the Central American countries. For Washington, conquering new markets for its products is urgent and for that it needs to destroy other countries' national production by using several mechanisms.
This year the World Trade negotiations are at a decisive point, because agreements are in hand on trade in services, with advances on free trade agreements and also on bilateral investment treaties, all these benefit above all else US multinationals and permit them to control our human, natural and genetic resources.
RMR: How do you explain that the governments of Brazil and Uruguay have decided to send military contingents to join Minustah?
CC: It seems a very serious mistake to us and we think these governments are being manipulated and being led to believe in the creation of a multinational Latin American force that supposedly will open up a multilateral line of action to confront the unilateralism of the Bush administration, something that the Haiti experience shows to be an illusion since this military intervention is part of plans for imperial domination.
It is urgent that Latin America develops its own strategy of cooperation based on solidarity, beyond imperial dogmas and free market policies. It's important that there should be self-criticism, above all on the part of progressive or left wing governments and that they implement policies in accord with our real needs.
RMR: What historical factors have changed Haiti from a country in the vanguard of independence struggles to one at the tail end of development?
CC: One is dealing with a very long process with many factors coming into play. From the start of the 19th Century our country went through an interesting process of international reconstruction but in a very difficult context. The main powers of that epoch did not want the liberation of the slaves who lived in Haiti to be imitated elsewhere. For that reason, France demanded a huge indemnity to recompense the slave and plantation owners. That represented a huge financial haemorrhage which generated debt with serious consequences that lasted a long time. For a long time, almost 60 per cent of public revenue was allocated to pay that debt.
Another severe blow that we suffered was the military invasion of the United States in 1915, an event that began the systematic deterioration of Haiti as a State and its institutional destruction, part of which was the formation of armed forces totally controlled under the orders of the United States. This whole situation contributed to the loss of sovereignty and we are now coming up to completing 90 years under the control of the State Department of the United States.
RMR: What has been the situation more recently?
CC: One of the main causes of the economic collapse we are living through is the imposition of structural adjustment plans by the United States and the International Monetary Fund since the 1980s. From a trade point of view, Haiti is now the most open country in the whole continent and this has brought dramatic consequences for the economy of rural workers and their families.
In the 1970s Haiti was self-sufficient in cereals, but now we depend greatly on the United States market and we are buying US$200 million worth of rice each year while our our own rice production only meets 18% of our local market. Despite these dreadful consequences, the provisional government's policies have sharpened the logic of opening up to trade.
RMR: What is the way out of this situtation?
CC: To get out of this crisis it seems to me necessary to go back to basics and return to the ideas we had before the 1915 invasion so as to define a national project capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st Century. This project should be sustained by solidarity-based assistance and integration with Caribbean countries and the rest of Latin America.
The Haitian people has defined itself as solidarity based, from its contributions to Simon Bolivar and the struggles for independence to its support for the independence of the United States itself. This vocation of solidarity continues and it ought to be met with solidarity from the other Latin American countries, but not through military intervention.
RMR: Finally, what alternatives are there for the popular movement faced with the upcoming elections in October and November?
CC: Unfortunately, the picture is pretty obscure, firstly because there are technical delays that lead one to believe it will be hard for the elections to meet the planned timetable. On the other hand the climate of insecurity makes us think participation in the elections will be very limited which will mean elected representatives will have very limited legitimacy, insufficient to undertake reforms and substantial changes.
The electoral process will be completely controlled by Minustah, the Organization of American States and the United States. The national body assigned by the Constitution to coordinate elections is being completely displaced by outside agents. The perception we have in Haiti on the elections is totally negative, because they seem in reality other people's elections, not those of the Haitian people.
Progressive forces are debating all this and we expect in a few days time to define a consensual position on the elections."
1. "Orientalism" p.108, Penguin 1995.
2. "Haiti's UN Occupation Forces Carry Out Massacre of Poor in Port-au-Prince " HaitiAction.net July 8th 2005
3. "Haiti Horror" Anthony Fenton, Left Turn, www.znet.org July 11th 2005
4. Haiti Elections - article by Sue Ashdown & Olivia Burlingame Goumbri, Black Commentator July 7th 2005
5. "UN Supports Death Squads: On the Justice of Impunity in Haiti" Kevin Pina and Brian Concannon interviewed by Dennis Bernstein for Flashpoints Radio. www.znet.org, May 16th 2005 &. "Popular singer and political prisoner in Haiti speaks out" HaitiAction.net June 15th, 2005
7. "Entrevista al economista Camille Chalmers, profesor de economía en la Universidad de Haití. Soluciones militares en Haití para un drama con raíces históricas" Radio Mundo Real, www.rebelion.org July 13th 2005
toni solo is an activist based in Central America - contact via www.tonisolo.net