Close

Donate today to keep Global Voices strong!

Our global community of volunteers work hard every day to bring you the world's underreported stories -- but we can't do it without your help. Support our editors, technology, and advocacy campaigns with a donation to Global Voices!

Donate now

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Brazil: Viewing the Haitian earthquake from without and within

Brazilian bloggers are united in solidarity with its neighbor Haiti, after a devastating earthquake struck the country that has tragically left a huge death toll, and many people displaced and in need of aid. Many United Nations peace-keepers, among them 14 Brazilian State Military Police officers, have been found dead [pt] after  a severe earthquake hit Haiti, and the country is also mourning the passing of Nobel Peace Prize-nominated paediatrician and aid worker Dr. Zilda Arns Neumann, founder of a Catholic pastoral care for poor children.

In addition to paying homage to those who lost their lives, Brazilian bloggers have been discussing the extent of the event. Some expatriate bloggers report from Haiti, whereas back home discuss diplomatic relations between Brazil and the Caribbean nation. At the same time, the whole blogosphere is in uproar after comments made by the Haitian consul in Brazil, George Samuel Antoine, and getting together to help as much as they can, as shown toward the end of this article.

On [the lack of] diplomacy and humanity

Bloggers quickly stood up against unfortunate comments that the Haitian consul in Brazil George Samuel Antoine made, unaware that he was being recorded by the TV Network SBT. The news piece containing the moment in which he states the earthquake brings visibility to his consulate is now on YouTube [pt]. The consul says: “The disgrace there has become a bliss for us here, for us to get known”; he blames the country's  predominantly African religion for the tragedy: “I think it has to do with messing so much with voodoo, I don't know what it is ….” [...] ” the African himself has a curse. Everywhere there are Africans it's f*****”.

In another video, the consul regrets his comments and blames his poor command of the Portuguese language for the misunderstanding. Despite this, bloggers have launched a petition demanding him to be ousted from the consul position in São Paulo [pt]. In an open letter to George Samuel Antoine, DiAfonso at the Terra Brasilis blog [pt] explains why he supports the petition and compares the consul's comments to the more commendable attitude of a Brazilian UN official in Haiti, who decided to stay in the country after sending home her children, who were among the few people who survived the collapse of the hotel they were spending holidays:

A brasileira Eliana Nicolini, funcionária da ONU, poderia seguir com seus filhos de volta ao Brasil e esquecer a tragédia que se abateu sobre o país que o sr. representa como cônsul-geral: o Haiti. Mas ela, sr. George Antoine, não o fez. Resolveu ficar por lá e honrar a missão que foi a ela delegada. A decisão de Eliana Nicolini nada tem a ver com “visibilidade”. A missão dessa grande mulher tem sintonia com ajuda humanitária e respeito aos que estão sendo duramente castigados por um fenômeno natural, aliado a problemas de ordem política, econômica e social. A missão dessa grande mulher, sr. George Antoine, não se relaciona à autopromoção. Essa mulher não esboçou nenhum juízo de valor nefasto, como o sr. fez. Ao afirmar, categoricamente, que ESCOLHEU A MISSÃO E VAI FICAR, ela mostrou ser digna e solidária. Os filhos dela estão bem, mas muitos haitianos, NÃO ESTÃO. Eis a razão da grandeza dela.

Eliana Nicolini, a Brazilian UN official, could have gone back to Brazil with her children and forgot the tragedy that befell the country that you represent as Consul, mister: Haiti. But she has not, Mr George Antoine. She has decided to stay there and honour the mission that has been given to her. Eliana Nicolini's decision has nothing to do with “visibility”. This great woman's mission is consistent with humanitarian aid and respect for those hard-hit by a natural phenomenon, coupled with political, economic and social development problems. This great woman's mission, Mr George Antoine, is not related to self-promotion. This woman has not made any negative value judgements, as you did, mister. By stating categorically that she HAS CHOSEN THE MISSION AND WILL STAY, she has proved to be worthy and caring. Her children are fine, but many Haitians are not. Hence the reason for her greatness.

