Revelations about MINUSTAH are in the news again. First, a new study published in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal affirms that a MINUSTAH camp was the origin of the cholera outbreak which has killed over 5,500 people so far.
As AP reports:
"Our findings strongly suggest that contamination of the Artibonite (river) and 1 of its tributaries downstream from a military camp triggered the epidemic," said the report in the July issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The article says there is "an exact correlation" in time and place between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area of its South Asian homeland that was experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in the Meille river a few days later.
The remoteness of the Meille river in central Haiti and the absence of other factors make it unlikely that the cholera strain could have come to Haiti in any other way, the report says.
As we described in detail when suspicions first arose that Nepalese blue helmets had brought the cholera strain to Haiti, MINUSTAH rejected the claims and showed little interest in uncovering the truth about the cause of the epidemic. Cholera, meanwhile, continues to spread, recently increasing with the heavy rains:
The article published in the CDC journal comes as health workers in Haiti wrestle with a spike in the number of cholera cases brought on by several weeks of rainfall. The aid group Oxfam said earlier this month that its workers were treating more than 300 new cases a day, more than three times what they saw when the disease peaked in the fall.
This isn’t the only revelation about MINUSTAH to emerge this week. A U.S. Embassy cable recently made available by Wikileaks reveals that in 2006, then-head of mission for MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet “urged U.S. legal action against Aristide to prevent the former president from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.” But as various legal and human rights experts have explained, there seem to be many allegations but little evidence to charge Aristide with anything. (Aristide, of course, has not been charged with anything since returning to Haiti.)
The cable also states that then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan pressured South African president Thabo Mbeki “to ensure that Aristide remained in South Africa” – just as Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, and President Obama, were to do earlier this year when it became apparent that Aristide would attempt to return to Haiti.
These aren’t the only interesting revelations in the cable. As in other cables we have previously reviewed, this one talks of MINUSTAH “fatigue”. Under a heading entitled “MINUSTAH Could Lose Steam Over Long Run,” the cable describes waning enthusiasm for the Mission from South American countries:
Over the long-term, Mulet worried that fatigue from MINUSTAH's military and police contributors as well as Venezuela's possible election to the Security Council could jeopardize MINUSTAH's mandate. Mulet explained that though Argentina is committed through February of 2007, it has considered lowering its troop commitment to Haiti. Meanwhile, Chile has already recuperated three helicopters from MINUSTAH, which has significantly limited MINUSTAH's mobility. Mulet reported that the seven South American troop contributors are planning a meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense in Buenos Aires on August 4 to discuss troop levels and the MINUSTAH mandate.
This section then concludes
In addition, he worried that Venezuela's possible election to the Security Council could jeopardize Haiti's Chapter VII status. Mulet said that the Venezuelan ambassador to Haiti had told him that in Caracas' view Haiti does not require a Chapter VII mission.
As previously noted by Ansel Herz and others, the Chapter VII designation is intended for situations in which the consent of the destination country for the UN “peace keepers” is not required. According to the academic expert Herz cited [PDF], to justify a Chapter VII status
the Council must determine that the situation constitutes a threat or breach of the peace. In contrast, measures under Chapter VI do not have the same force, and military missions under Chapter VI would rest on consent by the state in question.
So the Venezuelan government may have been bothered by the Haitian government not having a say in whether and how long MINUSTAH would remain in place. This claim by Mulet also fits in with the theme we have noted previously of the U.S. government’s use of MINUSTAH as a force that excludes Venezuela. Regional groupings that include the U.S. but exclude Venezuela are becoming increasingly rare in the Western Hemisphere.