By Dady Chery
A reevaluation of the withdrawal of the United Nations (de)Stabilization Mission, MINUSTAH, from Haiti was discussed at a September 16, 2015 meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC). This was a working meeting of the 15-member UNSC (permanent members China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States; non-permanent members Angola, Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithunia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain, and Venezuela) together with the ambassadors of the MINUSTAH troop contributors: Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Jordan, and Indonesia.
This meeting was announced on September 2 at the presentation of the UNSC September 2015 program by Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr. Vitaly Churkin, who had just assumed the rotating presidency of the UNSC.
Haiti’s UN- and US-installed President, Michel Martelly, and his Ambassador to the UN, Denis Régis, had asked the UNSC to reassess its decision last October 2014 to withdraw, within a year, one half of the UN troops from the country. These troops, however, have become superfluous since the UN and the US private military and security company (PMSC) DynCorp have already trained a local force of more than 14,000 paramilitary police; in addition, Ecuador has trained an army loyal only to Martelly. Nevertheless, the current regime had begged the UNSC to prolong MINUSTAH’s stay until after the installment of a new regime in February 2016; it warned that there would be an electoral crisis even as it incited one jointly with the UN Development Program (UNDP), which is financing the 2015 electoral debacle. The UN General Assembly had already allocated $399.19 million to MINUSTAH for July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. The retention of more UN troops would require additional funds.
Haiti, however, no longer appears to be the comfortable venue where MINUSTAH member countries could practice warfare, without risk, on an unsuspecting population. Indeed, the country seems to have become quite dangerous for high- and low-level police and military. A Vietnam war veteran and supposedly retired diaspora Boston police officer, Yves Dambreville, was shot dead in Port-au-Prince on August 23, 2015. One week later, the most recent MINUSTAH commander, the Brazilian Lieutenant General José Luiz Jaborandy Jr. died, presumably while he was on an airplane to Brazil. Killings of members of the UN- and DynCorp-trained police, like the fatal shooting of the Brigade d’Intervention Motorisée’s Pierre Borgelon by so-called bandits on October 7, have become commonplace.
About 500 Argentinian soldiers left Haiti in spring 2015. The Argentinian withdrawal began, not only as its politicians’ rhetoric heated up against oil drilling in the Malvinas/Falklands but also after less than two weeks had passed since a MINUSTAH soldier, the Chilean Sergeant Rodrigo Sanhueza, was shot dead in a moving vehicle on April 13, 2015 by what appeared to be Haitian fighters and probably snipers. Haiti, which enjoyed the lowest crime rate in the Caribbean before MINUSTAH’s arrival in June 2004 to serve as a Praetorian Guard for US-installed regimes, is now full of weapons. The new Cacos evidently do not even have to buy their own. As an example, on August 4 in broad daylight, seven Haitians disarmed two members of an army post in El Embalse, Pedernales, of their M16 assault rifles.
There was no press release immediately after the UNSC September 16 meeting about Haiti and, for a while, Martelly’s move appeared to have failed. On October 8, 2015, however, Sandra Honore, the head of the UN mission in Haiti, read the following recommendation at the UN from UNSC Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: “I recommend that the Security Council extends MINUSTAH’s mandate for an additional year, may be the last, until October 15, 2016, while maintaining the currently authorized personnel of 2,370 troops and 2,601 police officers.” Mrs. Honore said that MINUSTAH would help the country to maintain order during the October 25 elections. It is unclear where the money had come to support MINUSTAH for another year without halving the number of troops as previous planned, but one may be sure that the cost is piling up for the US to rent Haiti again in advance of a US presidential election.
Regardless, MINUSTAH will soon go. As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince: “The fact is, [mercenaries] have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe….”
Sources: Haiti Chery (English version) | This article has been translated into Portuguese by Murilo Leme | Photograph two by Alex Proimos; photographs one/five, three, and four from United Nations Photo archive. For more about MINUSTAH in Haiti, read the book We Have Dared to Be Free, by Dady Chery.