Haiti: US and Canada draw down troops

About 100 Canadian soldiers were scheduled to leave Haiti on March 7 and return to the Valcartier base northwest of Quebec city. An 850-member force deployed to the Port-au-Prince area from the base after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated much of southern Haiti on Jan. 12. The Canadians indicated that they were planning to withdraw the rest of the troops gradually, but Canadian defense minister Peter MacKay, who was in Haiti on March 7 during a two-day visit, said his government would be doubling the size of its contingent in the 9,000-member United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which has occupied the country since June 2004. (Radio Métropole, Haiti, March 7)

The US has also been drawing down its force in Haiti. The US military said 700 paratroopers withdrew on the weekend of March 6, leaving a total of 11,000 soldiers in the country, more than half of them on ships near the shore. At its high point, on Feb. 1, the force had 20,000 members. “Our mission is largely accomplished,” said Gen. Douglas Fraser, who as head of US Southern Command is in charge of the Haiti operation, but he said a smaller US force would remain as the Haitian government and MINUSTAH take over. According to the Associated Press wire service, some Haitians expressed concern about security in the absence of US troops. But Ted Constan, chief program officer for Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, a US-Haitian medical group, told AP: “The real solution is to deliver services…rather than turn Haiti into a military state.” (AP, March 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 9

See our last post on Haiti.