bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

UNITED NATIONS, October 8 — Long after Mario Joseph and other lawyer had petitioned the UN for introducing cholera to Haiti, six months ago a block from the UN Inner City Press asked Joseph what he thought of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s responsiveness.

Joseph replied, surprisingly diplomatic given the delay, that immunity should not mean impunity.

Last week the UN’s top envoy in Haiti Mariano Fernandez told Inner City Press that he could not answer on cholera, since a legal claim– Joseph’s — remains pending.

Now, Mario Joseph and other lawyers including Newton St-Juste and Andre Michel are facing death threats in Haiti for their work.

So Inner City Press on Monday asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky if the UN’s mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, had within its mandate to offer protection to human rights lawyers under threat in the very city the UN has hung around in for years, Port au Prince. Video here, from Minute 8:24.

Nesirky replied that “we’re certainly aware of the report” — it would be hard not to be — but “if I have anything further on that, I’ll let you know.”

“While Lawyer Suing UN Is Threatened in Haiti, MINUSTAH Is “Aware” But Nothing More”, Inner City Press

Wait. What’s MINUSTAH’s mandate, again?

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

According to the United Nations Conduct and Discipline Unit, 758 allegations of misconduct have been reported in the past five years; 217 of which were categorized as sexual exploitation and abuse. Out of the 217 reported cases since 2007, 58 remain classified as “pending”. This 27% rate of uninvestigated sexual exploitation and abuse cases does not amount to the zero-tolerance policy indicated in the MINUSTAH mandate.

Just in the year since the last renewal of the MINUSTAH mandate, there have been several examples of abuses of authority within MINUSTAH including the torture of three Haitians in Cite Soliel by Brazilian troops on December 13, the kidnapping and rape of the minor Roody Jean by two Pakistani soldiers on January 20th, and the beating of students in Lycée Capois de Limonade on January 31

- from a letter to the UN Security Council from the Mennonite Central Committee Haiti

I was talking to one of my THAC colleagues the other night: he does a lot of research related to MINUSTAH and he pointed out that, because MINUSTAH is the only so-called peacekeeping force in a country that is not at war, the UN tends to view MINUSTAH favourably because soldiers aren't killed on a frequent basis (the earthquake being an anomaly). From that point of view, the mission is considered more successful than, say, UNAMA (Afghanistan) or MONUSCO (Congo).

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

The Christian Science Monitor is running a story right now titled, “Will the United Nations’ legacy in Haiti be all about scandal?”

My answer: “Yes.”

This has been another installment of “simple answers to simple questions.”

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

At its 6631st meeting, the Security Council has extended this Friday, October 14, 2011, the mandate of the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (Minustah), which was to expire tomorrow, until October 15, 2012.

Recognizing that the overall security situation in Haiti, while fragile, had improved in the year since a powerful earthquake struck the tiny island nation, the Security Council today extended until 15 October 2012 the mandate of the Minustah.

"Haiti - Security : The mandate of the Minustah renewed for one year"

Everyone expected this, but it's still a kick in the teeth.

We're looking at:

  • widespread allegations of human rights abuses
  • numerous instances of collateral killing of innocent bystanders during MINUSTAH raids on poorer slums
  • 80+ of Sri Lankan soldiers sent home (but not charged) for widespread sexual exploitation of children
  • blocking the investigation of a Haitian man who was found mysteriously hanged in a MINUSTAH base in Kapayisyen
  • Shooting a mourner at Fr. Jean-Juste's funeral
  • Introducing a cholera epidemic to the country
  • raping (and videotaping!) an 18-year old man

What do you think it takes to get an organization like MINUSTAH kicked out of Haiti?

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

President José Mujica referred today to the rape of a youth by Uruguayan navy personnel in Haiti and described response to the event as “a hard road to travel” (“un viaje de arena gruesa”) for Uruguay.

The president said in a press conference that “this kind of thing has been happening as long as the world has existed” and added that “among soldiers there is always a fringe of rowdy gangs, it is inevitable.” Mujica recognizes that the incident has to be analyzed from the Uruguayan point of view but also from the point of view of “the weaker ones,” the Haitians.

“The commitment was to form a force inside Haiti of Haitians who would take charge of the situation... I believe we have to achieve that objective,” the president stated. Mujica said the topic will be analyzed tomorrow in the meeting of defense and foreign relations ministers from countries with troops in Haiti.

“We are not in Haiti until retirement,” but in order to “lend a hand so a body of Haitians can be formed to take charge of internal security,” the president declared.

