Cholera & hunger in Haiti meet militant resistance
By G. Dunkel
October 22, 2012
As famine lurks throughout Haiti and cholera
daily kills the weak, the very young and the old, the response of the Haitian
people has been growing militancy. In massive numbers they have taken to the
streets to demand an end to the corrupt regime of President Michel
The Haitian people want an end to the U.N.
occupation force, called Minustah, which brought cholera to Haiti less than two
years ago. The cholera epidemic has been traced to Minustah’s infectious
waste deposited in Haiti’s largest river, Artibonite.
Minustah — a smokescreen for the
imperialist powers, especially the United States, Canada and France —
operates like any other occupying army. Under the direction of its U.N.
commander, Major General Fernando Rodrigues Goulart from Brazil, Minustah
engages in rape, pillage and arbitrary arrests, detentions and murders, with
nothing stopping them. Minustah’s troops are all soldiers from oppressed
countries, who get paid far less than their colleagues in the imperialist
The U.N. occupation of Haiti and its
unwillingness to acknowledge its responsibility for the cholera epidemic, which
has killed nearly 8,000 Haitians and sickened over half a million, remains a
hidden issue in the United States. The racist demonization of the Haitian
people in the big-business press is a contributing factor. Outside of the
Haitian community, in Latin America and the Caribbean, there is growing mass
resistance to their countries’ participation in Minustah.
A significant delegation of Latin American
trade union leaders asked the U.N. not to extend Minustah’s mandate. The
delegation included Pablo Micheli, General Secretary, Argentine Trade Union
Confederation; Julio Turra, National Executive Committee representative of
United Trade Union Central of Brazil; David Abdulah, Secretary General of the
Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union of Trinidad; and Fignolé St. Cyr, of
the Centrale Autonome des Travailleurs Haitiens.
This delegation met with U.N. leaders on Oct.
11, the day before the U.N. Security Council was scheduled to vote on the
extension. They also addressed a protest rally, organized by a coalition of
Haitian community and political groups in New York, on the day of the vote.
Micheli noted in his talk that during the same day thousands of workers were
protesting the presence of Argentinian soldiers in Minustah in front of the
Argentinian parliament. Turra said there were also a number of smaller
demonstrations in Brazil.
Haitians, participating in the demonstration,
were visibly heartened by the international support their struggle had
obtained. However, the Security Council did extend the occupation for another
Famine due to capitalist
Even workers in Haiti with a stable job
covered by minimum wage laws — a minority since most workers, especially
women, are in the informal sector — have trouble covering the rising cost
of food. According to the government’s Haitian Institute of Statistics
and Data Processing, inflation was 1 percent just for the month of August.
These official figures don’t reveal the real costs for poor people, who
can afford to buy only small quantities of food. The World Bank reports that
the price of rice, the main staple Haitian food, was up 1.31 percent in
A 2009 bill raising the minimum wage from
$1.69 a day to $4.82 a day went into effect Oct. 1 this year, according to
Haiti’s Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Josefa Gauthier. For a
family of four to just survive in Haiti, it is generally accepted that $12.50 a
day is needed. The Martelly government has announced that it intends to buy
300,000 sacks of rice from Japan and dump them on the market. “The
government decision to subsidize rice ‘dumping’ is a direct
consequence of the protests of people who have seen their cost of living
rise,” rice farmer and peasant leader Nesly Voltaire in the Artibonite
told IPS. (ipsnews.net, Oct. 1) The government could also have given the money
to Haiti’s rice farmers to produce locally, which would mean the masses
would have easier access to rice. In the meantime, the Japanese rice is yet to
The 80 percent of Haitians who live on less
than $2 a day are hungry because they don’t have enough money to buy
food, which is sold for a profit, not based on need. If you don’t get
enough calories, it is practically impossible to do a full day of hard work
The demand for food was a constant refrain in
the massive, militant demonstrations held throughout the country in September,
which were only intensified by Martelly’s pro-imperialist policies. The
demonstrations in October have been just as militant and more harshly
On Oct. 5, when Martelly and the U.S.
ambassador were en route to inaugurate a new road (of less than a mile) that
the U.S. Agency for International Development had funded in the port city of
Petit Goave, a small group of motorcyclists recognized them and began shouting
slogans like “Down with Martelly! Down with corruption! Martelly must
Bodyguards fired large amounts of teargas,
beat some protesters, burned their motorcycles, and killed some of the
farmers’ animals. Facilia Hyppolite, 80, was asphyxiated by the tear
On Oct. 7, in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and
Gonaïves, Haiti’s third largest city, thousands of protesters came
out, waving the red cards soccer referees give to players who have committed a
foul and must leave the game. They intended to give these cards to
There were also major protests in the southern
city of Les Cayes, where Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles, a leader in the protests
in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, spoke.
On Oct. 8, in Fort Liberté, a port in
northeast Haiti, “One person was shot dead, three others injured, and a
police substation burned. This is the final toll of a demonstration. …
Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aime, Department du Sud-Est senator elected from [former
President Prevals] Inite party, who is on the spot, says the police shot at the
demonstrators and used teargas to disperse them because they had blocked the
National Road.” (Radio Kiskeya, recorded by BBC Monitoring Service, Oct.
Bien-Aime explained that the whole population
of Fort Liberté, both proponents and opponents of Martelly, were opposed
to the government’s decision not to build port facilities there, a
devastating blow to its economy. Demonstrators were also outraged that the cops
shot and killed Georges Delius, who happened to be passing by the demonstration
on his way to work with a shovel in his hands.
The presence of Minustah exists to protect
Martelly from the righteous anger and heroic determination of the Haitian
people. The way the Haiti press is reporting the current protests appears to be
an extension of a similar period when no amount of repression stopped the
Haitian masses from forcing the brutal former Haitian dictator, Jean-Claude
“Baby Doc” Duvalier, out of power in 1986.
The Defend.ht website covered the incident
at Petit Goave, along with a number of other news services from Haiti.
Defend.ht also has extensive videos, in Creole and French, focused on the