IPS Report on the Ongoing Military Presence in Haiti
Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service on the ongoing military presence in Haiti. Specifically, the article focuses on the role of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping force that has been in Haiti since 2004. Herz reports that a group of women who were receiving food aid were tear gassed by the peacekeepers recently. There is also a zoning system that designates different zones either green, orange or red, drawing comparisons from some to the mapping of a war zone. The red zones are areas where groups are advised not to go, and Herz writes that the map he was given only had red zones covering the slums of Cite Soleil and Bel Air. Further, Herz reports that at the UN compound near the airport, Haitian's are often turned away because they lack a proper pass. The article begins:
On an empty road in Cite Militaire, an industrial zone across from the slums of Cite Soleil, a group of women are gathered around a single white sack of U.S. rice. The rice was handed out Monday morning at a food distribution by the Christian relief group World Vision.
According to witnesses, during the distribution U.N. peacekeeping troops sprayed tear gas on the crowd.
"Haitians know that's the way they act with us. They treat us like animals," said Lourette Elris, as she divided the rice amongst the women. "They gave us the food, we were on our way home, then the troops threw tear gas at us. We finished receiving the food, we weren't disorderly. "
Some 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers, known by the acronym MINUSTAH, have occupied Haiti since 2004, including 7,000 soldiers of which the majority are Brazilian. The mission has been dogged by accusations of human rights violations.
"It's time to begin thinking about changing the nature of MINUSTAH's mission," Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim told the Brazilian newspaper O Estado after the January earthquake struck Haiti.
"MINUSTAH's mandate is to maintain the peace, that is, security, but the U.N. needs to realise that its mission is no longer solely to strengthen security but also to build the infrastructure," he said.
So far, there's no evidence of a shift in policy.
"Red zones are no-go zones, you're not supposed to be there whatsoever," said Regine Zamor, a Haitian-American who arrived days after the earthquake to find her family. She's been coordinating among NGOs to distribute aid in Carrefour Feille, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city.
"We only found out for folks in our community that it was a red zone because we weren't getting any help," she said. "That green, yellow, and red zoning actually comes from maps when there's war, but there's no war here in Haiti."