Note from BW of Brazil: Over the past few years, this blog has featured a number of stories dealing Brazil’s connection with Haiti. And as the title points out, the recent brutal murder of a Haitian immigrant in southern Brazil is not the first time the country has dealt with the “Haitian question”. As Brazil was the country that was the recipient of the largest percentage of enslaved Africans sent to the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries (40% of the total), after the Haitian uprising that violently ejected the French from the island of Hispaniola, elites lived in constant fear that such a large percentage could lead to a similar revolt in Brazil.
According to Adalberto Cardoso (2008), “In Brazil, the view of the slave as a potential collective enemy worsened in the imagination of the elites after the Haitian revolution of 1804, which freed the country from the French colonizers massacring them cruelly.” Due to this atmosphere, “in the slave society, there prevailed the orientation to prevent any flourishing of organized social life among the slaves and freedmen, because of the constant fear of ‘black rebellion.'” (Fernandes 1978)
But in light of such preoccupations two centuries ago, little could elites have known that this wouldn’t be the last time that Haiti would be on the minds of Brazilian leaders. The devastation of Haiti’s earthquake of 2004 would bring the two nations in contact in what many thought would be on peaceful terms. Under a United Nations “peacekeeping mission” thousands of Brazilian troops began arriving on the island in 2004 and have remained there since. Over the years, the call for troops to leave Haiti have been a constant demand in various organizations and movements. And lest we think the sending of Brazilian troops to the island were just due to security concerns and the restoration of peace restore after the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, “Brazil’s leadership of the UN force has been seen as a test of its ambition to play a greater role in regional security as it seeks a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.” (BBC, September 6, 2011)
Al Jazeera report from 2010
But contradicting any images of friendly security enforcement, Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB) has pointed out, “Brazilian troops are using the same ‘counter-insurgency’ tactics in Haiti that are employed by military police against residents of the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro. This is confirmed by Brazilian journalist Pedro Dantas who reported, ‘Army sources confirmed that techniques employed in the occupation of the Morro da Providência favela are the ones Brazilian soldiers use in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti’”. (The Internationalist, November 2009). To have an idea, in the past few years this blog has provided numerous examples of how brutal Brazil’s Military Police is toward its own poor, black population.
With its booming economy (at the time), Brazil would also agree to open its doors to thousands of Haitians entering its borders in search of better lives after the disaster rocked the nation. But as we can and will see, the story is not as friendly as some would like us to believe with the words “military occupation” and “xenophobia” frequently coming up to describe the Brazilian relationship with the Haitian nation and its people. The recent murder of a Haitian immigrant in the southern state of Santa Catarina is just the latest in the history of these two countries.
Brazil and the Haitian question (originally titled “Fetiere Sterlin, 33, haitiano, assassinado no Brasil”)
By Leticia Parks
Every day we read news saying that in any other continent – except ours – refugees migrate and end up being killed by the bad weather on the way, poor conditions or by the repression of the destination country. This time tell the case of Fetiere Sterlin, a refugee in Brazil for four years because of the inhuman conditions in which his country is in partly due to the presence of Brazilian UN troops that have massacred, raped and repressed the Haitian people for almost 12 years with the approval of Lula’s and then, Dilma’s government.
By Leticia Parks
On the night of October 17, as he left a party with his wife, Vanessa Nery, and also Haitian friends, Fetiere Sterlin and their companions were approached by a group of teenagers that called him ‘macici’ (an expletive in French Creole meaning “viado” or “faggot”) and after a few minutes, they were approached by the same group carrying knives. According to Vanessa, the group then “came back with knives, an iron bar, shovel and came back to attack us. There was no argument. There came on top of each of one of us four, and the rest were all over my husband, and they began to stab him.” Fetiere died in the location in which he was stabbed. (See full story and follow up)
The city of Navegantes, on the Santa Catarina coast, near Balneário Camboriú, had never witnessed an attack that led to death, but had seen other cases of attacks on Haitians, verbal and physical, of which the attempted murder of an immigrant that, after surviving the five shots that he took, gave up living in Brazil.
Unfortunately, in spite of its pro immigration and welcome to refugees discourse, the Brazilian government has the primary responsibility in the case of Haiti, for this country to have reached a situation of public calamity. After all, despite what is said, the 2010 earthquake was a small catalyst for a historic crisis faced by the Haitian people.
We demand justice for Fetiere Sterlin and to all refugees murdered, assaulted and harassed in Brazil, as well as a class action on the part of workers with anti-xenophobic campaigns in all unions and student organizations. No more murders and xenophobia! The Brazilian government is to blame!
Why are Haitians fleeing Haiti?
The naked truth is that neither Europe nor the United States were able to accept that this country would have an immaculate future after carrying out the only Revolução Negra (Black Revolution) in the whole world. Such Revolution, which began in 1791 with the slave revolt that ultimately put those same slaves in control over 1/3 of the whole island, leading to France responding to the revolt by sending 6,000 more troops to contain the uprising.
