Latin America Mulls Drawdown of Haiti Mission

Latin America Mulls Drawdown of Haiti Mission

By Dialogo
September 09, 2011

South American nations with troops deployed in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti are discussing a gradual drawdown of the force beginning in 2012 after eight years on the ground.

Brazil, which commands the force, is considering reducing and restructuring its contingent, the largest with some 2,000 troops, a defense ministry official said in Brasilia.

“For now, no number nor date has been set. But if it happens, it would be a gradual reduction without causing chaos,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

South American defense and foreign ministers will meet in Haiti on September 8 with the head of the mission, Mariano Fernandez of Chile, to discuss a report by a technical team that traveled to Haiti after President Michel Martelly was sworn into office in May.

The commission’s report recommends that “starting in 2012, MINUSTAH should begin a gradual drawdown, in an orderly fashion,” Uruguayan Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro said.

“But it also says that at the moment it would be very difficult. And that is the opinion of the Haitian authorities consulted,” he said.

The force is drawn from 18 countries, but the bulk of the troops are South Americans from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

MINUSTAH’s mandate expires October 15, at which point the UN Security Council will take up its future.

The force was first deployed in 2004 to demobilize militias that had arisen after the Haitian army was disbanded following a coup. It has since provided security through political turbulence and a catastrophic earthquake that killed an estimated 225,000 people in early 2010.

The UN peacekeeping department has said that MINUSTAH is one of four missions – along with those in Ivory Coast, Liberia and East Timor – where the UN hopes to bring down troop numbers.

“We are always assessing deployment needs on the ground and are in touch with the troop contributing countries on the subject,” said a UN spokesman, Vannina Maestracci.

Martelly has said he wants to create a modern army to replace the UN force, and MINUSTAH has increasingly become a sore point with Haitians, who blame it for introducing cholera in the country.