"Mujica quiere mantener las tropas en Haití pese al escándalo", translated from Spanish

See. If only Haiti would reform its army, MINUSTAH can leave! Another article )

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), said Brazil was unintentionally playing into the hands of the U.S. government, which he said was the "main force" behind the toppling of Aristide.

"(Brazil) didn't realise that what the United States was doing in Haiti was exactly what they did in Venezuela in 2002. They just organised a coup against a democratically elected government," Weisbrot told IPS.

Carreiro questioned why MINUSTAH stayed in Haiti after fulfiling its goal of guaranteeing a minimum level of security for the transition to a new government. In fact, two elections have been held since the peacekeeping mission began, in 2005 and 2011.

"If MINUSTAH's objective was to guarantee the conditions for elections to be held, and disarm the gangs, why is it still operating today? The local population is understandably seeing the mission more and more like an international occupation force," he said.

The analyst believes MINUSTAH's biggest mistake was "its starting point," given that Aristide "never said he had resigned."

"Brazil Plans to Wind Down Peacekeeping Force in Haiti", emphasis added

At this point it's clear that Brazil's not even tackling removing its own troops. It's put forth the idea of a troop reduction to pre-earthquake levels. But beyond that, it's talking about one day, maybe, planning for a withdrawal.

I wonder if I should take odds on how many major incidents MINUSTAH will get into in 2012?

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

Al Jazeera is reporting on an emergency meeting of foreign and defense ministers of UNASUR countries in Montevideo today to discuss the situation in Haiti following the revelations of the latest outrages by MINUSTAH soldiers, in this case Uruguyan, against the Haitian people.

Foreign Minister of Uruguay, Luis Almagro, told AJ that his and allied Latin American countries have been discussing for some time a drawdown of their commitments of soldiers to MINUSTAH. A "gradual" drawdown is envisioned to commence in 2012, he said. The 'gradualist' view is also held by Brazil's defense minister, as reported in various news sources, including the BBC report below.

The Al Jazeera report said there is a protest of Uruguyans at the UNASUR meeting demanding Uruguay withdraw from MINUSTAH.

"Emergency UNASUR meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay discussing Haiti"

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

Brazil's getting out of MINUSTAH. The article doesn't make it clear if Brazil (who leads MINUSTAH) is seeking an end to the MINUSTAH mission, or is merely withdrawing its own forces from Haiti -- the quotations make it seem like the former, but I'm not sure.

Brazil plans to start withdrawing troops from the UN peacekeeping mission it leads in Haiti, Defence Minister Celso Amorim has said.

The gradual draw down would be coordinated with the UN and other South American nations with troops in Haiti.

"We can't have a disorganised exit that creates a situation of chaos," Mr Amorim told the BBC.

Mr Amorim said the security situation in Haiti had substantially improved since the mission began in 2004.

He noted that there had been two democratic elections since the force was deployed.

"Political science manuals teach that the second election shows that democracy has been established," Mr Amorim said.

"In the medium and long term, it is not good for Haiti and it is not good for those who are there that the mission be perpetuated," he added.

But Mr Amorim said no timetable had been drawn up for the reduction and eventual withdrawal of peacekeeping troops.

And he said the Brazilian draw-down would initially be limited, as Brazilian troops had responsibility for the capital, Port-au-Prince.Mr Amorim says there will be no rush to exit Haiti

[...]

There are more than 2,000 Brazilian troops in Haiti, out of a total UN force of around 12,000.

Brazil's leadership of the UN force has been seen as a test of its ambition to play a greater role in regional security as it seeks a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

"Brazil plans Haiti peacekeeping withdrawal, says Amorim", BBC

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

My colleague, Ajamu, compiled this list of 10 reasons why MINUSTAH needs to leave Haiti:

