Early 2000's. Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins Haiti's presidential elections and takes office in 2001. Only ten percent of the population went to the polls, which led to an impasse. Enjoying international support, Aristide manages to stay in power up to 2004, when violence levels ran out of control and he was forced to renounce. The resulting political instability caused the United Nations Security Council to request its member countries to create an international force in an attempt to bring peace back to Haiti. So, in 2004, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah) is established. Brazil is appointed its leading country, and, throughout the ten following years, close to 15 thousand Brazilian military served under Minustah. All of them are replaced every six months.
This year, the UN begins the withdrawal of its troops from the island country. Minustah's lengthy duration has been the target of its harshest criticism. In the last resolution, the Security Council stipulated a reduction in the troops from 1.2 thousand to 850 soldiers. “We must prepare our departure [and] work so that we're sure we can leave safely,” declared Minustah head Brazilian General José Luis Jaborandy Junior.
Thirteen countries are currently working in Haiti. Jaborandy Junior says the mission changed significantly throughout its course—especially after the earthquake struck, in 2010: “Minustah changed drastically. In the beginning, in 2014, 2005, 2006, it was the task of the military component to ensure security. The country has been evolving, and so has the mission. We still have the same objective, but the attitude evolved side by side with the country. Our main goal today is to support Haitian authorities in maintaining security.” He went on to state that, at the request of Haiti's government, the UN Peace Mission has given assistance to initiatives in an effort to improve the population's life standards.
In addition to patrolling, the Peace Forces offer civil-military cooperation, with services for the community, including medical assistance. Army Captain Alexandre Vieira, subcommander at the National Fort—one of the military bases with a Brazilian presence—highlighted the changes the mission underwent and its integration with society. “We gather [community] leaders; they report to us the needs they're facing, which are many, and we, within our capabilities, carry out many of the activities,” he explained.
In the Caribbean country, Minustah is met with both support and opposition. Street artist Joel Joseph is among its enthusiasts. “I'm really thankful to the [Brazilian] soldiers, because [thanks to them] we're experiencing a little bit of peace in the country,” he said. Apart from him, children from several age groups seem to like the military. It is easy to find them greeting the soldiers with a smile on their faces, saying “Bon bagay!” which means “good folk” in Creole.
Virgílio Arraes, a historian from the University of Brasília, said that “in a few moments, the presence [of the troops] was important to prevent the chaos from going any deeper.” However, he draws attention to the risk of having, over time, “the people from Haiti grow accustomed to it. There comes a time when Haitian society, even with its difficulties, should take the reins of its own destiny,” he argued.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira
Fonte: UN starts calling soldiers back from Haiti