Wikileaked Documents Shed More Light on U.S., Brazilian Motives Behind MINUSTAH

December 23, 2010

As we’ve described in other posts, U.S. State Department documents made available by Wikileaks demonstrate that international support for MINUSTAH is an important priority for the U.S. government. A new cable recently released by Wikileaks may help explain why: Latin American alliance with a U.S.-objective that “completely excludes [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez” (h/t Ansel Herz):

11. (C) An increasingly unifying theme that completely excludes Chavez, and isolates Venezuela among the militaries and security forces of the region, is participation in international and regional peacekeeping operations. The Southern Cone is doing very well in this area, with all countries active contributors to PKO missions worldwide. Argentina and Chile have even formed a combined peacekeeping brigade, which is expected to be available for deployment sometime in 2008. Uruguay is the highest per-capita contributor of PKO troops. We should make more GPOI funds available to Southern Cone countries to increase and strengthen their peacekeeping capabilities and cooperation.

The cable also suggests that MINUSTAH could be an opening foray into such U.S.-promoted multilateral operations “on a broader scale”:

Additionally, we should explore using the mechanism that the region’s contributors to MINUSTAH (Haiti) have established to discuss ways of increasing peacekeeping cooperation on a broader scale.

If these documents accurately reflect U.S. government goals regarding the mission, then Brazilian leadership is perhaps especially desirable, considering the Brazil-Venezuela rivalry that some in the U.S. foreign policy community believe – despite much evidence to the contrary – and perhaps desire, to exist. While other cables reveal that the U.S. sees Brazil’s main motivation in leading the force to be proving its worth for a UN Security Council seat, another cable from September 2009 – just released – describes what could be another motive:


4. (U) During a September 18 seminar hosted by Brazilian development bank BNDES entitled “Opportunities for Favelas,” Brazilian Army General Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro (retired) stated the Brazilian Army was prepared to cooperate with Rio de Janeiro state and municipal officials and police to occupy and maintain control of favelas (Note: Rio de Janeiro state currently maintains special police units -UPP – that are controlling five favelas. End Note). Citing the Brazilian army’s role in United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Haiti, he said many officers and units were specifically trained and prepared to undertake operations related to public security and general policing in communities lacking state control.

All this does not, however, seem to undermine the likelihood that Brazil may be tiring of leading the never-ending mission. Another cable, from February 2009, provides more evidence that MINUSTAH’s Brazilian leadership may itself be looking for a time table:

— Haiti: [Brazilian Ministry of External Relations Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ambassador Everton] Vargas said that Haiti is very much on [Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso] Amorim’s mind. He would like to pursue further cooperation with the United States and wants to hear the new Administration’s views. “We can’t stay there forever,” he said, so it will be important to make the political process there more stable. In particular, he said, it will be important to ensure a successful transition to Preval’s successor. — Middle East: Vargas confirmed that Amorim will attend the upcoming meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, and said that he will want to hear the Secretary’s perspective on the Middle East peace process.

Fast forward to post-earthquake Haiti: a cable from January 22 describes a meeting between State Department officials and high level Brazilian defense and foreign relations officials. While much of the document describes Brazilian appreciation for U.S. actions, it does suggest some tensions at the time. Under a section entitled, “COMMENT: DESIRE FOR MORE COORDINATION BEHIND THE SMILES”, it states:

Clearly, we have turned a corner on the earlier friction caused by coordination problems at the Port-au-Prince airport, and the GOB is determined to see this as an opportunity both to increase cooperation with the USG and to enhance its own leadership standing. At the same time, the desire for greater communication by the USG with MINUSTAH, in the first instance, and the GOB in the second, is clear.

10. (C) Heading into the Montreal meeting, Brazil believes it has earned, through its long-term commitment to leading MINUSTAH and its mounting efforts to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, the right to full partnership in the relief and reconstruction of Haiti going forward. The feeling seems to persist that the USG is not treating Brazil in that way. [Emphasis added.]

Considering the benefits that have accrued thus far to U.S. contractors from the relief and reconstruction eleven months later, the Brazilian diplomats may have been justifiably concerned that Brazilian companies could get left out, despite the government’s multi-year track record in leading MINUSTAH.

