The reports of the “Cholera Riots” in Haiti are ubiquitous now. A lot of them touch on the many issues that lead to this, but most of them seem to want to say that it’s street gangs, or it’s because “It’s a tradition in Haiti to have violence before the elections”, with the claim that MINUSTAH is responsible for the cholera outbreak being treated as if it was the same as the claims by African witchdoctors that polio vaccines were meant to sterilize the population. The articles seem to all focus on the (rather undisputable) fact that the riots and barricades are blocking or hindering supplies of medicine, fresh water, and water filters.
This line of reporting misses the entire context of the situation. Would you trust an organization that was brought into your country with the official mission to “restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law-structures” at the same time that the most powerful country in the world, and undeniably the most powerful force in the UN, kidnaps and deposes your democratically elected president, after having destabilized your country in the first place? Would you trust an organization that was supposed to “promote and to protect human rights”, but instead has been guilty of , among other things, violently suppressing protests, massacres, individual killings, and rape? Would you trust an organization of “peacekeepers” from countries with similar or higher homicide rates (Jamaica 54 per 100 000; Brazil 25.2; Sri Lanka 6.69; Argentina 5.45; USA 5.0) than Haiti itself (estimated at around 5.6 per 100 000 according to the UN’s own data), and which have at least as bad a Human Rights record as Haiti?
Would you really trust that organization now to actually want to help? Even if we assume that this is indeed what MINUSTAH is doing, the average Haitian has very little reason to believe that this time, they’ll really be there to help, or that accepting this help will make things better instead of worse, regardless of whether this is actually true.
Now add to that already untrustworthy mix the story about the origin of the cholera outbreak. Like I said, the news seems to want to make look like the anti-polio rumors that had been spread by religious leaders in some African countries. However, this one is different. Cholera isn’t endemic to the Caribbean (as a matter of fact, I couldn’t find any information about cholera outbreaks in that region at all, not even in the WHO report(pdf file) on cholera), and some outside sources seem to have confirmed that the strain came from Nepal. At the very least then, there’s reasonable cause to believe that the disease came from the troops. It certainly didn’t magically appear in the region by itself, so if not MINUSTAH, then some other outsider must have dragged it in.
In that context, I think, the protests no longer look like what a lot of the media wants to portray them as. And in any case, if the world really wanted to help Haitians as well as other places in which cholera has been pandemic for ages, they’d push for funding for increased production and distribution of the cholera vaccine. But the world doesn’t care THAT much about Haitians, or the other 100,000-130,000 people who die from it every year worldwide