Folha de São Paulo (Brazil), August 17, 2011
One month ago I argued in this space that Brazil should set a timetable for getting its troops out of Haiti, since there is no war in Haiti and no legitimate reason – nor legal justification – for the UN military force (MINUSTAH) to be there. Now Brazil’s new Defense Minister, Celso Amorim – who took office on Monday, August 7 – has told the Brazilian press that “he supports the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti.” This is important news.
According to the report in O Globo, “The matter was discussed at the first meeting between the Minister and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Presidential Palace on Saturday. According to one of the participants of the meeting, there was a “convergence of opinion”, so the military leadership also agrees with the return of the troops. “
But when will they leave? President Obama has talked about American troops leaving Afghanistan, but they have been there for nearly a decade and now the Pentagon talks about 2014, or even worse, keeping a permanent military presence there. Even in Iraq, where President Bush signed an agreement in 2008 to get all U.S. combat troops out, the Obama Administration is trying to get around the agreement and keep 10,000 soldiers – and thousands of civilian personnel – there indefinitely.
U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan when U.S. public opinion – which is overwhelmingly against the occupation and war – and pressure becomes too much for the politicians to ignore. It is mainly because of political opposition at home that the governments of Canada and the Netherlands have already withdrawn their combat troops from the so-called “coalition” forces, which in reality are part of a U.S. occupation.
The same is true for the occupation of Haiti. It is also a U.S. occupation, in this case under U.N. cover. The troops were brought in to “keep order” after Washington and its allies toppled Haiti’s democratically elected government in 2004. The occupation will end when the foreign governments who have soldiers there find it to be too much of a political liability. It is quite possible that other Latin American countries will leave before Brazil does, increasing the pressure on Brazil to find what Amorim called “an exit strategy.”
Within Brazil, there is significant opposition to the occupation of Haiti. A recent letter to President Dilma was signed by a number of legislators from the PT, Markus Sokol of the PT National Directorate, representatives of the CUT and the MST, and many others. It said: “We must end Brazil’s participation in a military operation that is repudiated by the vast majority of the Haitian people … this occupation has only deepened the plight of the people and has denied them their sovereignty.” These Brazilians are acting as the conscience of the nation – they are speaking out because they care about the people of Haiti, not for any political gain of their own. The Dilma administration should listen to them, and get out of Haiti sooner rather than later.