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Haiti: An Occupation in Blackface

The U.S. invaded and occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, and again occupied the country in 2004 after overthrowing the democratically elected government. The United Nations then partnered with the aggression, installing MINUSTAH, a largely Black and brown military force that brought a cholera epidemic, looting of mineral resources, rape, assassinations and a criminally corrupt puppet regime.

Street protest in Haiti.

By Dr. Jemima Pierre, BAR Editor and Columnist
“Haiti’s sovereignty has been snuffed out over the past eleven years by a multiracial coalition of Caribbean, Latin American and African countries.”

July 28, 2015 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the landing of US Marines in Haiti and the beginning of a military occupation of the Black Republic that lasted nineteen years. With its massacres of Haitian peasants, its control of Haiti’s finances, its suppression of the Haitian press, and its dissolution of the Haitian legislature – all backed by a combination of Jim Crow ideology and Monroe Doctrine exceptionalism – the occupation represents a searing annotation in the history of Haitian sovereignty. Yet the memory of the US occupation sits awkwardly in the context of the Haitian present, where a new occupation is currently in its eleventh year, begging the question posed by The Public Archive (@public_archive) on twitter, “How do you memorialize occupation in the middle of occupation?”

The latest occupation began June 2004 and was established under the pretext of “stabilizing” Haiti after the U.S.-sponsored ouster of the country’s democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide. A plot hatched by France, Canada, and the US (during the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”) to overthrow Aristide in 2003 succeeded in February 2004 when Aristide was kidnapped by US marines and sent to a military base in the Central African Republic. George W. Bush then announced he was sending US forces to Haiti to “help stabilize the country.” As Peter Hallward documents, this “Franco-American” invasion force targeted and killed Aristide supporters, it installed a puppet Prime Minister, and enabled the formation of a paramilitary force that set up anti-Aristide death squads. The coup was then cleaned up by the United Nations. Under its leadership, particularly that of then Secretary-General Kofi Anan, the UN Security Council voted unanimously on April 29, 2003 to send, according to Hallward, “an 8,300-strong UN Stabilization Force from 1 June, under the leadership of Lula’s Brazil.”

“The coup was cleaned up by the United Nations.”

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is a multi-billion dollar military occupation that has had, in any given year, between 6000 and 9000 military troops and police, and a few thousand civilian personnel. While there is no civil war in Haiti, and while crime rates are higher in other nations in the Western hemisphere – including Jamaica and the U.S. – MINUSTAH has had its illegal mandate renewed and extended every year. Under this occupation, the US and its allies, France and Canada, have been able to install another puppet government, the neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly. Martelly has opened up Haiti to further fleecing, including of its known gold and mineral resources, has been working diligently to reinstate the brutal Haitian military, and has been ruling by decree since January 2015. And similar to the first US occupation of Haiti, MINUSTAH has committed a number of atrocious acts against Haitians – rape, assassinations, and physical violence. MINUSTAH is also responsible for bringing cholera into the country, a disease that has killed more than 9000 Haitians and infected hundreds of thousands. Despite the deaths, and despite the evidence proving their culpability, the United Nations has enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

“For Brazil, the country in Latin America with the largest Black population and a supposedly leftist government, Haiti is its “imperial ground zero.”

While the current occupation was initiated and continues to be largely funded by the U.S. and the United Nations, Haiti’s sovereignty has been snuffed out over the past eleven years by a multiracial coalition of Caribbean, Latin American and African countries. This may be the most sinister and least talked about aspect the occupation and Haiti’s loss of sovereignty, and the one that requires our attention and contempt. In the first instance, there’s Brazil. Brazil has been in charge of the military wing of the occupation since its beginning. It has spent upwards of $750 million in its occupation of Haiti. For Brazil, the country in Latin America with the largest Black population and a supposedly leftist government, Haiti is its “imperial ground zero”: through its occupation of this Black nation, it can establish itself as a regional power, to show the Americans and Europeans that its ready for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, while bringing back its military terror to its own poor Black and Brown favela dwellers.

Perhaps more egregious is the occupation’s new Black leadership. The head of the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti is Sandra Honoré, of Trinidad and Tobago. A career diplomat and former ambassador to Costa Rica, Honoré takes up the post previously held by Mariano Fernández Amunátegui of Chile. Her deputy is the Black American, Carl Alexandre, an attorney who previously worked as the “Resident Legal Advisor” for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. This Black leadership is accompanied by a multinational military force made up of a number of South American, Caribbean, and African countries, including Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Jamaica, Grenada, Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon, Niger, and Mali.

If in 1915 the sovereignty of the Black Republic was extinguished by white power, today, whitesupremacy over Haiti occurs under cover of Blackface.

Jemima Pierre can be reached at BAR1804@gmail.com

 Reprinted with permission from Black Agenda Report.

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