While on Trip to Demand MINUSTAH’s Withdrawal: Senator Moïse Jean-Charles Meets with Haitian Refugees in Brazil

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Sen. Moïse
Jean-Charles held several meetings with disgruntled Haitian immigrants in Sao
Paolo this week as part of a six-day visit to Brazil. On May 21, he will
address both houses of the Parliament, and on May 22, the Sao Paolo City
Council will recognize him as an honorary citizen of that city, the Western
Hemisphere’s largest.
            Sen. Jean-Charles’ current visit to
Brazil, like his two previous ones in 2013, is part of a campaign to push for
the withdrawal of the 9,000-soldier UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH),
which will mark its 10th anniversary on Jun. 1. Some 2,200 Brazilian
troops make up MINUSTAH’s largest contingent, and Brazilian generals command
the force.
            Joining the senator on his visit to
Brazil is Oxygène David, a leader of the new party Dessalines Coordination
(KOD), which is one of eight groups in the Haitian Coordination for the
Withdrawal of UN Troops from Haiti. The Haitian Coordination, whose April
declaration Sen. Jean-Charles also signed, is planning events to denounce
MINUSTAH’s 10th anniversary in Haiti. There will also be
demonstrations against MINUSTAH in nations around the world including Brazil,
Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Trinidad-Tobago, Uruguay, and
the United States.
            A Haitian Senate resolution, drafted
by Sen. Jean-Charles one year ago and passed unanimously, called for all UN
troops to be out of Haiti by May 28, 2014. UN authorities have pointedly
ignored the resolution and have fixed no deadline for their open-ended military
occupation to leave Haiti.
            Every Monday morning, KOD holds a
demonstration of about 50 people in front of the UN base at the Port-au-Prince
airport calling for MINUSTAH to pack up and go. UN troops and Haitian police
have been increasingly disturbed by and aggressive against the weekly action,
threatening demonstrators with tear-gas and arrest.
            On May 18, Sen. Jean-Charles met
with Haitians at the Church of the Immigrants in downtown Sao Paolo, about a
block from a city-run emergency housing center which currently holds over 100
Haitian immigrants. On May 19, Sen. Jean-Charles, along with Oxygène David and
a journalist from Haïti Liberté,
returned to the “Auberge Emergenciel,” and later to a squatter-run commercial
building, to hear the grievances of Haitian expatriates.
            “I make only 1000 reals (US$450) per
month in a terribly hard job cleaning chemicals from barrels,” said a 27-year-old
Haitian man at the housing center who would identify himself only as Hector.
“We are given dangerous work and don’t make enough to send home money or even
to live. We are virtually slaves here!”
            The Haitians at the center, managed
by the mayor’s office, sleep in a giant fluorescent-lit hall on metal bunk beds
and use communal bathrooms. The yard has lots of laundry hanging in it.
            There are an estimated 50,000
Haitians now living in Brazil, but only 20,000 are legal and have work papers.
Almost all have come to Brazil over the past decade that Brazilian troops have
been in Haiti. As in many countries, the Haitian immigrants work in menial jobs
as construction workers, maids, or janitors, although many are trained as
nurses, doctors, accountants, or engineers.
            “In talking with people, we’ve
identified three main problems,” Sen. Jean-Charles said speaking later on May
19 at the Movement for Housing for All (MMPT), which has occupied a vacant
commercial building in downtown Sao Paolo to provide shelter for homeless
people, including dozens of Haitians. “There is the problem of sanitation, of
education, and of salaries. Add to those, there may have been some human rights
violations, for which Haitians need a lawyer. We are going to raise all these
issues when we meet with local authorities to see what kind of relief our
Haitian brothers and sisters can receive.”
            Meanwhile, Oxygène David pointed out
to the Haitians that ending the UN occupation of Haiti is in their interests.
“Every year, Brazil spends millions of reals to support soldiers who are
repressing and killing our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” he said to Haitians
at the housing center. “That money could be going to hospitals, schools,
agriculture, and better jobs and housing for immigrants like you here in
Brazil. So you have a double interest in seeing Brazilian soldiers leave Haiti.
One, to end the repression of your fellow Haitians. Two, to allow more money to
be available for jobs and services here.”
            The Brazilian committee sponsoring
Sen. Jean-Charles’s trip to Brazil, “To Defend Haiti is to Defend Ourselves,”
organized the meetings with Haitian immigrants as well as the trip to Brasilia
to address both the Brazilian Senate and House of Deputies on May 21. Sen.
Jean-Charles is also speaking to many radio and television stations in both Sao
Paolo and Brasilia.
            On May 22, Sao Paolo’s City Council
will name Sen. Jean-Charles as a “Citizen of Sao Paolo.” The ceremony, which
will be open to the public, was initiated by Councilwoman Juliana Cardoso of
the ruling Workers Party (PT) and State Deputy Adriano Diogo, also of the PT.
“It is a very great honor in Brazil to receive this recognition,” said Barbara
Corrales, the coordinator of the “To Defend Haiti is to Defend Ourselves”
            Last December, Sen. Jean-Charles
visited Brasil to attend the PT’s National Congress, in which he succeeded in
convincing delegates to pass a resolution calling for the withdrawal of
Brazilian troops from Haiti. In May 2013, the senator also visited several
Brazilian cities to push for troop withdrawal.
            On Jun. 10, Sen. Jean-Charles will
meet for the second time with Uruguayan President José Mujica in Montevideo. “I
will ask him to respect the promise that he made to me during our meeting last
November,” Sen. Jean-Charles told Haïti
. “He said he was going to withdraw Uruguayan troops from Haiti. I
want to find out how that is progressing.”

            Uruguay has historically had about
1,100 troops in MINUSTAH, the second largest contingent after Brazil.