Brazil Ready To Double Its Presence In Haiti

By Dialogo
January 21, 2010

Following a request from the United Nations to increase its peace forces in Haiti, Brazilian army officials claim they are prepared to send an additional 1,300 troops, which would double their presence. The decision must be approved by the national congress. According to Brazil’s Defense Ministry, before last week’s earthquake, 1,266 Brazilians were part of the UN Stabilizing Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), created in 2004 after the ousting of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Since 2004, a total of 13,323 Brazilian soldiers have served in Haiti. The ones who will be deployed to reinforce the latest mission will be picked from that group. Nelson Jobim, Brazil’s defense minister, says Brazil’s armed forces will remain in Haiti for at least another five years. The Brazilian government also approved sending close to US$20 million (R$35 million) in aid to Haiti. Brazil’s military presence in Haiti is the largest such force deployed overseas since World War II. Brazil will replace its troops every six months, and those deployed to the Caribbean nation will be because they volunteered. Brazil has been in charge of the MINUSTAH’s military command since the operation started. The Brazilian military contingency is the largest of the 17 countries that have sent troops to Haiti. The UN authorized the entire number of peacekeepers to be increased to 8,940 military troops and 3,711 police officers on Jan. 19. The police command is under the supervision of Canada, while France is in charge of the civilian command. Since 2004, Brazil has contributed about R$703 million (US$397 million) to the MINUSTAH, out of which the United Nations has been reimbursed R$288 million (US$163 million). Antonio Jorge Ramalho, a professor at Brasília University’s school of international relations, says Brazil’s commitment to Haiti demonstrates it wants to be part of creating a new world order. “Brazil’s diplomatic discourse has always featured this desire to take responsibility in the international community,” Ramalho says. “However, this had not materialized until the [creation of the] MINUSTAH. This time, Brazil has set its discourse into practice.” Ramalho says on previous occasions, such as the reconstruction of East Timor in 1999, Brazil’s role in the United Nation’s peace mission was smaller than anticipated, largely because of the country’s economic crisis. The increase of Brazil’s efforts in Haiti also falls within the foreign policy goals set forth by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government of increasing involvement in developing countries. Lula became president in 2003, a year before MINUSTAH was created. The Brazilian armed forces are distributed throughout Haiti. The Brazilian presence is considered essential to reducing criminal activity in Cité Soleil, the Haitian gang-controlled slum that’s home to 300,000. Besides patrolling the streets, the military is helping to rebuild streets and harbors. Last week’s earthquake did away with many of MINUSTAH’s achievements. But in Ramalho‘s opinion, the mission is not exactly starting from scratch. “It’s not a total reversal,” Ramalho says. “There was loss of human life and infrastructure, but we can also look at the earthquake as an opportunity. The infrastructure, for instance, can be rebuilt with the most advanced technology.” At least 18 Brazilian soldiers have died in Haiti’s earthquake, in addition to at least three civilians. According the United Nations’ Web site, 46 of its mission workers from different nationalities, have died as a result of the earthquake, with 26 sustaining injury. The UN’s approved budget for all of MINUSTAH’s operations for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 is US$ 611,750 million.
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