Camille Chalmers: Against International Intervention
A version of this piece originally appeared in ADITAL.
On March 6, the Brazilian news agency ADITAL interviewed Camille Chalmers in Port-au-Prince. Chalmers is the Executive Secretary of the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development Policy (PAPDA) and the representative of Jubilee South in Haiti.
While the United States denies any participation in the current political, social and economic crisis in Haiti–including an armed uprising leaving almost 90 people dead–the economist and Executive Secretary of PAPDA, Camille Chalmers has no doubt: the United States provoked the departure of the then President Jean Bertrand Aristide, was responsible for all of the chaos and financed para-military groups through the CIA.
In an interview with Adital, Chalmers is clear about Aristide’s responsibility for the crisis. With a population considered one of the poorest on the planet, Aristide was accused of corruption and of not fulfilling what he most promised in achieving his popular mandate, to improve the economic situation in the country. Instead, he preferred to adopt methods imposed by the United States.
Adital: What can you conclude from in the uncertainty of this moment? Is what has happened in Haiti and advance or a setback for the nation?
Chalmers: The current situation is difficult and confused. What we can say is that these actions by the popular movement against Aristide take place because he betrayed the popular mandate he had when he came to power in 1991. His adopting of the methods imposed by the United States was a total betrayal, especially after ’94, after the military intervention, when he implemented a very severe structural adjustment plan with very negative consequences for the entire people.
This culminated in an exemplary struggle unleashed by the student movement in 2002, when Aristide tried to eliminate university autonomy. They formed a very strong movement with demands and street mobilizations that dealt Aristide’s government its first defeat. It was forced to revoke the communique trying to eliminate university autonomy.
Today’s events are taking place in a very confusing political context because the U.S. was also very opposed to the Aristide government, at first because of Aristide’s anti-imperialist discourse and a very strong base, especially in poor neighborhoods. But while Aristide was abandoning this political line and moving closer to a certain U.S. figure, also in Haiti there was a great change as many of the popular provinces that had supported Aristide turned over to the opposition.
Adital: Can it be said that Haiti is looking for its path as a nation?
Chalmers: What is happening now is that we are in the process of building of a national consensus, including the departure of Aristide, but also the construction of a transition toward the normalization of political life and the construction of a real national project.
This process was sabotaged by the United States, which provoked the departure of Aristide in a very questionable way with totally unacceptable authoritarian methods, creating chaos in Port au Prince and other cities. They also financed some armed bands that supposedly showed up at the side of the democratic movement but in fact took their orders from the CIA.
The United States is taking advantage of this chaotic situation to install a kind of protectorate in Haiti. We are seeing this now not only through a resolution of the US and the UN, but also with the direct military intervention of troops from the United States, France, Canada and Chile. We can forsee a multination force that will be put in place for three months, to be followed by a democratic stabilization force that could last two months, three years or two years. This is a protectorate under external control that is totally unacceptable to the Haitian people.
It’s a military intervention that wasn’t necessary and was manipulated by the creation of chaos leading to a very poorly managed transtion when it was possible to have a much smoother transition. There were very concrete proposals of how to manage the transition toward a more democratic situation. So we’re living through a military intervention that is very humiliating to the Haitian people in the year 2004, the bicentennial of independence. This is a situation where the poltical agenda and the political reforms are being defined by the empire.
Adital: And concerning the refugees, are there a lot of them, did many people flee toward other countries?
Chalmers: There was not an important wave of refugees.The United States had also taken measures to prevent the flow. But there hasn’t been a big flow of refugees because the situation in the majority of cities calmed within four hours of Aristide’s departure.
Adital: Today the newspapers say that Brazil has been asked by UN General Secretary Kofi Annan to command the military force in Haiti. How do you see this invitation?
Chalmers: Taking into account the current political orientation of the Brazilian government the presence of Brazil seems very interesting to me. But it seems to me that the particpation of Brazil within the multinational force would have to take place under very clear conditions, conditions that favor the self-determination of the Haitian people, a political agenda that permits a real transition and not as part of a political order totally under the control of the empire.
Adital: And how are the popular movements now?
Chalmers: There is a student movement that is on its feet, that has an anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal line. At the moment, there is also a popular coalition called the Popular Democratic Coalition that brings together over 30 national organizations and networks, including many strong peasant organizations. This coalition is trying to keep going the mobilization that took place against Aristide with one with much more content, moving toward a national development plan favoring the interests of the majority.