President-elect Dilma Rousseff's statement earlier this month that she would have Brazil oppose human rights violations in Iran was greeted with some excitement here in Washington. Of course, the U.S. State Department does not look at these things from a humanitarian perspective, but rather uses human rights as a political weapon to build hatred against its chosen targets.
Nonetheless, Washington's politicization of human rights is no reason for a country like Brazil to refrain from defending human rights worldwide, in a principled and non-political way. But Brazil, like the United States, should start where it has the most influence: and currently that is Haiti, where Brazil heads up the UN military mission (MINUSTAH) that is occupying Haiti.
This mission was of questionable legitimacy to begin with, when it was sent to Haiti after the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a coup in 2004. The coup was a direct result of U.S. efforts to topple the Aristide government. Officials of the constitutional government were jailed and thousands of its supporters were killed.
MINUSTAH has developed a reputation for brutality and human right violations. These include a raid on one of Haiti's largest poor neighborhoods in July 2005 that left dozens of civilians killed or wounded.
This month Haiti held presidential elections, funded by the United States, in which the largest political party was excluded. It was the equivalent of holding an election in Brazil without allowing the PT or PSDB to participate. The elections were also marred by fraud and widespread disenfranchisement of voters.
MINUSTAH has basically replaced the hated Haitian army, which President Aristide abolished, as a repressive force. Washington will not allow democracy in Haiti, because Haitians would inevitably choose a left government. New cables from Wikileaks illustrate that Washington's objective is to maintain control over Haiti's government and especially its foreign relations.
Why should Brazil participate in denying Haitians' basic human and democratic rights? And to add further injury, MINUSTAH has caused a cholera epidemic that has killed 2300 people and infected more than 100,000, most likely through gross criminal negligence of dumping human waste into the Artibonite river. Thousands of Hatians have taken to the streets to demand that they leave.
MINUSTAH costs over $500 million a year, when the UN can't even raise a third of that to fight the epidemic that the mission itself caused. And now the UN is asking for an increase to over $850 million for MINUSTAH.
Progressive political leaders and organizations in Brazil, including the largest trade union confederation (CUT), the MST, and PT political leaders such as Marcus Sokol have all called for Brazil to pull its troops out of Haiti.
Dilma should listen to her base, and to the people of Haiti, who want MINUSTAH out. As the CUT stated, Brazil should "send doctors and engineers, not occupying troops."
This column was published by Folha (Brazil) on December 30, 2010.