Brazil heads the UN mission in Haiti. Haitians say that terrifying, unannounced and unexplained raids of their areas by Brazilian troops are common.
To some extent, Brazil has been using Haiti as a training ground to test out strategies that their military forces can use to deal with urban unrest back home.
UN troops showed their real role during recent protests over the election, when they fired from tanks at demonstrating Haitians. Demonstrators blocked roads and burned tyres to mark Haiti’s Independence Day on 1 January.
“We are not celebrating today,” said one protester. “We are protesting this corruption of power.” Another said, “Today we set fires—tomorrow we bring weapons.”
The crisis in Haiti is destabilising those in power. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC), a body dominated by foreign banks and governments, controls the money for reconstruction. Twelve Haitian board members of the IHRC have written a letter protesting against the way that they are “completely disconnected from the activities of the IHRC”.
“Haitian members of the board have one role—to endorse the decisions made by the executive director and executive committee,” it says.
Peter Hallward says this highlights the level of chaos that exists in Haiti:
“These people are blue-chip members of the Haitian business community. They are not people who would rock the boat at all.
“That they are saying things like this tells you how far the thing has gone.”
The crisis at the top, and protests by ordinary people, give some sense of hope that a future Haiti could be very different.
“Haiti needs a renewal of the popular movement,” says Peter. “It might look almost impossible right now, when it’s very divided and so much of the leadership has either sold out or been pushed to the sidelines.
“There’s no denying a widespread sense of resignation and discouragement that needs to be overcome.
“But the conditions are there for change. The memory of recent popular success remains strong. The democratic movement defeated the Duvaliers.
“Between 1990 and 2006, it succeeded in electing its spokesman as president four times in a row, with massive landslide majorities.
“A large proportion of the population live in crowded but relatively well-organised communities—in the post-quake camps and also in highly politicised neighbourhoods like Cite Soleil.
“The imperatives of survival continue to bring people together—and it might not take much of a spark for this routine solidarity to flame into transformative political mobilisation.”