Haiti: UN sends tanks, not tractors

On Oct. 14 the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1840 authorizing the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to remain for another year, until Oct. 15, 2009. The international force, which began its occupation of Haiti in June 2004, has a maximum of 7,060 soldiers and 2,091 police agents. Its annual cost is now more than $500 million.

For more than two years Haitian President Rene Preval has called on the force to provide long-term assistance with “fewer tanks and more tractors.” However, UN Special Representative Hedi Annabi, who heads the mission, said development work wasn’t the Security Council’s priority. The Security Council is instead calling for an international donors conference to provide funds for development. On Oct. 15 UN coordinator in Haiti Joel Boutroue said Haiti has been set back three or four years in economic growth by four major tropical storms that hit it this summer; he estimated that 50% of the current season’s crops were destroyed. On Oct. 3 Haitian Civil Protection announced that 793 people were killed in the storms. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, Oct. 3 from AFP, Oct. 9 from AP; Reuters, Oct. 14; Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Oct. 14; AlterPresse, Oct. 16)

MINUSTAH is led by Brazil, and many of the troops come from Latin America. On Oct. 16 five Haitian groups published an open letter to the presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Guatemala saying the mission’s “real purpose is to defend the rich’s interests, as well as those of US imperialism”; they demanded “that the governments of all Latin American and Caribbean countries sending troops to Haiti pull out immediately.” The groups were Batay Ouvriye (Workers’ Struggle), Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA), Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP) and Dessalines University Students’ Association (ASID). (Oct. 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 21

See our last post on Haiti.