As was reported in the Brazilian and other Latin American press, but generally ignored by English language media (save for brief mentions by Americas Quarterly and Haiti Libre), new Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim made public remarks the other day regarding a possible draw down of Brazilian troops from MINUSTAH.
As Haiti Libre and other outlets have noted, Amorim’s remarks are significant in part because Amorim was “the 'artisan' of the participation of Brazil in the Minustah [UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti]” during his previous tenure as Foreign Minister.
Haiti Libre goes on to report that
Already in 2010, as Foreign Minister under the government Lula, Amorim expressed the necessity of replacing the military presence in Haiti by engineers and social workers to collaborate in the development and the economy of Haiti.
Amorim’s remarks are the latest sign that an end to the UN Mission, so widely unpopular in Haiti, may soon be on the horizon. As we’ve noted in various earlier posts, MINUSTAH has been controversial from its start, when it often appeared to aid police in their post-coup crackdown on Fanmi Lavalas members, social movement activists, and others in the wake of the 2004 U.S.-backed coup. The Blue Helmets have since killed innocent civilians in violent raids on slums, attacked journalists, and seen over 100 troops expelled from Haiti over child prostitution and related charges. These are just the documented crimes, which are supplemented by other suspicious incidents. But the Mission’s popularity undoubtedly hit a new low following the cholera outbreak last October, which quickly was traced back to a MINUSTAH camp in Mirebalais.
Now, simultaneous with Amorim’s remarks, come new allegations of MINUSTAH again dumping fecal waste into a river (the Guayamouc) – an incident likely to provoke even more outrage and impatience with what many Haitians see as an “occupation” force.
Considering that Brazil’s leading role in the Mission has long been unpopular at home, Amorim’s remarks may resonate with the Brazilian public, and could perhaps influence other Latin American nations where MINUSTAH participation enjoys similarly lackluster enthusiasm.