Lt. Gen. Augusto Heleno, the Brazilian commander for the U.N. peacekeeping troops in Haiti, has plunged headfirst into the waters of the U.S. presidential campaign on behalf of George Bush. It seems the good general wants to blame John Kerry for recent unrest in the Caribbean nation.
According to Heleno, in an interview given with the tacit approval of President Lula to the Brazilian government’s official news agency, “Statements made by a candidate to the presidency of the United States created false hopes among pro-Aristide supporters. His (the candidate’s) statements created the expectation that instability and a change in American policy would contribute to Aristide’s return.”
Heleno was clearly referring to statements made by Kerry to the New York Times on March 7. It’s a good thing Kerry isn’t a Haitian living in Haiti because such an accusation would most likely result in his arrest or worse by the Haitian police with “assistance” by Lt. Gen. Heleno’s forces.
It’s clear that the good general’s statements are intended to deflect his own responsibility for the current unrest in Haiti. The truth is Heleno is covering his own hide and negligence by allowing his forces to standby while the Haitian police shot and killed unarmed demonstrators on September 30th sparking this latest crisis.
The good general would also have us forget his lame excuses for allowing a few hundred former Haitian soldiers to take control of cities and towns in northern Haiti.
He must have known how feared and hated they are by a majority of the population and that this would contribute towards edging Haitian society towards disaster.
Heleno’s excuse is that his few thousand heavily armed UN forces, minus those providing security in flood ravaged Gonaives, couldn’t possibly have stopped a ragtag band of former soldiers despite his troop’s superior firepower.
More recently, the good general has all but given the former military the keys to the capital of Port au Prince.
While Heleno has more than adequate force to assist the Haitian police in making armed incursions into pro-Aristide slums, he appears helpless in stopping the former Haitian military from parading around the capital carrying semi-automatic weapons and threatening to kill anyone who utters President Aristide’s name.
With all of Heleno’s excuses one wonders how the Brazilian military earned its reputation for decisive action when, after Brazil’s military coup in 1964, the armed forces managed to dominate the political system for twenty-one years (1964-85).
Perhaps today’s Haiti reminds Heleno of those good old days in Brazil. Those were times when the wealthy elite could count on the Brazilian military to restore order and arbitrary arrests, murder and torture were justified as a necessary evil.
Finally, the good general isn’t content just with making Haiti a campaign issue for George Bush. From his lofty parapet in Port au Prince he decides the fate of 8 million Haitians and proclaims, “Any hopes of an Aristide comeback were completely unfounded.”
Thank you Generalissimo Heleno.
The Haiti Information Project (HIP) is a non-profit alternative news service providing coverage and analysis of breaking developments in Haiti. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org