Haiti: UN mission head found dead

Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, the Brazilian head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), was found dead in his room at Port-au-Prince’s Montana Hotel on Jan. 7 after apparently shooting himself in the head, according to United Nations (UN) officials. The Brazilian military initially described the incident as a “firearm accident,” while reports circulated that Teixeira had killed himself the evening of Jan. 6 after a dispute with the UN general secretary’s special representative in Haiti, the Chilean Juan Gabriel Valdes.

On Jan. 7 Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for a thorough investigation but said Brazil had “total confidence” in the work of the 9,000-member MINUSTAH, which Brazil has headed since it started in June 2004. (The first MINUSTAH commander, Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, left after one year; he reportedly resisted UN pressure to stay on, saying he wanted another Brazilian general to share his experience in Haiti.)

Gen. Teixeira’s death came as criticism grew against UN agencies for the failure to organize national elections originally scheduled for November, for the mounting crime rate and for civilian deaths in police and military operations that were supposed to bring criminal gangs under control. Valdes had announced on Jan. 6 that MINUSTAH troops would occupy Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s most dangerous neighborhood, and warned that civilians could be harmed. “We are going to intervene in the coming days. I think there’ll be collateral damage, but we have to impose our force, there is no other way,” Valdes told a local radio station. Some UN officials reportedly said Teixeira had opposed Valdes’ plan for Cite Soleil. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, Jan. 7 from Reuters; AlterPresse, Jan. 7)

There were at least 27 murders and 43 kidnappings in Port-au-Prince from Dec. 12 to Jan. 3, according to police sources. Haitian National Police (PNH) head Mario Andresol blamed Colombian drug traffickers. “Since it has become more difficult to conduct their drug activities, Colombian traffickers have turned to the kidnapping activity in Cite Soleil, where they took refuge,” Andresol told Reuters on Jan. 5. At the same time, he suggested the violence was partly an attempt to destablilize the country before the elections; he failed to identify suspects. (HSG, Jan. 5 from Reuters)

On Jan. 5 Dr. Reginald Boulos, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Haiti (CCIH), announced a general strike for Jan. 9 to protest the level of insecurity. The call was backed by a number of professional and political groups that oppose the left-populist Lavalas Family (FL) party of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But the strike call was strongly opposed by anti-FL groups on the left, including the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), which has been organizing demonstrations against the high cost of living, and the labor group Batay Ouvriye (Workers Struggle), which accuses the business groups of supporting “the blind massacres the MINUSTAH is carrying out in our neighborhoods.” (AlterPresse, Jan. 7; Batay Ouvriye communique, Jan. 7)

On Jan. 7 the interim government that replaced Aristide in 2004 published the latest schedule for elections. The first round of presidential and legislative voting is to take place on Feb. 7, with run-offs on March 19, and the president is to take office on Mar. 29, the anniversary of the approval of the Constitution in 1987. Municipal and local elections are now scheduled for April 30. (Haiti Press Network, Jan. 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 8

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