I've been reading some of the stuff about the intersection between Wikileaks and Haiti. And some of it's been interesting reading. Some of it just reiterates stuff that Haiti activists have always known: that, for example, the U.S. has pressured governments like Brazil and South Africa to do everything they could to block Aristide from trying to return to Haiti.
In the discussions, the GOB officials made clear continued Brazilian resolve to keep Aristide from returning to the country or exerting political influence, and reiterated Brazil’s strategy that security, assistance and political dialogue should move in tandem as priorities in the international effort. The GOB officials registered USG points on the need to curb spiraling violence and reinforce MINUSTAH credibility vice the gangs, but did not clearly share the same degree of urgency on this point...
One of the revelations that's surprised me a little bit has to do with former MINUSTAH general Bacellar. I've written before about Bacellar: he was the second Brazilian general to command MINUSTAH. The first, General Pereira, testified to a Brazilian congressional hearing that MINUSTAH was under considerable pressure to use force in Haiti. The U.S. was constantly kvetching that MINUSTAH's efforts weren't being "robust" enough. This pressure ultimately culminated in two massive attacks in poor neighbourhoods: one of July 6th, 2005, the other on December 26th, 2006. On my last delegation, I got to meet various innocent victims of these attacks. Like this woman, for example:
These attacks are what the U.S. meant by "robust". There's an interesting leaked memo (leaked well before Wikileaks) about the December 26th, 2006 attack. The U.S. embassy is basically saying, "Just in case you need to do damage control, you should know that Doctors Without Borders is publicly reporting that they've treated a large number of bullet wounds. But, hey, finally MINUSTAH is taking strong action!"
Anyway, about Bacellar.
Bacellar was in charge of MINUSTAH during the December 26th attack. He'd taken the job on September 1st, 2006 2005 and by January 7th, 2006, he was dead. Found in his hotel room with a bullet hole in his head.
I previously wrote this:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a body of conspiracy theory has grown up around the General's death. Haiti Action, for example, claims that he'd just met with business elites [...]
Haiti-Progres goes on to make a lot of implications that General Bacellar was shot by a sniper while sitting on the balcony of his hotel.
While the idea of the poor general who's assassinated for refusing to use extra violence in Haiti sounds like a horrible story, the suicide story doesn't sound too much less horrible. It's impossible to know why General Bacellar committed suicide, but it's hard not to speculate that he was extremely distraught over what the UN mission in Haiti was actually doing there.
I must confess that I didn't give the assassination story much credence. I figure that this is a simple CSI matter. Can't they easily determine distance of shooter? Isn't there powder reside? Entry angles? Was his gun sitting there? It seems like it should be easy to figure out the facts.
What complicates the story, though -- and this is the part that I hadn't really thought through before -- is that Brazil has a motive to cover up an assassination. This cable describes a meeting between the U.S. embassy and the President of the Dominican Republic:
Fernandez inquired about the circumstances surrounding the death of Brazilian Army General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar. [US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Patrick] Duddy confirmed that all indications pointed to suicide. Fernandez expressed skepticism. He had met General Bacellar; to him, suicide seemed unlikely for a professional of Bacellar's caliber. Fernandez said he believes that there is a small group in Haiti dedicated to disrupting the elections and creating chaos; that this group had killed MINUSTAH members in the past (a Canadian and a Jordanian, and now the Brazilian General); and that there would be more violence against MINUSTAH forces as the election date approaches. The President said he knew of a case in which a Brazilian MINUSTAH member had killed a sniper. Although he allowed that Bacellar's death might be due to an accidentally self-inflicted wound, he believes that the Brazilian government is calling the death a suicide in order to protect the mission from domestic criticism. A confirmed assassination would result in calls from the Brazilian populace for withdrawal from Haiti. Success in this mission is vital for President Lula of Brazil, because it is part of his master plan to obtain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
(SBU) DAS Duddy restated his understanding that the evidence pointed to suicide and that the specific circumstances of the other assassinations in all likelihood ruled out a conspiracy. (S) Fernandez elaborated further on his hypothesis: there was a cover-up of an assassination and that more attacks would occur. He was firm in this view and repeated the warning.
Some of this is not new news. I've long known that Brazil has been unwilling to stand against the U.S., Canada and France on Haiti because they're chasing after a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council ("Sorry Haiti: you're just collateral damage in our pursuit of a big chair at the UN"). And the cable seems to suggest that the U.S. considers that the death is a suicide (or, at least, that's their official position). But the president of the Dominican Republic believes the assassination theory? That gives me pause.
(It's also worth noting that the motive of the theoretical assassin isn't clear: progressives blame Haitian business elites who view Bacellar as obstructing calls for violent raids; Fernandez blames Haitian insurgents. Hm.)
This article repeats the same information, adding in this bit:
Yet, according to the sources of Brazilian journalist Ana Maria Brambilla, Bacellar "did not display any signs of depression during his last days". He was accustomed, after "39 years of service, to pressure far worse than he had seen in his four months in Haiti," his military colleagues told the Independent.
According to the South African newspaper Beeld, "the latest reports in the Dominican media questioned the feasibility of suicide, as no bullet casing was found near the body … He would have been an easy target for a sniper." Most incongruously, Bacellar's T-shirt and boxer-clad body was reportedly found with a book on his lap, according to the Dominican daily El Nacional, as he had apparently been reading and relaxing in his underwear on his balcony when the urge to shoot himself came on.
Is it possible some interested party may have wanted to kill Bacellar for his reluctance to crack down on the rebellious shanty town of Cité Soleil? We can only hope that further documents from the WikiLeaks cache will discover the truth.