BRAZIL ANNOUNCES TROOP PULLOUT FROM HAITI
(Guardian.co.uk) - By Tom Phillips
Defence minister says partial withdrawal will begin next March as UN cuts stabilisation force accused of outstaying welcome
Brazil's defence minister has confirmed the country's troops will begin a partial withdrawal from Haiti next March, amid growing criticism of the United Nations stabilisation mission there.
Celso Amorim told the senate foreign affairs committee on Thursday that 257 Brazilian troops, out of a total of 2,200, would leave the country as part of UN plans to reduce its numbers by 1,600.
"We should not stay in Haiti for ever, nor do we wish to – this is not good for the Haitians or for us," he said. "But we will also not leave in an irresponsible manner. It is very important that the withdrawal is not seen as Brazil disengaging. We all agree that a gradual reduction is necessary."
A few years ago the Brazilian soldiers that have led the UN force in Haiti since 2004 took journalists and politicians on photo-opportunity tours of Port-au-Prince's gang-free slums, which were occupied after former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced from power. During a 2007 visit, one former UN military commander in Haiti said the UN's presence had helped transform Port-au-Prince into a "Disneyland".
In an interview, Luiz Carlos da Costa, then deputy special representative of the UN secretary general in Haiti, said the UN mission, known as Minustah, had helped bring "a situation of greater stability".
The earthquake in 2010, in which Costa and an estimated 200,000 Haitians were killed, changed everything. More UN troops were sent to the country but resentment at their presence grew following a cholera outbreak and a recent case of alleged sexual abuse.
The UN was widely blamed for introducing the cholera epidemic, which was confirmed on 21 October 2010 and has so far killed about 6,200 and infected nearly 440,000.
Friction between UN forces and Haitians was again stoked after the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old Haitian man by Uruguayan troops. The alleged assault was filmed on a mobile phone and circulated on the internet.
Recent protests against the "Okipasyon" have left Brazilian and UN diplomats edgy about their role in Haiti. This month police clashed with protesters outside the national palace in Port-au-Prince.