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Who’s in Charge in Haiti? Brazil or the US?

January 21st, 2010

Brazilian UN Peacekeeper is followed by Haitian child

Since Haiti’s earthquake there has been some confusion about exactly who is in charge in the country. Before the quake, it was the UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH). Here is a breakdown (before the earthquake, November 30, 2009):

Major-General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto (Brazil) Force Commander, Mamadou Mountaga Diallo (Guinea) Police Commissioner, 9,065 total uniformed personnel, 7,031 troops, 2,034 police, 488 international civilian personnel, 1,212 local civilian staff, 214 United Nations Volunteers

Military personnel are from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, United States and Uruguay.

Police personnel are from Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Columbia, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Guinea, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Togo, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Yemen.

Since the earthquake, the United States has taken control of the airport, poured thousands of soldiers into the country and Washington has issued a series of declarations that raised doubts about the authority of the United Nations in controlling security, something that was being done by MINUSTAH led by Brazilian military personnel.

However, major general Floriano Peixoto, the UN force commander, says there is no reason for doubts because the UN remains in charge of activities. The Brazilian general says that American activities will be concentrated in humanitarian aid distribution as it becomes available, something they will do together with the Canadians.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian ambassador in Haiti, Igor Kipman, reports that the neighborhoods of Cité Soleil, Cité Militaire and Bel Air, which are considered the most violent areas of the capital, are not in the hands of gangs and that life in those areas is just about what it was before the earthquake.

Colonel João Batista Bernardes, a Brazilian battalion commander, says that the capital is under the control of MINUSTAH and that “…the violence that has taken place has been sporadic and even understandable given the circumstances that many of the 3 million inhabitants of Port-au-Prince are now exposed to.”

At the beginning of week, secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said that the US could expand its activities beyond aid distribution if so requested by the president of Haiti, Rene Preval. That was what happened with the airport. Due to the chaos and need for aid to get into Haiti more rapidly, Preval asked the US to take over air traffic control.

More Soldiers

The United Nations Security Council approved sending an additional 3,500 men to Haiti, which will increase the strength of the UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) to 8,900 soldiers and 3,700 policemen.

The additional men will assist in protecting convoys of humanitarian aid, keeping the peace and assisting the needy. The UN says that the death toll from the Jan 12 earthquake will probably be more than 200,000, with some 500,000 injured and a total of 3 million affected (the population of Haiti is around 9 million). There are probably about 1.5 million homeless people. All in all, one of the biggest disasters in history.

According to the UN, around 800 soldiers are already in the Dominican Republic and will be moved into Haiti immediately.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, announced that Brazil could double the number of soldiers it has in Haiti. Brazil has the largest contingent of soldiers in MINUSTAH, more than 1,200. But at least 17 Brazilian soldiers died in the earthquake.

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