However, the Haitian consul was not the only figure of international diplomacy to leave bloggers shocked by their unkind remarks. A group of Brazilian aid workers and researchers made homeless after the earthquake had an unpleasant reception by the Brazilian ambassadress at the Embassy in Port-au-Prince, where they had gone to seek support and shelter so that they could stay and help. The group left the place embarrassed:

Ela não nos perguntou nada. Não sabia quem éramos, ou o que fazíamos aqui. Quando soube que de um grupo da Unicamp se tratava, não titubeou: “A EMBAIXADA NÃO TEM NENHUM COMPROMISSO COM A UNICAMP. O EMBAIXADOR PROIBIU QUE FOSSEM HOSPEDADOS EM NOSSAS DEPENDÊNCIAS. ELE É O EMBAIXADOR, ELE MANDA; SE HOSPEDAMOS VOCÊS TEMOS QUE HOSPEDAR TODOS”.

E seguiu, com pérolas: “A EMBAIXADA NÃO VAI EVACUAR NINGUÉM PORQUE EU NÃO VOU SAIR DAQUI. VOCÊS DEVEM VOLTAR PARA O BRASIL COMO VIERAM. VOCÊS SABEM ONDE FICA O AEROPORTO, COMPREM PASSAGEM; VOCÊS SABEM ONDE FICA A RODOVIÁRIA, DE LÁ SAEM ÔNIBUS PARA A REPÚBLICA DOMINICANA”. E prosseguiu com a máxima: “NÃO TEMOS NENHUMA RESPONSABILIDADE SOBRE VOCÊS. VOCÊS ESTAVAM NO LUGAR ERRADO NA HORA ERRADA, SINTO MUITO”.

[...]
O que o Haiti pode esperar de embaixador e embaixatriz que atuam desta maneira? O que aconteceu conosco não tem a menor importância. Só é revelador do lugar que o Haiti parece realmente ocupar no universo de nossas relações internacionais.

She didn't ask us anything. She did not know who we were, or what we had been doing there. When she heard we were a group from the University of Campinas [UNICAMP] she did not hesitate: “THE EMBASSY HAS NO COMMITMENTS TO UNICAMP. THE AMBASSADOR HAS FORBIDDEN PEOPLE TO BE SHELTERED IN OUR FACILITIES. HE IS THE AMBASSADOR, HE COMMANDS; IF WE HOST YOU, WE WILL HAVE TO HOST EVERYONE”.
And it was followed by this: “THE EMBASSY WILL NOT EVACUATE ANYONE BECAUSE I WILL NOT GET OUT OF HERE. YOU MUST RETURN TO BRAZIL IN THE SAME WAY YOU CAME. YOU KNOW WHERE THE AIRPORT IS, BUY A TICKET, YOU KNOW WHERE THE BUS STATION IS, THERE ARE BUSES TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. She went on: “WE DO NOT HAVE ANY LIABILITY FOR YOU. YOU WERE IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME, I'M SORRY. “
[...]
What can Haiti expect from an ambassador and ambassadress who act this way? What has happened to us is of no importance. It only reveals the place that Haiti really seems to occupy in the universe of our international relations.

Otávio Calegari Jorge wonders in the post “Haiti: We Are Abandoned” what the UN and the Brazilian Military, member of the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), have actually done for the country over all these years of peacekeeping occupation:

O que presenciamos ontem no Haiti foi muito mais do que um forte terremoto. Foi a destruição do centro de um país sempre renegado pelo mundo. Foi o resultado de intervenções, massacres e ocupações que sempre tentaram calar a primeira república negra do mundo. Os haitianos pagam diariamente por esta ousadia.

O que o Brasil e a ONU fizeram em seis anos de ocupação no Haiti? As casas feitas de areia, a falta de hospitais, a falta de escolas, o lixo. Alguns desses problemas foram resolvidos com a presença de milhares de militares de todo mundo?

What we saw yesterday in Haiti was much more than a strong earthquake. It was the destruction of the core of a country that has always been disowned by the world. It was the result of interventions, massacres, and occupations that have always tried to silence the world's first black republic. Haitians pay for this audacity on a daily basis.

What have Brazil and the UN done during six years of occupation in Haiti? The sand houses, the lack of hospitals, the lack of schools, the garbage. Have any of these issues been solved by the presence of thousands of military from all around the world?

