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By Miriela Fernández
In 2008 we took a solidarity brigade with the peasant movements to Haiti to support their formation. We know that we are not going to change everything, but bringing the experience of natural seed production means avoiding more dependence on large multinationals, says Sidevaldo Miranda, a member of the Dessalines brigade of the MST in Haiti.
Interview with Sidevaldo Miranda, a member of the Dessalines brigade of the MST in Haiti and one of the coordinators of the internship of 76 young Haitians by organizations in the Brazilian countryside.
At the Florestán Fernández National School of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the exchange between Haitian youths with organizations in the Brazilian countryside culminated for a year. This initiative, supported by Via Campesina, expanded the work of the Dessalines brigade, created by the MST since 2008 to irrigate seeds of solidarity on Haitian soil.
Sidevaldo Miranda, participant in the coordination of both experiences, recounted the history and challenges of this process, which moves away from the recurrent views of assistance to Haiti and encourages a more solid integration between the peoples.
How does this experience of solidarity of the MST with the Haitian people arise?
“From its beginnings, the MST considered international solidarity as a strategy to reinforce the class struggle and, thus, help other peoples. Following the example of Cuba, today we have brigades in Bolivia, Paraguay, Mozambique, and for five years in Venezuela.
In 2008, we sent the first brigade to Haiti. The idea arose in the context of the 2004 United Nations military occupation, which was coordinated by Brazil.
“The MST's principle is the rejection of any kind of military occupation. In this sense, we defended the initiative of bringing a solidarity brigade with peasant movements to Haiti to support their formation, which we specified in 2008, with a group of four people, in charge of learning about this reality over the course of a year. . Based on the diagnosis, we would see how to integrate our experiences in Brazil with that of the Haitian peasant movements. It was also a way of saying no to the occupation, of showing that what the Haitian people needed was help to build more autonomy in the countryside and improve the quality of life in rural areas, and in society in general. "
What changes were made in the conception of this strategy after the earthquake of January 10, 2010?
“That brigade that in 2008 had the purpose of understanding the reality of the country and the peasant movements, which sought to contribute to the creation of a point of unity between these organizations, from a more local one to those of a national nature - a challenge of the MST and Vía Campesina- expanded after the earthquake. On April 10, 2010, 30 more people from the MST arrived in Haiti to support in technical areas, in the installation of cisterns, in the production and storage of seeds, in the reforestation of the country, in the development of agroecology.
“We deepen the training process. We work on the symbolic value of installing a cistern, which generates self-sustainability and more time for the struggle, for the organization of the movement. Making a synthesis, we can say that some Haitian organizations were losing autonomy due to the NGOs. The militants receive nothing to support themselves in their organizations and an NGO pays a salary and places them inside an office. For this reason, the brigade also works to create conditions for production, taking into account that 60% of the country's population is peasant and lacks economic support, even from the State, for this activity. Most of the projects destined for Haiti are welfare-oriented and have a media effect, since they are concentrated in Port-au-Prince, in the city, and there are not many prospects for progress in rural areas.
“From ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America), Venezuela, Cuba, Via Campesina and the MST we share the idea of prioritizing the countryside, responsible for 40% of food production for the population. We intend to strengthen rice production, also in the Artibonite Valley, as it was destroyed with imports from the United States. We are going to make various efforts to obtain technical resources and expand and improve the country's own production ”.
The earthquake also attracted a remilitarization of the nation. How has this context influenced the work of the brigade, even now, when the Brazilian government handles the possibility of withdrawing troops from the so-called United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti?
“First, we take that news as a conquest. In Haiti there are troops only to control the population, what is urgent for the nation is infrastructure, schools, access routes to certain places, construction of houses, and a military occupation does not solve these demands. Supposedly the military is there for security, but what security can exist when the town does not have the minimum of infrastructure.
“With the earthquake some 300,000 people died. A year later, on January 10, 2011, only 10% of the rubble had been removed from the streets of Port-au-Prince, and this assistance policy is also being extended. The military does nothing in Haiti. The brigade arrived, like Cuba and Venezuela who sent professionals: doctors, engineers, teachers, to contribute to a structural change because the existing conditions oppress, privilege competition and the restriction of the rights of the population. "
In that sense, how was this other stage of the support process for the Caribbean country designed, which consisted of the exchange of young Haitians with peasant movements in Brazil?
“When we met with the purpose of redesigning the solidarity strategy in the face of the consequences of the earthquake, as Vía Campesina-Brasil we also thought about human resources and their training, and we decided to host here a Haitian brigade. This group arrived in September of last year, made up of 76 young people from eight organizations and representing all the departments of Haiti.
“First, they passed through the Florestán Fernández National School and from there, they joined our movement and others from Via Campesina in various regions of Brazil. The idea was for them to learn about the history of the peasant movements, the MST, the grassroots struggles, the camps, the cooperative areas, the schools in rural areas. After that coexistence, they would return to Florestan to exchange learning and ways to continue working in Haiti. "
What have been the main results?
“For the MST, it is the first experience of this dimension. There were many difficulties, but it was very rich. It was a realization, a completion of our work in Haiti. We also learned to better interpret their needs, and in that sense, look for more effective ways of supporting Haitian peasant movements, which can empower them.
“As for young Haitians, for them it is a unique experience. They spent a year outside their country, living with other movements, watching their struggles, and in different places. They also acquired a new language, and that is also part of the integration we want. In fact, they passed through the School on two occasions and on both occasions the Latin American theory course took place, which allowed them to share with young people from 22 countries in the region who receive this training. "
What new challenges does the Dessalines brigade face with the return of these young people to Haiti?
“Haitian organizations do not yet have a joint line of struggle. They are local struggles, in each region, some for the minimum wage, against the Monsanto company, but they are not united to change the structure of the country, to transform a political model of speculation of poverty, of misery. For example, 60% of the nation's budget comes from international aid.
“For the Dessalines brigade this situation is a challenge. We must contribute to the integration of these young people into organizations, although we know that not all of them are going to join. But those who succeed will help their movements, much more from the learning of the exchange. "
After this long process of support for the Haitian people, how does the MST resignify solidarity between social movements?
“For the MST, solidarity has a practical dimension: sharing with a peasant movement the best we have in the implementation of techniques. But that many do. The distinction is in showing the value of that infrastructure, of actions such as the reopening of a technical school for the training of young people, who will then be able to act in their organization, in a country where these facilities were closed by the State and where more than half of the population can neither read nor write.
“We know that we are not going to change everything, resources are minimal, but bringing Brazil's experience of producing natural seeds, originating from a region, that are not imported, is to avoid more dependence on large multinationals and to ensure that movements produce autonomously.
“With regard to reforestation, we thought it was a simple process and it was the most complex. 80% of Haitian energy is based on charcoal, there is very little cooking gas. Therefore, we also encourage organizations towards the transformation of the energy structure. Neither will improvement be achieved if the agrarian structure does not change. If the land is still concentrated, in the hands of the landowner, the peasant who works on a plot and then has to leave, he will not worry, he will not work to take care of it. In this way, the mountains will continue to be bare.
“Faced with all these questions, it is not possible to come up with a technical project. For this reason, the Dessalines brigade works with another dimension of solidarity, which is the change of senses, to structurally transform the country, to strengthen the struggle of the peasant movements. "
Miriela Fernandez - Continental Articulation of Social Movements towards ALBA - http://movimientos.org/albasi