Brazil Should Help Haiti without Permanent Presence in Country

By Dialogo
May 21, 2013

Brazilian Minister of Defense Celso Amorim declared that Brazil will continue to contribute to the stabilization of Haiti, but it cannot perpetuate its presence in the country in order to avoid an “unwanted comfort zone.”

The message from the Defense leader was conveyed during a meeting with Nigel Fisher, Acting Special Representative for the United Nations (UN) Secretary General in Haiti, at the ministry headquarters on May 14.

At the meeting, Amorim mentioned the gradual reduction of the Brazilian troops involved with the stabilization mission in the Caribbean country. According to the minister, Brazil started a partial withdrawal of its contingent to bring it down to 1,200 members, the same number as during the period prior to the earthquake (in January 2010).

In response to the UN representative, Amorim stated that the idea of keeping the military troops in the island is not in Haiti’s best interest, recalling the Brazilian commitment to the reconstruction of the Caribbean nation. “We want to see the situation improve so we can leave”, he said, “and also that our stay will continue to improve the country’s development.”

Fisher introduced the outlines of the UN plan to consolidate the stabilization of Haiti. He said the plan is divided into four major areas, among which the strengthening of the Haitian National Police and judicial system are included, as well as actions to encourage dialogue between different political forces in the nation.

Fisher referred to the relevance of this year’s Senate elections in Haiti, and stated that the government intends to expand the contingent headcount of the National Police to a total of 15,000 by 2016, improving the distribution of security forces within the country. He also said that the idea is to keep the contingent of the current UN Police and to reduce the military troops on the island by approximately 50% within the next three years, currently at 6,300 troops.

During the meeting, the UN representative pointed out Brazil’s decisive contribution to the stabilization of Haiti. He also stated that the mission of the UN in the country began to change focus to prioritize the nation’s development.

Amorim congratulated Fisher for his initiative and agreed with the concerns regarding the mission’s change of direction. According to the Brazilian minister, the UN effort must be focused on initiatives that create real socioeconomic development for the Haitian population.

The Defense minister criticized what he called the lack of commitment by the international community to make infrastructure projects possible in the country. He mentioned the case of the Artibonite Hydroelectric Plant, a project developed by the Brazilian Army that received approximately US$ 40 million from the Brazilian government, which could solve one of the most complicated situations for the development of the country: the lack of electricity.

According to Amorim, despite the significant contribution made by Brazil, the hydroelectric plant is still on paper, due to the lack of support from other countries and from international funding and reduction of poverty institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank or the World Bank.

During the meeting Amorim and Fisher also discussed the political situation in Haiti, now that the presidential elections are scheduled for 2015. The minister mentioned the possibility of Brazil supporting areas such as the electoral justice, security and defense. He recalled the willingness of the Brazilian government to form Haitian Military engineers specialized in civil defense. However, according to Amorim, this support requires that the Haitian people demonstrate interest in acquiring that knowledge.