Time for Lula to Stop Doing Bush’s Dirty Work in Haiti
By BEN TERRALL
When Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known as “Lula”, visits Washington on March 31, he will likely spend most of his time with President Bush discussing ethanol, a relatively safe subject for the two leaders. Earlier this month, Brazil and the United States, the world’s two top ethanol producers, announced the creation of an international forum to help turn biofuels into a globally traded commodity. Brazil, unlike the U.S., has spent thirty years developing its ethanol technology, and is producing a surplus of a sugar-based version of that fuel.
Lula has been criticized for following the Bush Administration on foreign trade policy, but he may be in even more hot water for following Bush on a foreign military adventure. When President Lula relieved U.S. Marines in Haiti by having Brazil take the lead of the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) in early 2004, he got Bush, whose troops were spread thin, out of a tight spot. Lula also earned brownie points for Brazil’s bid for a permanent seat on a potentially-expanded UN Security Council.
But all this came at a price. MINUSTAH was the only UN peacekeeping mission in history deployed without a peace agreement. It’s true purpose was to consolidate the February 29, 2004 coup against the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This genesis put MINUSTAH in a quandary from the beginning. In order to fulfill its mission of supporting the illegitimate, unpopular and brutal Interim Government of Haiti (led by a Bush supporter flown in from Florida), MINUSTAH was forced to join the dictatorship’s attacks on poor neighborhoods that would never accept the overthrow of their democracy.
In August 2006, the British Medical Journal The Lancet published a mortality study that concluded 8,000 people were killed in the first twenty-two months of the coup. In almost half of the reported deaths, the perpetrators were identified as security agents of the coup government, former soldiers or armed anti-Lavalas groups. No murders were attributed to Lavalas members. Although the government and its paramilitary allies did the lion’s share of the killings, MINUSTAH participated as well. In a July 6, 2005 raid, MINUSTAH soldiers shot 22,000 bullets (by the UN’s own count) into the thin walls of the poor Cite Soleil neighborhood. Up to sixty civilians were killed, dozens more wounded, but none received help from the “peacekeepers.”
Although a democratic government was inaugurated last May, MINUSTAH continues to kill civilians. In the early morning of December 22, 2006, 400 Brazilian-led MINUSTAH troops in armored vehicles carried out a massive assault on the Bois Neuf and Drouillard districts of Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince. The military operation, which claimed the lives of dozens of area residents, took place near the site of the July, 2005 raid.
“They came here to terrorize the population,” resident Rose Martel told Reuters, referring to UN troops and police. “I don’t think they really killed any bandits, unless they consider all of us as bandits.”
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