The United Nations (UN) is considering a strategy to continue its presence in Haiti following the end of the Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSTAH) presence on the island nation, which is scheduled for October 2016 according to the current consolidation plan. MINUSTAH was established on June 1, 2004 by Security Council Resolution 1542. The UN mission succeeded a Multinational Interim Force authorized by the Security Council in February 2004, after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was exiled from Haiti in the aftermath of an armed conflict that spread to several cities across the country.
The devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, which resulted in more than 220,000 deaths (according to Haitian government figures), including 96 UN peacekeepers, delivered a severe blow to the country's already weak economy and infrastructure. The Security Council, by resolution 1908 of January 19, 2010, endorsed the Secretary-General's recommendation to increase MINUSTAH’s overall force levels to support the country's immediate recovery, reconstruction, and stability efforts. The mission's Military component is not only led by the Brazilian Army, but is also headed by a Brazilian Force Commander.
During the XIV Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC) in Kingston, Jamaica, held in January , Diálogo spoke to Inspector General Lionel Trecile, Chief of International Cooperation at the National Police of Haiti, about the future of Haiti without MINUSTAH.
Diálogo: How is the National Police of Haiti (NPH) preparing for MINUSTAH's departure?
Inspector General Lionel Trecile: Since the United Nations' resolution decided that the current mission in Haiti should gradually withdraw, the National Police of Haiti has established a plan, which we at the NPH call the 2012-2016 Development Plan. It covers several areas, including increasing the Haitian Police Force by training large numbers of police officers who will be able to progressively take over as UN forces leave.
Diálogo: With regards to some of the more violent regions, such as Cité Soleil, where MINUSTAH was extremely helpful in pacifying the area, what plans does the police of Haiti have for those areas?
IG Trecile: There is a set of measures that have been taken in that regard, including an increase in the number of police officers working in the neighborhood of Cité Soleil; the establishment of a law enforcement departmental unit, which supports the local police station; and, thirdly, the Haitian Community Policing Unit, an entity that was created recently and specifically intervenes in conflict areas such as Cité Soleil, so that the local population can feel safe through the efforts of these various units, including the Community Policing Unit.
Diálogo: Would you say that gangs continue to be the main problem in terms of violence in Haiti?
IG Trecile: This is a phenomenon that is starting to, I don’t want to say disappear, but the gang phenomenon has experienced a considerable drop. Because alongside the work that the Community Policing Units are doing, there are quite a few operations that have been conducted, and a lot of gang leaders and gang members have been arrested. And these operations continue daily. I can say that it is a phenomenon that has experienced quite a considerable drop, and we are working to eradicate it definitively.
Diálogo: There was a lot of discussion about terrorism at the conference (CANSEC 2016), including how terrorism is now present in this region, something that was never even taken into account before. Is this a concern at all for you?
IG Trecile: Oh, of course it's a concern for us, especially as we are a bit of the weak link in the area. Our coasts are virtually left to themselves, and the border with the neighboring Dominican Republic is not monitored very well. We practically meet all the conditions for terrorists to come and possibly set up shop here. Of course, we are a peaceful country in that sense, but our weaknesses are also visible. We must work hard and work with our friends in the international community and our neighbors in the Dominican Republic to do as much as we can to prevent these people from invading us.
Diálogo: How do you assess the relationship between Haiti and the United States in reference to security issues?
IG Trecile: With the United States, we have a pretty long history, and a close one, too, of cooperation, particularly in the area of the war on drugs. And the United States is our main partner in that war. I think it's going to continue. And with regard to the gangs, as I told you in the beginning, the NPH is currently trying to beef up its forces and do so at several levels. In terms of workforce, through the 2012-2016 Development Plan, we need to grow to 15,000 police officers by December 31st. And we have also been able to augment our law enforcement units in all departments. We also arranged for all our police stations to be provided with more police staff. We are working; we know that there is a lot to do, but we used to be much further away. Now, we are gradually working toward being able to completely take charge of the country's security when the time comes.
Diálogo: Does the NPH plan on continuing with the exchange of intelligence with the countries that were part of MINUSTAH, mainly Brazil, which has been MINUSTAH’s main Military contingent all these years?
IG Trecile: Of course, of course. I believe that sharing information is one of the areas that all police agencies have to focus on nowadays. Because the world has become a small village. The crimes that are being committed here [in Jamaica], for example, can be committed right now in Haiti. We have to coordinate efforts. We also have to share information in order to overcome terrorism. This is extremely important, and we must take that into account. Because as I said, the world has become a small village, and everything that happens here may be happening in several countries simultaneously. If we do not coordinate our efforts, it is not clear that we will put an end to terrorism.