  1. MINUSTAH continually harasses and humiliates Haitians. MINUSTAH’s favorite activities include pepper spraying Haitians and capriciously confiscating drivers’ licenses and computers.
  2. Common criminals in MINUSTAH enjoy immunity from prosecution. Though over 100 troops have been expelled from Haiti for child prostitution and related charges, MINUSTAH soldiers have enjoyed immunity for most of their crimes, including numerous rapes and the suffocation in August 2010 of a Haitian teenager working on a Nepalese MINUSTAH base.
  3. MINUSTAH subverts democracy. Together with the U.S., Canada, and France, MINUSTAH fixed elections that excluded 80% of the Haitian electorate and brought a duvalierist, Michel Martelly, back into power in May 2011.
  4. MINUSTAH interferes in Haiti’s political affairs. Former MINUSTAH head Edmond Mulet recommended that criminal charges be brought against Haiti’s legitimate President, Mr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, so as to keep him illegally out of Haiti.
  5. MINUSTAH serves as an occupation force. MINUSTAH troops, together with Haitian paramilitaries, ambushed and gunned down over 4,000 members of Fanmi Lavalas (Aristide’s party) soon after Aristide was deposed in 2004 in a coup plotted by the U.S., Canada, France, and Haiti’s elite.
  6. MINUSTAH has operated as a large anti-Aristide gang. MINUSTAH conducted numerous raids on slums such as Cité Soleil so as to kill civilians who supported Aristide. In some of these raids MINUSTAH soldiers fired tens of thousands of rounds at dwellings and schools.
  7. MINUSTAH troops showed spectacular cowardice after the earthquake of January 2010. During the first 36 hours after the earthquake, the troops hardly assisted Haitians and instead searched for each other.
  8. MINUSTAH harbors vandals and vectors of disease. In October 2010 MINUSTAH introduced a cholera epidemic into Haiti. So far the epidemic has killed over 5,900 Haitians. MINUSTAH covered up the fact that several Nepalese soldiers arrived in Haiti sick with cholera and still lies about its role in the epidemic. As recently as August 6, 2011, MINUSTAH was continuing to dump its fecal matter in Haiti’s rivers.
  9. The presence of UN troops on Haitian soil is illegal. Haiti’s MINUSTAH is the only UN force in a country that is not at war.
  10. The Haitian people despise MINUSTAH. Haitians at home and abroad, young and old, rich and poor, have made it known that they want MINUSTAH out of Haiti. Common epithets for the troops are “Volè kabrit!” (Goat thief!), “Kakachwet!” (Shitter!), “Koléra!" and “Pédofil!"

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

The United Nations is investigating allegations that five Uruguayan naval troops at a UN base in southern Haiti sexually molested an 18-year-old man in an attack reportedly captured by a cellphone camera.

The UN mission learned of the allegations last week and the scandal prompted Uruguay to sack its naval chief in Haiti.

The soldiers were confined to their barracks pending the outcome of the probe.

Shot with a cellphone camera, the clip shows several men in camouflaged uniforms laughing as they pin down a young man on a mattress.

The men seem to be saying "no problem" in Spanish as they hold the teen's arms and hands behind his back. The camera jumps around, and it's not clear from the video what's happening.

A magistrate in Port-Salut, the southwestern coastal town in which the assault allegedly happened, has gathered testimony from the alleged victim and his mother and filed it in court.

"UN Haiti peacekeepers accused of sex assault", CBC

Before the cellphone video emerged, the UN unilaterally denied these allegations. Inner City Press writes:

On August 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's now departed deputy spokesman Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: in Port-Salut there are complaints against the Uruguayan peacekeepers of MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], including on sexual abuse grounds --what is MINUSTAH’s response on this topic that Ban Ki-moon has recently said is so important to him?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: MINUSTAH is in fact looking into this to see about these allegations and whether there is any credibility to them.

The very next day on August 18, Haq began the noon briefing by reading out a denial:

"further to what I said yesterday on an investigation in Port-Salut, Haiti, the UN Mission there (MINUSTAH) tells us that the preliminary report of this investigation was finalized. After discussions with local authorities and members of the population in Port-Salut, the investigators found out that these allegations of misconduct could not be substantiated. The UN Mission in Haiti says that no supporting evidence was provided by anyone, and local authorities confirmed that these allegations were unfounded."

"UN Denied Sex Abuse Before Video Came Out in Haiti, Where New DPKO Chief Ladsous Defended Ouster of Aristide"

Here's the video. It's not perfectly clear, but strongly suggests abuse.

It stuns me how MINUSTAH just keeps denying everything. They denied that they were the source of cholera. They denied that they were still dumping human waste near rivers. They deny that they shot a mourner at Fr. Jean-Juste's funeral. They deny that they sexually assaulted an 18-year old man. Then, oops. There's video evidence.

Al Jazeera makes this point about the video evidence: it was shot by another MINUSTAH soldier, but the Haitians got hold of it.

Ansel Herz, a journalist in Port Salut, where the incident is alleged to have occurred, said the video footage was passed around via mobile phones after two Haitian men saw the video and copied it while they were exchanging music with a Ururguayan soldier via Bluetooth.

"The video was originally taken by a UN soldier who was there at the time," he told Al Jazeera.

On Friday, a Haitian magistrate said he had turned the case over to prosecutors after the alleged victim and his mother gave depositions.

"Everybody was watching this video in the court case as the mother was making a complaint against these soldiers," said Herz.

