Haitian Activist David Josue Begins Brazil Tour to Demand UN/Brazil Troops Out of Haiti
By ALAN BENJAMIN
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 18, 2008 -- Haitian human rights activist David Josue initiated today a week-long tour to Brazil, where he will speak before mass rallies and official governmental bodies in four cities to demand the immediate withdrawal of UN troops, which are under Brazilian command, from Haiti.
Brother Josue issued an Open Letter to Brazilian President Inacio "Lula" da Silva earlier this year at the Second Continental Conference Against Free Trade, Privatizations and War in Mexico City. The Brazilian delegation to this conference subsequently distributed this Open Letter widely across Brazil, winning many supporters for this stance among federal deputies in the Brazilian National Assembly and among the leadership of the main trade union federation: the CUT.
UN troops in Brazil -- known as the MINUSTAH forces (or UN Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti) -- have occupied Haiti since 2004. Brazil is in command of these occupation forces and also has the largest contingent of troops in Haiti -- 1,210 troops, according to the UN figures released for June 2008.
Brother Josue's letter to Lula states, in part:
"Something untoward is going on with your soldiers in Haiti. Brazilian soldiers are conducting terrifying raids on residents of poor and defenseless communities throughout Haiti, leaving in their wake a trail of blood, tears, and death. The buck stops with you, President da Silva. You are their commander in chief. ... This cannot possibly be the best that the Brazilian people have to offer. How can this happen when you are the President of Brazil? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that there comes a time when silence is betrayal. Will you and your Administration remain silent on these atrocities?" [See full text of Brother Josue's Open Letter below.]
Brother Josue will also mobilize support for the demand for the safe return of Haitian human activist Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, who disappeared in Haiti on August 12, 2007.
Brother Josue's tour has been endorsed very broadly by trade unionists, federal and state deputies of Lula's own party (the Workers Party), and by the country's main Black and community organizations.
On Tuesday, August 19, Brother Josue will speak at a hearing of the Sao Paulo State Legislative Assembly, followed by a mass public rally that includes the following speakers: Federal PT Deputies Luis Couto and Fernando Ferro; Gegé, leader of the Union of Popular Movements; Milton Barbosa, a central leader of the Unified Black Movement; Gilberto Orlandi, representative of Revolution Youth; Markos Sokol, member of the National Directorate of the Workers Party for the O Trabalho Current; Renato Simoes, representative of the National Secretariat of the Popular Movements Coalition of the Workers Party; Rafael Pinto, representative of the National Secretariat of the Workers Party's Struggle Against Racism Committee; and Claudinho, of the state committee of Struggle Against Racism.
On Wednesday, August 20, Brother Josue will speak at a Hearing at the Brazilian National Assembly's Human Rights Commission in Brasilia, followed by a public rally and press conference. A press release by the Parliamentary Fraction of the Workers Party titled, "PT Leaders Wish To Debate Violation of Rights in Haiti" announces the hearing and rally with David Josue. The press release quotes PT Federal Deputy Luis Couto who, together with PT Federal Deputy Fernando Ferro, obtained the agreement of the Brazilian Human Rights Commission to host the Hearing.
The release goes on to refer to the letter sent from David Josue to President da Silva and then mentions that on April 30 this letter was presented by a PT leadership delegation to Lula's Chief of Staff Gilberto Carvalho, who told the delegation that "Haiti is going through a very complicated situation, where the troops end up getting caught up in terrible situations." Carvalho went on to state that "Josue's letter could help the quest to establish other measures that could solve the problem."
Brother Josue's Open Letter, however, has still received no reply from Lula -- which is one of the reasons for this week-long tour to Brazil: Lula must reply to this letter; he must commit to withdrawing Brazilian troops from Haiti!
On Thursday, August 21, Brother Josue will travel to Recife, in the northern state of Pernambuco, where he will address a meeting of the Pernambuco United Trade Union Confederation (CUT), followed by a labor-community rally and press conference.
On Friday, August 22, Brother Josue will be in Salvador, Bahia, the heart of the Black movement and struggle in Brazil. He will address various events sponsored by the unions and main Black organizations.
In a press statement issued on the eve of his departure for Sao Paulo, Brazil, Brother Josue noted the following:
"The occupation of Haiti, meaning the loss of Haitian sovereignty, is presented to the world as 'humanitarian aid.' But the Haitian government has no control over the Brazilian-led UN MINUSTAH troops. The UN troops are in charge of the Haitian police (PNH), prisons, courts and jails. This is dictatorship -- not aid.
"Thousands of Haitians have been arbitrarily held in prisons without trial or hearings. The UN peacekeepers have, in their armored vehicles, created instability and enforced injustice. They mow down market women, shoot children, intimidate pedestrians, humiliate any lawful citizen they wish at will and on any whim with routine stop and searches, commit rapes and generally betray, violate and prey on the very population they were sent to protect. This cannot be called 'humanitarian aid' by any stretch.
"The Brazilian-led UN military presence has hurt, used unnecessary force and violence, abused and made Haiti more unsafe for the ordinary Haitian than ever before. This occupation must come to an end. I remain convinced that if the young citizens of Brazil who are living in the streets were subject to these atrocities, one would expect someone to speak up in their defense."