November 17, 2011
I read with interest your article from yesterday by Jennifer Campbell concerning the presentation on Haiti by Robert Muggah in Ottawa last month (Understanding Security in Haiti From the Bottom Up). Thank you for publishing it.
Two days ago, we addressed a letter to the members of the Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Development of the House of Commons. The letter is a commentary on the first session of the Committee on the subject of Haiti since the election of the new Parliament in May 2011, held on October 18. Important sections of the letter speak to the issues of personal and institutional security addressed by your article and Mr. Muggah's speech. The letter also describes a host of social and human rights concerns in Haiti that receive next to no attention or scrutiny by Canada's elected representatives or media organizations.
Mr. Muggah's presentation, based on the ongoing survey he is co-directing, is extremely informative and thought-provoking on many levels. I am thinking especially of the extraordinary level of opposition to Michel Martelly's plan to revive the Haitian army reported among the Haitian people. Mr. Martelly's is nonetheless proceeding, by all evidence with the support or quiet acquiescence of the U.S., Canada and Europe.
The presentation is interesting for the apparent contradiction that it exposes. Canada, along with the member countries of the UN Security Council and others, have said for years that Haiti is a terribly dangerous and violent place requiring a foreign police and military occupation (MINUSTAH) in order to protect its citizens from...themselves. This is the Canada-promoted "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine in action. Yet we find in a scientific survey by Mr. Muggah and his colleagues that Haiti is no more violent, and a whole lot less violent, than a host of other countries in this hemisphere. Other international studies on crime statistics tell a similar story. But the more violent countries of the hemisphere have not been blessed with the imposition of a foreign military occupation force. Why would that be? This survey's results will hopefully open up some serious inquiry into this most important of questions.
We are puzzled by the suggestion in Mr. Muggah's presentation that Canada or the other participating countries in MINUSTAH can take credit for improving the state of personal security or justice in Haiti since 2007. After all, they were the ones who imposed a lasting chaos and destabilization on Haiti in the first place, in 2004 (and through a destabilizing embargo of aid against the elected government of Haiti begun in the year 2000). As our letter to the Standing Committee explains, the prisoners being detained in medieval conditions in Haiti's Canada-funded and constructed prisons would disagree that progress is being made. The women in the survivor camps suffering, according to Mr. Muggah, rates of sexual assault ten times higher than the national average would also disagree. They are tiring of the excuses of the Canada-funded Haitian police, the Canada-funded justice system and the Canada-led UN police mission to the effect these agencies are doing all that can be done to assist. Women are protesting their conditions, though too few internationally are listening.
Notwithstanding the findings presented, Mr. Muggah's presentation unfortunately does little to challenge the prevailing, pro-intervention-in-Haiti narrative in Ottawa. He presents a biased interpretation of modern Haitian history (since 1990), referring to the grisly coup d'etat in Haiti of 1991-94 as a "brief coup" and suggesting that the violence of that period was due to the rise of pro-Aristide 'gangs' ("chimeres"). He describes the second coup against the elected Jean Bertrand Aristide in February 2004 as Aristide being "exited out of the country," then refers to the illegal, unconstitutional and exceptionally violent, post-coup, 2004-06 regime as a period of "interim government."
The meaning and consequence of the second coup is vital to understanding the current, humanitarian catastrophe and political paralysis in Haiti, yet it is not examined at all by Mr. Muggah. Coincidentally, one of his research colleagues, Athena Kolbe, co-authored a report published in The Lancet in September 2006 that estimated as many as 8,000 murders and 35,000 sexual assaults were committed in Port au Prince during the time of the "interim government," most of which the report attributed to the Haitian National Police and the paramilitary perpetrators of the U.S./Canada/France backed coup.
The start date of Mr. Muggah et al's survey on crime is 2007. It would be interesting to reach further back, to the period before the coup of 2004, and compare rates of crime and social violence during the time of elected government to the post-2006 times of quasi-elected government under foreign tutelage. I am guessing that extensive surveying was not being done in that earlier time.
CanadaHaiti Action Network
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* To read a report of the survey, go to: