By Claudia Florentin* for ALC
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was created by the United Nations Security Council and began its work in 2004, following the joint military intervention by the United States, Canada, France and Chile that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
In the years that followed, the Security Council modified the MINUSTAH mandate on various occasions, including the concept of its operations and its personnel, so as to better adapt it to the changing circumstances and new needs brought about by the political, security and socio-economic situation of the country. After the devastating earthquake that Haiti suffered on January 12, 2010, the Council in its resolutions 1908 of January 19 and 1927 of June 4, 2010, increased the number of the MINUSTAH personnel to support the immediate tasks of recovery, reconstruction and stabilization.
The Security Council urged the MINUSTAH to provide logistical and technical support to help the Haitian government continue functioning, to increase the capability of the local and national institutions, and accelerate the putting into effect of the government strategy for the relocating of those left homeless.
Additionally, the Security Council asked the MINUSTAH to continue giving its support to the government and the Provisional Electoral Council of Haiti for the preparing and holding of elections, and to coordinate the international electoral assistance in collaboration with other interested international bodies, such as the Organization of American States.
By Resolution 2012 of October 14, 2011, the Security Council authorized the continuation of the MINUSTAH until October 15, 2012.
The MINUSTAH is the first peacekeeping mission of the United Nations with an important number of Latin American military personnel participating. Nine Latin American countries are part of the MINUSTAH: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
At the present time, the mission has 7,803 soldiers, representing19 nationalities, and 2,138 police from 41 countries, in addition to 464 civilians of 115 nationalities, 1,239 Haitian civilians, and 207 United Nations volunteers. The Latin American countries with the largest number of military personnel in Haiti are, Brazil, with 1,280 soldiers, and Uruguay, with 1,136. (1)
The military personnel participating in the MINUSTAH are from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, the Philippines, France, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Uruguay.
The participating police personnel are from Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, Spain, the United States, the Russian Federation, the Philippines, France, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kirghizstan, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, the Central African Republic, Rumania, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uruguay and Yemen.
One of the missions of the MINUSTAH is providing support for the new training of the Haitian police force, in response to the “high social danger.” 689 persons died as a result of violence in Haiti in 2010, and the country’s murder rate was 6.9 per each 100,000 inhabitants, which, when compared to the numbers of other Latin American countries, is not high.
South American Countries
In her work, “The South American Intervention in Haiti,” Mónica Hirst says that: “The outstanding participation of Argentina, Brazil and Chile (ABC), together with that of other countries, has made it possible that the MINUSTAH be seen as an emblematic initiative for a sub-regional cooperation fitted to the new models of multilateral intervention in scenarios of institutional collapse. The importance of the role played by other countries in this operation, be they from South America itself or other regions is not to be overlooked. To be mentioned is the presence of Uruguayan troops that have a tradition of participating in peacekeeping forces, as well as that of the Peruvian and Bolivian contingents, that reinforced even more the South American presence in the MINUSTAH. The activity of the ABC forces in the reconstruction efforts in Haiti is carried out through a link between the defense and foreign affairs policies, with the purpose of broadening their respective influences in the world debate on effective governability and multilateralism,” (2)
When analyzing the Argentinean participation, Gilda Folliett affirms that “perhaps the most forceful argument for a positive vote lies in seeing the MINUSTAH as an opportunity to explicitly take positions within MERCOSUR, because it had to do with a mission having a particular leading role of the member countries of the block in its broader version. Thus, while the Argentinean Congress was considering the sending of its contingent, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay already had their troops deployed.”
Along a similar line, some legislators observed that the countries went to Haiti not only to watch over their own national interests but also to look after the interests of the United States. Arguing that one of the principle concerns of the United States was the mass migration of Haitians to that country following other crises, the legislators commented that the mission in Haiti would serve as coastguards of the US. (3)
Of the countries of ABC, Chile was the one that had the least doubts when considering the possibility of intervening in Haiti. President Ricardo Lagos supported the idea and gave his consent even before the MINUSTAH was created.
At the present time, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, and the “Plurinational Legislative Assembly” have chosen to maintain the number of troops in Haiti. On October 13, 2011 the legislature authorized the sending over a six month period of a contingent of 205 members of the Bolivia IX Infantry Company. Álvaro García Linera, President of the Legislative Assembly, explained that the decision was taken in keeping with the agreements signed on May 22, 1997 between the Bolivian government and the United Nations. The new Bolivian contingent in Haiti replaces the 205 “Blue Helmets” of the Bolivia VIII Infantry Company.
According to the official web site of the MINUSTAH, the total budget approved for the period July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012, is US$793,517.100.
There is scarce public information to be found on the official web sites of the governments involved having to do with allocations in their national budgets for these peacekeeping forces,
Since 2004, Brazilian taxpayers have had to pay for over six million US dollars to support the MINUSTAH. The cost of maintaining the Brazilian troops in Haiti in 2011 was around 245 million US dollars. Since the January, 2010 earthquake, approximately 165 million US dollars in humanitarian aid has been sent to Haiti. In principle, the UN should reimburse these costs but the reimbursements received so far amount to only 16% of what the Brazilian government has disbursed. (4)
This lack of public information coincides with the scarce knowledge that the societies of the countries involved in the MINUSTAH have of what it is doing. It can be perceived from what information is circulated through the communications media, that the work of the troops, their salaries and the control over their activities is of little interest to the public opinion. What are published are details of thorny issues, such as a case involving Uruguayan soldiers, or to the contrary, the emphasizing of some task considered as being one of “solidarity.”
As we pointed out in “The South American Cooperation: An ALC First Report,” it could be said that there is a divorce between the political position of the governments with regard to the country that was a pioneer in the struggles for freedom, and the general opinion of South Americans about Haitian society.
Report on the work of the MINUSTAH: Reconstruction and Gender Violence
The MINUSTAH makes available weekly reports on its work. On its web site it says that the mandate for its work is to establish secure and stable conditions in which a political process for strengthening the institutions of the government of Haiti, supporting the constituting of a state of law, and promoting and protecting human rights, can be developed. The web site points out that: “The mission has continued to mobilize all its logistical resources to help in the work of attending to the victims and contain and confront the cholera outbreak of October, 2010.”
Part of the work reported on has to do with collaborating with the government of Haiti to assure the continuation of the institutions of the State most affected by the earthquake. Various priority projects were identified, among them the construction of an interim parliament building and other official offices. Other projects included the building of extensions to the National Prison and the Petion-Ville Penitentiary Administration, and the construction of facilities for occupational training of women inmates in the Petion-Ville prison.
One of the matters the reports deal with at length has to do with the situation of women. Adult women, young women and girls, who make up 52% of the population of the country are, because of the conditions of severe poverty, the most affected in terms of a lack of access to education and health services, participation in public life and their insertion in the labour market.
In a recent report reference is made to studies according to which up to 22% of the displaced women and girls have been victims of sexual assault. (5)
According to the 2011 report presented by the UN Secretary General, the Protection of Minors Brigade of the Haitian National Police, responsible for attending to the cases of violence against children, 2,509 of the 11,774 children passing through border and the Port-au-Prince airport immigration control posts in 2010 were traveling without their personal documents in order. In addition, 459 children were victims of human trafficking.
The report continues by saying: “During the period the report refers to, incidents of sexual and gender violence continued. As has been the case in the past, the deficiencies in the capacity and functioning of the National Police of Haiti and the judicial system, greatly limited the response on the part of the government. As a preventive measure, the MINUSTAH repeatedly modified the patrols by its police and military forces to cover the zones where this kind of violence was apparently most extended.”
The MINUSTAH and the organism of the United Nations for gender equity and the empowering of women organized a training course for instructors in mechanisms for referring the victims of sexual and gender violence to services providing prompt medical, social psychological and legal support. 49 instructors were trained, 44 from the UN police and 5 from the Haitian police, who patrolled the internally displaced camps. “Nevertheless, the setting up of a means for systematic and trustworthy data collection that can be used by all continues to be difficult,” says the UN Secretary General’s 2011 report.
The report indicates that also underway is a campaign for discouraging sexual violence by informing the victims of sexual and gender violence, the local communities and the potential aggressors. The principal objective of the campaign is assuring that the victims receive medical and social psychological treatment, and have access to information about their legal rights.
The last 2011 MINUSTAH report points out that it provided logistical and technical support to the 45 women who were parliamentary candidates in the recent Haitian elections.
This support was through the preparing of a campaign in the news media, including public and private radio and television networks, in close collaboration with a platform of women’s organizations. In addition, awareness raising workshops on gender and the elections were held in nine departments and materials for training in dealing with election issues were distributed.
Relationship with the Haitian society: Cholera, Abuses, Protests
The relationship between the MINUSTAH and the people of Haiti is not having a good moment, if it ever did have one before. It is presently accused of cases of sexual rape of minors. The UN says that there are two cases of sexual exploitation and even though it did not identify the military personnel involved, it did indicate that the cases occurred in Port-au-Prince and in Gonaives to the north.
In a statement released toward the end of this January, the mission has assured that it will punish its members with severity should their involvement in these crimes be proven. “We ratify our commitment to have the policy of zero tolerance respected with regard to abuses committed by personnel of the Mission,” says the statement.
The new scandal follows another that took place last September, when 5 members of the Uruguayan troops were accused of abusing a youth. The accused were released after having returned to their country, which caused protests on the part of Haitian civil organizations.
The United Nations has responded by saying that it “is angered by these allegations and assumes its responsibility to deal with the matter with extreme seriousness. The countries of origin of the police have been informed, even though unlike those cases in which military personnel are involved, the investigations having to do with the United Nations Police are the responsibility of the United Nations.”
Yet this is not all, as in September of last year a cholera epidemic began which claimed the lives of over 6,000 persons and left 300,000 ill.
It was said that the Nepalese forces could possibly be responsible, as their base is located near to the Artibonite River into which their faeces were disposed of. In May, 2011, a study by the UN concluded that “the type isolated during the outbreak of cholera in Haiti and those circulating in the south of Asia, including Nepal, at the same time in 2009 and 2010, are similar.”
In an article in The Guardian of December 20, 2011, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, asked: “If an international organization had brought a lethal illness to the city of New York that caused the death of more persons than the September 11 attacks, what would be the consequences? Could they simply ignore it, without anyone holding the organization responsible? The answer, obviously, is ‘no,’ and the same would be true if it were to have occurred in the majority of the countries of the hemisphere. Yet, up to now it appears that there are no consequences if this happens in Haiti.” (6)
In response to the voices of Haitian citizens questioning the usefulness of the MINUSTAH in their country, Mariano Fernández Amunátegui, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, wrote a letter giving data and pointing out concrete achievements, such as the technical education and training of the division of the Haitian police responsible for the force’s instruction, (7) and the work in the streets consisting of some 35,000 joint patrols every month throughout the country.
Of course, the mass protests by the Haitians against the MINUSTAH have been given very little coverage by the news media, as well as the unanimous decision taken by the Haitian Senate informing the foreign forces that they are to begin withdrawing their occupation troops beginning October 15, 2012. A Pulsar cable story reported that: “A second resolution by the Senate has demanded reparation for the” (then) “6,200 victims of the cholera caused by the stabilization mission that, in addition, is accused of cases of corruption, contamination of rivers and of having sex with Haitian women.”
The demonstrators in different protest marches in the country rejected the extending of the MINUSTAH mandate for an additional year. Likewise, they held the troops responsible for the propagating of cholera in Haiti. They also protested because of the alleged abuses and demanded that those implicated be brought to trial, compensation be paid to the family of the young man, and an indemnity for the persons affected by cholera.
According to the Haiti Press Network web site, the demonstrators shout was, “Want to or not, the MINUSTAH must leave.”
A considerable number of intellectuals headed by three Nobel Peace Prize winners also want the MINUSTAH to leave. In a letter sent to the secretary generals of the United Nations and of the Organization of American States in October, 2011, they called for the immediate withdrawal of the troops from a country “that is not a threat to world peace.” The letter was signed by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Mariead Corrigan and Betty Williams, and by leaders of the Founders Line of the Mothers of May Square in Argentina, Uruguayan analyst Eduardo Galeano, and Brazilian theologians Leonardo Boff and Frei Betto, along with numerous legislators from various countries.
A way out on the horizon
The announcement by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the reducing of the size of the MINUSTAH is welcomed. A first step would be to return to the number of personnel there was prior to the 2010 earthquake, some 10,000 troops. International experts are divided as to a timeframe for the withdrawal of the troops. The MINUSTAH has been in Haiti for seven years now, and Brazil has already announced the beginning of the withdrawal of its forces. (8)
Everything now indicates that the other eight Latin American countries ((Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay) that have been a part of the mission will follow the decision taken by Brasilia. In a number of them, including Chile, the matter of an extending of the mission without a clear strategy of withdrawal is creating controversy. What is also needed is that the MINUSTAH mandate respond more adequately to the new Haitian reality. Haiti is now at peace and stabilized. The task today is to successfully complete the reconstruction underway and begin the self-supporting development required for the creating of employment and raising the standard of living of the population.
The Defense Minister of Chile, Andrés Allamand, has said that the government of Chile “sees the convenience of setting a coordinated, orderly, gradual and proportional timeframe for the withdrawal of our troops from Haiti, so that our presence in that country not be eternal. This position is shared by other countries of Latin America and will be discussed in detail at a meeting of Foreign Affairs and Defense ministers to take place in Uruguay before April 30, 2013.” (9)
For Chilean international expert Jorge Heine, MINUSTAH “has been a trial by fire with which to measure the degree to which the countries of the region are committed to what we could call international civic obligations. If the Latin American armed forces do not take part in the pacifying and stabilizing of Haiti, what countries would do so? Despite some considerable setbacks, the MINUSTAH has honourably carried out its task. It has stabilized the country, which was the goal entrusted to it. The moment has now come to begin its gradual withdrawal. The challenge is to do it in an orderly and planned manner, and over a period of years, not of months.” (10)
Considerations with which to begin reflecting
Over the years the intervention of foreign troops, be they from the United States, France, other powers and the MINUSTAH, have not improved either the quality or dignity of life of the Haitian people. “To the contrary, their presence is an assault against the sovereignty and dignity of that people and assures a process of economic re-colonization and dependency,” affirms Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, in a letter asking for the withdrawal of the mission.
The budget for the mission is the equivalent of nearly half the annual Haitian budget, which is 1,605 million US dollars according to the CIA World Factbook. The millions spent on stabilization and security are a good part of the resources that Haiti needs to improve its education, housing, and water services, and invest in sanitation and health, and in creating employment.
The WikiLeaks cables revealed that Timothy Carney, representative of the US government and the highest ranking diplomat in Haiti in 2006, warned that the foreign incursions into that country “will inevitably cause unintentional civilian victims given the conditions of overcrowding and the fragile buildings of the crammed houses in Cité Soleil.”
The UN mission went to Haiti to “stabilize” what the United States had destabilized by, first, the 2004 invasion and the expelling of President Aristide. This ‘minor’ detail that seems to be forgotten over time, is one reason why the MINUSTAH is seen as “a peacekeeping force in a country where there is neither war nor genocide,” as says Camille Chalmers, director of the Haitian Platform for Development Alternatives (PAPDA).
Activists denounce that the MINUSTAH, far from providing security for the Haitian people following the overthrow of Aristide, kept itself on the sidelines while thousands of Haitians who had supported the elected Aristide government were murdered and officials of the constitutional government were jailed.
How can the citizens of the Latin American countries involved who know little or nothing about the cost and work of this mission, be able to consider in depth what their national troops are doing in Haiti and how much it costs their countries?
To achieve that it is necessary to exercise the right to public information and disseminate through the news media information that breaks down the social and political stereotypes of the Haitian people, continually seen as being a victimized, downhearted, unstable and violent people.
Haiti is asking for its autonomy and it needs cooperation in different areas, but not a permanent military occupation. The Haitian victims of the abuses by the military forces need justice and reparation on the part of the international community, not pity and empty words.
Haiti deserves that we see her through different eyes, eyes of brothers and sisters, not of judges, police or masters.
Rebelión.org, Página 12, Haití Libre, Prensa Latina, El Mercurio, La Capital, El País, FLACSO (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences)
 November 30, 2011 figures from the United Nations Organization oficial web site.
 Mónica Hirst, “La intervención sudamericana en Haití”; Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior
 Gilda Follietti, “La participación argentina en Haití: el papel del Congreso”; Revista Fuerzas Armadas y Sociedad • Año 19 • Nº 1 • 2005 • pp. 37-56
 By Dady Chery, in an article published in Axis of Logic, for which she is a columnist.
 The report prepared by the women’s NGOs Madre, Kofaviv, Clínica Inernacional de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (LWHR, English acronym), and the School of Law of the City University of New York, indicates that many of the displaced women and girls “find themselves forced to exchange sex for a blanket, money or even a simple meal.”
 According to Haití Libre, “since the first class of the National Police and through 2006, the increase in the number of police officers rose from 3,480 to 10,106 in June, 2011, 11% of which were women, and includes those assigned to traffic duties, prison services, the coastguard, fire department, penitentiary administration, drug control (BLT), and administrative and judicial police.”
 “Now, over the short and long term, it is not good either for Haiti or for who is there that that presence (of foreign troops) be continued,” said Amorim in an interview with the BBC Brazil. The press office of the Defense Ministry confirmed the content of the interview, although clarifying that it is an idea still in an initial phase and that the eventual withdrawal of troops still does not have a deadline to be put into effect. The minister warned that, “we cannot have a disorganized withdrawal that creates a situation of chaos,” yet also considered that a situation of “false comfort” should be avoided with the presence of the soldiers in the Caribbean country.
 Allamand clarified to the press that on one occasion the minister of defense of Brazil spoke of five years, that in mid-2011 a UNASUR technical commission indicated a similar timeline, “and what we have proposed is that in general the presence of the troops be extended until 2016, in other words, until the second orderly transfer of power from one democratic government to another has taken place.”
 Jorge Heine, El País, Spain, September 30, 2011. Heine, a lawyer, diplomat and former minister of state of Chile, is the CIGI Professor of Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Ontario. His book, Fixing Haiti: MINUSTAH and Beyond, was published by the United Nations University Press.
This series of articles on the South American intervention, solidarity and cooperation with Haiti, is done with the support and accompaniment of the Church World Service Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (CWS LAC www.cwslac.org). ALC is solely responsible for the content of these articles.
*Claudia Florentin is the ALC Spanish Editor.
Photo: MINUSTAH: Light and shadows