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Security Council | Ten Years of Minustah

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Source: Brasil de Fato.

Organizations denounce deviation from mission. Brazilian colonel admits that withdrawing troops is a way out that would improve life on the Caribbean island.

By Guilherme Almeida,

The township of Brasiléia, in Acre , continues to be the port of entry for the dozens of Haitians who immigrate illegally to Brazil everyday. The earthquake and cholera outbreak that hit the island in 2010 have intensified the fflow. Currently, around 20 persons arrive in Acre every day.

To understand this pattern, it is necessary to understand the island in terms of its past and present. Haiti  is considered one of the poorest nations in the Amerias. According to Lúcia Skromov and Sonéca of the Comitê Pró-Haiti,  this poverty is no accident. “Haiti is poor because it has been impoverished. They suffer economic embargos. This, together with recurrent natural disasters, prevents the country from achieving any kind of stability,” according to the rapper Sonéca.

Researcher Lúcia Skromov digs deeper into the causes of this process. “Haiti was a protagonist in a double revolution: the abolition of slavery by the slaves themselves and independence. It suffers the consequences down to the present day,” she says. 

Some of Haiti’s social problems,such a the lack of potable water, were covered by the Brazilian press in the wake of the earthquaker. Very little was said, however, about the consequences to the Haitian people. Brazil is in charge of the UN’s MINUSTAH force| 17,000 Brazilian military are stationed there.

Col. José Mateus Teixeira Ribeiro, an officer at the Army Social Communication Center (CCOMSEx) has broad experience not only with military incursion but also as a spokesman for the Brazilian battalions, says “to a Brazilian what looks like hell to the Haitian looks like paradise,” The colonel made this comparison when asked about the condition of sanitation and other infrastructure in the country.  “They are trying to recover, but they are not well-prepared and they face countless adverse circumstances,” said Col. José Mateus Teixeira Ribeiro.

The UN intervened in Haiti on the pretext of supplying it with what it needed to return to self-rule after a  period of political anarchy. When president Jean-Bertrand Aristide left power in February 2004, amid a three-week insurgence ready to explode into civil war, the UN acknowledged his resignation as soon as the supreme court confirmed it as consitutional. Stepping into the power vacuum, Boniface Alexandre became preseident on March 8, 2004, and immediately asked the UN Security Council to send an international force to keep the peace. On March 9, 2004 this appeal was accepted (with a mandate of 3 months) and a force made up of American, Candadians, French and Chilean solders — the basis for MINUSTAH –was formed. MINUSTAH, would be instituted under Brazilian command according to Security Counil  Resolution 1542 of April 20. Brazil formally assumed command on June 1, 2004 with the swearing in of Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro as commander of the blue helmets.

MINUSTAH never enjoyed consensus, especially because its presence in the country for nine years was not foreseen. Brazilian and Haitian congress members criticized the manner in which the program evolved. Haitian Senator Jean Charles Moise is notable for his aggressive rhetoric in denouncing the gratuitous violence of the UN troops and the irony of calling it a peacekeeping force. “MINUSTAH is not allowed to work in law enforcement, but it can come down hard on anyone who protests in the streets. This is not acceptable,” he said in an interview with Arena Livre on TV ALESP.

“The army brings in enginers on the pretext of urbanizing shantytowns, infrastructure, streets and roads. But they only pave the roads they drive their armored personnel carrierss on,”says Lúcia Skromov, of the Comitê Pró-Haiti. According to its founders, the Comité was instituted in order to expose the contradictions in the MINUSTAH program and to convey the demands of the Haitian people without the mediation of the press.

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Whenever he gets the chance, Jean Charles Moise argues that military occuptation is not the best way to help the country. “The $9 million spent by MINUSTAH in Haiti could be disbursed to the neediest areas in the country,  financing education, health, law enforcement and infrastructure,” he argues.

Col. José Mateus Teixeira Ribeiro says that those most vehemently oposed to the mission fail to take into account its context and its necessity. “Youth between 17 and 25 years of age are very aggressive with UN troops. They have never experienced Haiti at war, so they see us as occupying their space,” the colonel says.

THe CCOMSEx office also says that despite the hostility encountered in the streets, the social group most opposed to MINUSTAH is the academic community.

“If only because of the discomfort we cause, I believe withdrawing is a good solution,” says Col. José Mateus Teixeira. Resolution 2070 of the UN Security Council set a deadline for troop withdrawl by 2016.

In a joint letter in favor of the immediately withdrawal of MINUSTAH, by written Eduardo Galeano, Juan Gelman, Frei Betto and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel point to the ambiguity of military occupation in Haiti: “It is inconceivable that our militaries be directly involved in the military occuption of a nation that once served as a ray of hope and freedom … which lent essential support to  Simon Bolívar in his fight to liberate Latin America. It is inconceivable that our nations, which have suffered from so much foreign aggression, be trampling on the sovereignty of another, a country that has experienced countless, brutal invasions ever since the day it broke the chains of slavery and colonialism.