Tragedy in our Hemisphere
By Dialogo April 01, 2010
Helping feed a population in the wake of a natural disaster is an innate
response with regard to humanitarian assistance, but teaching a population to
sustain itself long after the international assistance has waned is far more
valuable. And so it was that the Argentine government decided to extend to the
people of Haiti its Pro-Huerta plan, an initiative that aims to enhance the
productive capacities in all sectors and increase food security for poor and
vulnerable populations. The plan provides Haitian families with assistance and
training from professionals, as well as tools and seeds, making it possible for
families to grow their own food.
Argentina has a sizable force in support of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in
Haiti, or MINUSTAH, with more than 700 personnel in country. To provide assistance
after the quake, the force was split into three components: a relocated military
hospital in Port-au-Prince, a MINUSTAH air unit and water treatment plants.
Argentina also provided several planeloads of medical equipment and relief
“She died because she wanted to be with me during a difficult mission,” said
Gen. Ricardo Toro, Deputy Commander for MINUSTAH forces, including the 600 Chilean
troops already in the country. Toro was referring to his wife, María Teresa Dowling,
who was found dead by Chilean firefighters amid the rubble of the Hotel Montana.
Toro, who later stepped down from his post, flew back to Chile with his wife’s
Forty-one firefighters from the search and rescue unit received psychological
counseling to learn how to deal with the gruesome images they saw during their
tireless efforts to pull bodies from the wreckage. “The work done by us was really
grueling because we were the only task force that worked 24 hours,” Capt. Juan
Carlos Subercaseaux said. The Chilean government donated tons of food and medicine
and sent search andrescue teams, doctors and disaster relief
“Haiti is a country that is geographically distant from us, but at this time
of tragedy it is very close to the heart of all Paraguayans,” President Fernando
Lugo said after the devastating earthquake. Paraguay’s contribution to Haiti
consisted of food, blankets, search and rescue teams and a medical contingent of
surgeons and specialists. Their MINUSTAH force of more than 30 Paraguayans helped
provide security at food distribution points.
Amid the death and destruction that permeated Haiti, maintaining security was
essential. In the wake of the deadly earthquake, many buildings collapsed, including
prisons. In one such instance, a contingent of Uruguayan forces managed to
peacefully prevent a massive prison escape.
Uruguay has the second largest security force in Haiti. Uruguay’s
contribution, in addition to its security forces, included water treatment units,
portable power generators, engineers, medical teams, relief supplies and a canine
search and rescue team. Uruguay also suffered losses. Three countrymen perished in
the earthquake: Col. Gonzalo Daniel Martirené was killed in the MINUSTAH building,
and former soccer player Julio Daniel Varese and his 3-year-old son Mateo were found
dead in a house adjacent to the Hotel Montana.