Brazil and Haiti

For those of you who will watch the Bush address tonight, I wish you well on the masochistic enterprise. I am capable of reading the texts after the fact, but mental health preservation precludes me spending too much time watching these people on television.

Other things to report. The Brazilian commander of the UN ‘peacekeeping mission’ in Haiti that is to take over the occupation of that country soon was interviewed for Correio Brazilense and the interview was translated into english. It is interesting, and quite sad, to hear a Brazilian answering a question like this:

[Lefcovich] Isn’t Brazil legitimizing US intervention and the ousting of [former Haitian] President Jean-Bertrand Aristide ?

like this:

[De Oliveira] No. That is a biased interpretation. As far as the United Nations and participants in the Minustah [United Nations Multi-Dimensional Stabilization Mission in Haiti] are concerned, Aristide tendered his resignation. I agree that there were some doubts concerning this matter at one point, but an Itamaraty [Brazilian Foreign Ministry] delegation has toured several Caribbean countries and ascertained that they endorse Brazil’s participation in this UN force. Furthermore, the current situation in Haiti is more stable than at the time of Aristide’s resignation. Schools, hotels and banks are operating normally. Life is returning to normal for the Haitian people.

This is a real shame. One might have hoped that Brazil, a country that has suffered a US coup (in 1964) and knows what US intervention is like, a country with a left regime in power, would have done a better job of standing up for the sovereignty and the will of the people of a Latin American country. That Colombia’s regime and the Venezuelan elite are willing to shoot themselves in the head to do the US’s bidding is no surprise; that Brazilian agents of the state are repeating US lies in public fora and sending troops to ratify occupation is tragic. So long as the US can get third world countries to occupy one another, there’s very little hope against imperialism.

The entire interview is below.

BBC Monitoring: Commander of Brazilian peacekeeping contingent views mission challenges in Haiti.

Text of “exclusive” interview with Brig-Gen Americo Salvador de Oliveira, commander of the Brazilian peacekeeping contingent in Haiti, by Sandra Lefcovich at Army General Headquarters : “The challenge will be to disarm Haitians”, published by Brazilian newspaper Correio Braziliense web site on 21 May.

Brigadier General Americo Salvador de Oliveira, 56, has been working very hard to cover every detail of his upcoming mission as commander of the Brazilian peacekeeping contingent in Haiti.

De Oliveira joined the army 37 years ago and this will be his first assignment with a UN peacekeeping force. He has served as commander of the Officers’ Training School in Rio de Janeiro, and as military attache in Germany for two years. “I feel nothing but pride. It is a stimulating challenge and a unique experience,” the general told Correio during an exclusive interview at Army General Headquarters. As part of his preparations for the mission he has had seven vaccinations so far.

[Lefcovich] US military personnel are not exactly welcome abroad. Do you believe that Brazilian military personnel are regarded in a different light, even though they are also foreigners ? [De Oliveira] Our reconnaissance group deployed to Haiti in March this year has ascertained that relations could hardly be better. The Haitian people like Brazilians very much. There was a two-day holiday in Haiti after Brazil won the latest World Cup. They admire our Ronaldinho and other soccer players.

[Lefcovich] How is security nowadays ? [De Oliveira] According to the information we have, the situation is currently stable. The various groups have drawn back and are not resorting to violence.

[Lefcovich] What will be the scope of action of the Brazilian contingent ? [De Oliveira] We will not engage in drug enforcement operations. One of our missions will be to disarm groups that espouse political ideologies and the actions we take will depend on the situation, because in Haiti there are many weapons in the hands of the people and no-one will hand them over willingly. The United Nations is developing a disarmament strategy.

[Lefcovich] Are you saying that drug enforcement will be left in the hands of the police ? [De Oliveira] Yes. The situation in Haiti is similar to that of our country. Drug enforcement will be left to the police. The United Nations has asked for 6,700 military personnel and 1,622 policemen. We must emphasize this point so as to avoid the misconception that armed forces personnel are being sent abroad to fight organized crime and drug trafficking in Haiti instead of Rio de Janeiro, right ? These are two separate issues.

[Lefcovich] Why is the mission in Haiti important for the army ? [De Oliveira] Our mission is to participate, together with other countries, in a multinational UN force that will ensure stability in Haiti, which is what the temporary force deployed there has been doing to date. This stability will help reestablish the democratic process with a view to elections as of 2005. Hence, our status in Haiti will be that of a friendly, impartial, non-hostile force deployed within the framework of the United Nations.

[Lefcovich] Isn’t Brazil legitimizing US intervention and the ousting of [former Haitian] President Jean-Bertrand Aristide ? [De Oliveira] No. That is a biased interpretation. As far as the United Nations and participants in the Minustah [United Nations Multi-Dimensional Stabilization Mission in Haiti] are concerned, Aristide tendered his resignation. I agree that there were some doubts concerning this matter at one point, but an Itamaraty [Brazilian Foreign Ministry] delegation has toured several Caribbean countries and ascertained that they endorse Brazil’s participation in this UN force. Furthermore, the current situation in Haiti is more stable than at the time of Aristide’s resignation. Schools, hotels and banks are operating normally. Life is returning to normal for the Haitian people.

[Lefcovich] Do the armed force have the necessary resources for this mission ? [De Oliveira] Yes. The required materiel must comply with UN standards and we are acquiring whatever was lacking.

[Lefcovich] What about salary cutbacks ? [De Oliveira] Well, that is not a source of concern, our personnel are all volunteers ; they would go no matter what. Military personnel will earn more because whatever they make will be in addition to their domestic salaries.

[Lefcovich] Is the army concerned about the fact that money is being spent on peacekeeping missions despite funding shortages to pay the salaries of military personnel ? [De Oliveira] The army is not concerned because we are doing what the armed forces are supposed to do. We do worry when police forces fail to do their job and we are called upon to carry out missions that are not within the purview of the military. We are not trained to fight organized crime.

[Lefcovich] That would be the case in Rio de Janeiro. [De Oliveira] The army has never refused to help out, but one must go about it the right way. We are tasked with upholding law and order, but all other means must be exhausted for us to step in.

[Lefcovich] You are saying that your job in Haiti would be different from that in Rio de Janeiro ? [De Oliveira] We are going to Haiti not as policemen, but as the Brazilian Armed Forces contingent within the framework of a multinational peacekeeping mission.

[Lefcovich] Are soldiers forbidden from making contact with Haitian women ? [De Oliveira] It is not forbidden, but it is not recommended. Haiti has the highest rate of AIDS cases in the Americas, second only to Africa. Condoms will be distributed.

[Lefcovich] Will the fact that Brazilian soldiers do not speak the language – which was not the case in Angola – be a problem ? [De Oliveira] We are taking steps to deal with it. We are taking with us 10 French interpreters to deal with government officials, but the population speaks Creole. We are compiling a French-Creole-Portuguese dictionary for the troops. Given our people’s ability to adapt themselves, however, I believe our troops will come back speaking Creole.

Source : Correio Braziliense web site, Brasilia, in Portuguese 21 May 04

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

One thought on “Brazil and Haiti”

  1. I can’t believe it, my
    I can’t believe it, my co-worker just bought a car for $87510. Isn’t that crazy!

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