Reports from the ground

La Citadelle [pt], a blog kept by the University of Campinas researchers, brings reports of their situation just after the earthquake. On January 13th, in one of the first blog posts on the subject in Portuguese and from Haiti, Werner says that the population is not being helped enough:

A situação está se complicando: saindo às ruas em busca de água, o pessoal viu muitas pessoas feridas na rua, mortas, casas desabadas e pessoas retirando os escombros, além de briga por comida, saques, um tiroteio, e o pior, aparentemente, tudo isso sem a presença de nenhum tanque, carro ou oficial da ONU nesses primeiros momentos de pavor a população. Apenas soubemos que as tropas estavam removendo os escombros do Hotel Montana, um dos hotéis da alta classe, onde deveria estar personalidades da ONU. Torcemos para que as tropas já presentes no Haiti, e outras que devem ser enviadas imediatamente, não demorem a agir no seio da população, orientando-a na organização do socorro, antes que tal população tenha um acúmulo ainda maior de frustração e de pânico.

The situation is getting more complicated: after going out looking for water, the guys saw many injured, dead people on the streets, collapsed houses and people removing the wreckage, in addition to fights over food, looting, shootings, and what is worse, apparently all of this happening during the absence of a UN tank, vehicle or official during these first moments of horror for the population. We only heard of troops removing debris at Hotel Montana, one of the five stars hotels, where UN representatives were supposed to be. We hope that troops already present in Haiti and others that should be sent immediately, do not take too long to help the population and guide them through carrying out rescue, before the population gets even more frustrated and panicked.

There are over a thousand members of the Brazilian Military currently living in the country. On the Missão de Paz blog [pt], Lieutenant Couto publishes a touching email testimonial:

Foi literalmente a pior sensação que ja senti em minha vida, pois me senti totalmente inútil sem poder fazer nada diante da grandeza daquele fato.

E acompanhado disso um sensação de desespero que tive que controlar por ter sido de certa forma, preparado para isso como Policial Militar.

It was literally the worst sensation that I've ever felt in my life, because I felt completely useless with no means to do anything up against this huge thing.

And following that, a feeling of desperation that I had to contain because I had been somehow trained for this in the State Military Police Force.

Helping out

So far, the Brazilian government have sent more than 10 tons of food to Haiti, as well as relief and rescue teams to work on the ground. A third of the amount of money promised by the Brazilian President Lula da Silva, R$5 million ($2.8 million), has already been released to the UN Emergency Fund to assist the country. Additionally, Voluntários Online provides tips [pt] for Brazilians who want to go to Haiti to give relief assistance.

VivaRio, a Brazilian NGO for social development working in the slums of Port-au-Prince since 2004 has started a fundraising campaign in Brazil to help the victims of the earthquake. On the third day after the earthquake, the donations from Brazil had surpassed R$110,000.00 (approximately US$62,000):

Desde 2004, o Viva Rio desenvolve projetos sociais voltados para a segurança, o desenvolvimento e o meio ambiente no Haiti. Os nove brasileiros que trabalham no projeto estão bem. A sede do Viva Rio em Bel Air sofreu apenas rachaduras e está abrigando milhares de vítimas.

Faça a sua doação na conta:
Banco do Brasil
Agência 1769-8
Conta 5113-6

CNPJ: 00343941000128

Para doações efetuadas de outros países, informe o código BRASBRRJRJO.

Since 2004, Viva Rio develops social projects for security, development and the environment in Haiti. The nine Brazilians who work on the project are safe. Viva Rio's head office in Bel Air only suffered cracks and has been sheltering many victims. Donate to this account:
Bank of Brazil
Agency 1769-8
Account 5113-6
CNPJ: 00343941000128
For donations from foreign countries, please provide the following code: BRASBRRJRJO.

A group of independent journalists have started the Haiti.org.br [pt], a project giving news content, articles and analysis about what happens in Haiti, focusing on citizenship, politics, human rights, economy and culture. They have also shared information on how to donate to the victims of the earthquake. For more information in English, please check this pdf file.

Please visit the Global Voices Haiti Earthquake page for more coverage of the event.

  • Rachel Page

    It’s good that now some areas have been rebuilt, but some are left as grim reminders, while others remain in limbo. Best Bankruptcy Lawyer

  • Karen Patrick

    Four years later, some 200,000 people are still stuck in camps. And a year later, those families “face another housing crisis as their housing subsidy runs out. voluntary bankruptcy

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site