The French response didn’t get results, and despite repeated enforcement efforts of France and England, the Haitian Revolution ended in 1804 was decreed a republic free from slavery and with its own government. It is quite astonishing that France itself that experienced in the same period their revolutionary struggles, which deepens even more the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity into a pit of endless contradictions. The rising bourgeoisie, which went to seek political representation comparable to its already very strong economic power, sent a message to all the countries and islands colonized by it: liberty, equality and fraternity restricts itself to a class of one people : the white. To finance this so-called “freedom”, drown in blood were the corresponding struggles of freedom in all its colonies.
Since 1825, the US government associated with the French and British empires, had already established a price for Haitian freedom, leading to the country being fined 150 million Swiss francs, which bankrupted Haiti’s treasury and since then relegated a situation of deep economic dependence on the US and subject to entry of American imperialist troops – or that of the UN, which does not change much – in its territory to “regulate” its internal relationships and keep in silence a people with such a tradition of revolt. Since 2004, it is Brazil that with MINUSTAH – Brazilian troops of the UN – updating the colonization process of Haiti to serve the American interests and the Brazilian bourgeoisie, to whom the silence and suffering this rebellious black nation serves very subjectively to silence its own rebellious black mass.
The proof of the relationship between the repression of the Haitian people and the repression of the Brazilian black people is given in the fact that to carry out effectively the occupation of Rio’s and Salvador’s hills by the UPPs (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora – Pacifying Police Unit), state and federal governments relied on the experiences of Brazilian troops sent to Haiti. The result could not be different: murdered children and youth, broken families, shady deals with drug trafficking and a current situation of permanent surveillance and repression.
Now, imagine the situation in that country. As many media outlets have already dictated: in order to subject to possible death going to another country or within it, the situation in your country must be much worse.
It is necessary to effusively report the PT (Workers Party) government, responsible for the installation and maintenance of Brazilian troops in Haiti, demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops and the end of public debt over the country. To rebuild it after the 2010 disaster, we need a plan of public works internationally backed workers, black and white, from all over the world, and carried forward by the trade unions and workers of the Haitian people.
Why are Haitians in Santa Catarina?
Since 2010, when the earthquake in Haiti left over 220,000 dead and 1.5 million homeless, “Brazil issued 12,352 work permits for Haitians. Of this total, 5,670 are registered and currently working – more than half in the South.” The reason for this is that in Santa Catarina there is one of the main centers of agribusiness, which as a low-cost production is necessarily it counts on the “advantage” of hiring casual labor to maintain profit and low sales value.
In the situation of the colonization of Haiti, two birds are killed with one stone. While the situation of “passivity” of the Haitian people remains under gunfire and blood, companies send representatives to Brasileia and Epitaciolândia – that record entry of nearly 100% of Haitian refugees in Brazil, both in the south of the Acre region – where they “canvass” workers among those who come to Brazil hoping to escape misery: “Every week, an average of three companies send representatives to recruit Haitians in Brasileia. The ideal profile is men who left their families in Haiti. Most companies offer room and board in the first three months and transport from Acre to Santa Catarina on a bus. According to businessmen in the region, the cost of 2,000 reais per Haitian makes up for labor shortages to work in meat freezersand the economy with the automation of production.”
It seems like a joke, but it’s capitalism. As if they had been making improvements, the giants of meat and consequent exportation of it (Fetiere, for example, was a shipbuilding worker in the port of Navegantes) to use the possibility of hiring precarious labor to be able to sell their “high quality” meat. They say that in the country’s rising unemployment, there is a “lack of manpower”, but who can believe that? The truth is that there is no salary that pays the situation of deep impoverishment of labor in Santa Catarina. Even Veja (magazine) is forced to admit: “The activity is the most dangerous in the state of Santa Catarina, according to the Anuário de Acidentes de Trabalho (Workers’ Accident Yearbook) prepared by the Instituto Nacional do Seguro Social (INSS or National Institute of Social Security) – there were 2.381 accidents in 2011. In Brazil, in the same period, there were 19,453 accidents recorded in the sector.”
Hypocrisy is immense. Hire precarious labor, pay benefactors and continue funding the government and all politics of genocide and misery of the Haitian people. Profit on the misery offering agribusiness wages and contributing nothing to end xenophobia, this when they make up part of the financiers of television programs that ridicule blacks, the poor, LGBTs, northeasterners and refugees – let’s count how many times the advertisements of Aurora, Sadia, JBS appear during the (satirical skit comedy program) Zorra Total?
All composing the melody of hypocrisy, or the bizarre frame of the national bourgeoisie.
Source: Esquerda Diário, BBC, The Internationalist, Cardoso, Adalberto. “Escravidão e sociabilidade capitalista: um ensaio sobre inércia social”. Novos Estudos – CEBRAP, #80. March, 2008. Fernandes, Florestan. A integração do negro na sociedade de classes. 3º ed. São Paulo: Ática, 1978.