Other cables going back to MINUSTAH’s beginnings demonstrate some disagreement between the U.S. and Brazil in regards to Haitian input over the “peace keeping” force. A newly-made available cable from March 2004 details a meeting between then- White House Special Envoy for the Western Hemisphere (and former Iran-Contra figure) Otto Reich, and Brazilian president Lula’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu. Brazil’s position at the time, according to the cable, was that it “would only participate in a UN Chapter 6 (peacekeeping)…mission in Haiti”:

4. (SBU) Reich thanked the GOB for its willingness to help in Haiti, and to contribute peacekeeping forces. He asked Dirceu for clarification that the GOB would only participate in a UN Chapter 6 (peacekeeping), rather than a Chapter 7 (peace enforcement), mission in Haiti. Dirceu confirmed that that was correct. In response to Reich’s question on whether the Brazilian deployment in Haiti could be moved forward, Dirceu was non-committal, noting only that the GOB had had financial concerns about the deployment which were being resolved. Dirceu noted that he also expected to speak to the President about Haiti during the coming week, and suggested that he might get back in touch on the issue.

Ultimately the U.S. would win this one, as MINUSTAH was established under Chapter 7, not 6. (The mechanisms by which this occurred, in light of Brazilian opposition, would be interesting to learn – perhaps documents soon to-be-released by Wikileaks will reveal more information.)

Ansel Herz raises questions (also voiced by others in the past) regarding the significance of the UN’s invocation of Chapter 7 in deploying the blue helmets to Haiti back in 2004, rather than Chapter 6:

A professor described the difference between Chapter 6 and 7 to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs this way [PDF]:

The basic difference between Chapters VI and VII is that under Chapter VII, the Council may impose measures on states that have obligatory legal force and therefore need not depend on the consent of the states involved. To do this, 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 Chapter 6 would have required the consent of the Haitian government, while Chapter 7 does not. While MINUSTAH’s presence has always had the stated approval of the Haitian government thus far, it raises a few interesting questions: first, why did the U.S. prefer Chapter 7? What would happen if the Haitian government were to withdraw its consent, and say it was time for MINUSTAH to leave? And does the Obama administration have a different position on this than the Bush administration did?

In regards to the last question, State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley answered a question on this matter in yesterday’s press briefing:

QUESTION: And then the other thing about Haiti has to do with MINUSTAH and an apparent disagreement, not during this Administration but in the Bush Administration when MINUSTAH first went in, whether – on what kind of UN mandate it should operate under, whether it should be Chapter 6 authority or Chapter 7. This was a disagreement that apparently you had with the Government of Brazil.

Do you – are you aware if this disagreement persists, or is everything hunky-dory with the Brazilians now in terms of MINUSTAH?

MR. CROWLEY: We have valued the contribution that Brazil has made to the MINUSTAH operation. I think as I recall – well, in the past year, obviously, MINUSTAH itself also had personnel injured and killed by the earthquake, but I know of no current issues involving MINUSTAH and the United States. We continue to value the important role that it plays.

Another interesting cable written prior to MINUSTAH’s start, but after the 2004 coup against Aristide, reveals Brazilian concern for the “pro-Aristide forces” and Caricom which were being left out of decision-making regarding Haiti’s political situation:

Pointing to continued repercussions from President Aristide’s departure from power, [Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations UN Division Deputy Chief Achiles] Zaluar urged the U.S. to press Haiti’s current leadership to reach out to Caricom and the pro-Aristide forces. Caricom support, he felt, was vital to a political solution and so far, the new leaders seemed not to have a good understanding of the regional context of the Haiti situation. A/S Bloomfield expressed USG appreciation for Brazil’s decision to lead in this important hemispheric operation, and the United States understood the need for the country’s economic and social development. He said he would carry the message regarding the behavior towards pro-Aristide elements and Caricom back to Washington.

These comments are especially notable considering that the new regime imposed on Haiti was hunting down and killing “pro-Aristide” activists and supporters by the hundreds at the time, while imprisoning others on bogus charges. MINUSTAH, of course, would soon provide support for similar abuses once it began operations.

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