During my last delegation to Haiti, I met this man:

He's a resident of Bel Air, a poorer neighbourhood of Pòtoprens, and one of the neighbourhoods that was subject to MINUSTAH raids in 2005/2006. This man reported to us that he was in the streets when a raid began on August 8th, 2005. He was afraid of the soldiers, and afraid to run from them. So he stopped in place, and raised his hands above his head, letting the soldiers search him to show that he didn't have a weapon.

After they searched him, they told him he could go. But as he was turning to leave, a soldier pushed him to the ground, and he was shot in neck. He says that his partner saw him in lying in the street, and tried to take him to the hospital, but the soldiers beat her up. He's now lost the use of his legs.

He tried to pursue a legal case against the UN. And he reports that they threatened him to back off the case.

MINUSTAH needs to be out of Haiti.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

UNITED NATIONS, August 17 -- In Haiti, UN peacekeepers from Uruguay are accused of having sex with children in their base, and taking nude photos of the children to show other soldiers, according to the Comité de recherches pour le développement et l’organisation de Port-salut.

These allegations were published in the Haitian press six days ago -- ironically the day that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a letter to the director of The Whistleblower, about sex trafficking by UN peacekeepers in Bosnia.

This was described as Ban confronting a sordid chapter of the UN's history, but Ban has apparently not confronted alleged misdeed under his watch and responsibility. The UN in New York, in the six days after the allegations were made in Haiti, said nothing about them.

Inner City Press on August 17, the day after the UN had canceled its normal noon briefing, asked Ban's acting deputy spokesman about the allegations against the Uruguayan UN peacekeepers in Port-Salut.

Haq said, "MINUSTAH is in fact looking into this allegation, to see if there is any credibility to it. If there are any facts... we will share them."

Inner City Press

A few years ago, around 80 members of the Sri Lankan contingent of MINUSTAH were sent home (but not charged) relating to sex charges involving children. So, it's not like they haven't had the opportunity to figure out how to investigate these cases.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

Hinche, Haiti - The residents of Sully in Hinche (east) are angry after several MINUSTAH trucks dumped human waste materials in sites a few meters from the river Guayamouc. Local residents were up in arms but could not stop the operation, according to evidence gathered on site by AlterPresse.

At the moment, the prevailing concern is that foot traffic is diverted away from a local district due to the odor. The Mayor, Andrew Fox, who visited the scene along with several journalists, did not hide his indignation at what he called "an affront to human dignity."

"Once again I've asked the Nepalese contingent to depart. They brought cholera to us, they come to exterminate us, and it is the time they leave," he adds. Andrew Fox urged people to organise watch brigades to prevent dumping in their neighbourhoods.

The first senator of the Central Plateau, Francisco Delacruz (Alternative), describes the dumping of human waste near the River Guayamuc an act of "vagrancy". The elected representative of the center says that he intends to meet with UN authorities to correct this situation.

[...]

Members of various social organizations interviewed by AlterPresse expressed their disapproval of MINUSTAH's actions. They feel that UN forces do not value the lives of Haitians. These organizations also also criticize the seemingly carefree attitude of those responsible for the state.

"Haiti : Des matières fécales déversées par la Minustah près d’une rivière à Hinche", original in French

It's not bad enough that MINUSTAH introduced a cholera epidemic to Haiti. It's not enough that they spent all that effort trying to deny their culpability... but, hey, the idea that they might actually try to engage with communities on their dumping issues is just too much to ask, no?

Some interesting notes: Hinche is in the Central Plateau region of Haiti, close to the Artibonite where the cholera epidemic first broke out in Haiti. I also find the reference to vagrancy interesting; to call a Haitian a vagrant is a tremendous insult.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

A group of armed soldiers, part of the United Nations Stablization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) created panic Sunday afternoon at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport.

According to a feed from the Agence Haïtienne de Presse, the soldiers stormed in guns drawn at customs workers in a "mission" contrary to international principles and a nation's right of customs.

The men arrived on board a war chariot, burst into the arrival hall of the airport then proceeded to break through the airport's customs department where luggage had been deprived of at least two men associated with the soldiers who had arrived aboard a Insel Air Flight from Miami.

Customs officers in the course of their regular work had begun to see in the luggage of the passengers, taxable merchandise such as laptops and projectors. Over a certain limit in value, items entering a nation are taxed at customs. These are laws not unique to Haiti.

The armed group was reported to have intervened cutting short the verification of the merchandise being brought in to the country, taking with them the passengers who were being detained, and their luggage.

Once out of the airport, while loading into their tank, the soldiers fired shots into the air to intimidate and possibility of intervention. These incidents occurred in the presence of the Police Commissioner at the Airport, airport workers and passengers.

According to sources in the airport, products imported by MINUSTAH are privy to a diplomatic status and exemptions, but the passengers at the airport were identified as private and their imports.

The same sources say that the United Nations mission generally respects the protocol and principles established, but not on this occasion.

"Armed MINUSTAH Soldiers Break into Toussaint Louverture Airport, Shots Fired", Defend Haiti

Oh, MINUSTAH, always stay classy.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

The cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 5,000 people in Haiti was caused by a South Asian strain that contaminated a river where tens of thousands of people wash, bath, drink and play, a U.N. independent panel of experts said Wednesday.

Although many have blamed the epidemic on U.N. peacekeepers from South Asia working in Haiti, the report issued by the panel declined to point the finger at any single group for the outbreak, saying it was the result of a "confluence of circumstances."

"The evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the source of the Haiti cholera outbreak was due to contamination of the Meye Tributary of the Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae as a result of human activity," the report said.

It said the panel concluded the epidemic "was not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requested the independent probe amid reports of poor sanitation at a U.N. base housing Nepalese peacekeepers near Mirebalais, the central town where the outbreak was first reported.

Besides killing almost 5,000 people in a country still recovering from a devastating earthquake more than a year ago, the outbreak has sickened another 250,000.

The belief that the Nepalese peacekeepers are to blame for the epidemic is widespread in Haiti, straining relations between the population and U.N. personnel. Angry protests berating the peacekeepers erupted late last year, and just last week about 100 demonstrators blamed the United Nations for the spread of cholera.

"UN panel: South Asian cholera strain in Haiti"

Hopefully the UN will stop spending so much of its energy denying this.

bcholmes: (aristide)

Why am I not surprised that MINUSTAH photographed the people who went to see Aristide return?

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

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.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

The Organization of American States (OAS) has removed its special representative in Haiti, the Brazilian Ricardo Seitenfus, a diplomatic source who asked not to be identified said on Saturday, December 25.

The dismissal came after the Swiss newspaper Le Temps published statements in which the diplomat questioned the role of the Mission to the United Nations Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH), in this country since 2004, and the politics of the international community towards the Caribbean nation.

Seitenfus said in the interview posted on December 20 that the United Nations (UN) imposed the presence of its troops in Haiti despite the country not facing a situation of civil war.

"Haiti is not an international threat. We are not in a civil war. Haiti is neither Iraq nor Afghanistan. And yet, the Security Council (UN), for lack of an alternative, imposed the presence of 'blue helmets' since 2004, after the departure of President (Jean-Bertrand Aristide)," the Brazilian said to the journal.

The diplomat, who expected to finish his mandate in the coming months, also said in the interview that the Caribbean country, "on the international stage, is essentially paying for its proximity to the United States. Haiti has been the subject of negative attention from the international system. For the UN, it sought to freeze the power in place and turn Haitians into prisoners in their own island."

"Haitians committed the unacceptable in 1804 (year of independence): a crime of injured pride to a troubled world. The West was then a world of colonialism, slavery and racism whose wealth was based on the holding of conquered lands. So the Haitian revolutionary model scared the big powers," he added.

Seitenfus also examined the role of NGOs in Haiti, particularly after the earthquake of January 12 and said that "the age of the volunteers who arrived after the earthquake was very young and landed in Haiti without any experience. After the earthquake, the quality of aid professionals fell. There is an evil and perverse relationship between the strength of NGOs and the weakness of the Haitian state," the diplomat said.

Besides his post as representative in Haiti, Seitenfus was the OAS delegate before the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH). The Caribbean nation in January 2010 suffered the greatest tragedy in its history, an earthquake that devastated much of the nation. Moreover, since October Haitians face a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,500 people.

"Brasileiro representante da OEA no Haiti é afastado por críticas", Estadao.com.br

I'm shocked -- shocked, I say -- to hear that MINUSTAH might not be a force for good in Haiti.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

UN peacekeepers were the most likely source of the cholera epidemic sweeping Haiti, according to a leaked report by a French disease expert. Epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux conducted research in Haiti on behalf of the French and Haitian governments. Sources who have seen his report say it found strong evidence that the cholera outbreak was caused by contamination of a river by UN troops from Nepal. The UN said it had neither accepted nor dismissed the findings. The cholera epidemic has killed 2120 people, and nearly 100,000 cases have been treated, according to the Haitian government. The report by Mr Piarroux found that the source of the outbreak was a Nepalese peacekeeping base, whose toilets contaminated the Artibonite river, according to a copy seen by the Associated Press news agency.

"Haiti cholera: UN peacekeepers to blame, report says", BBC

Also:

As Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic spreads, it may seem irrelevant to ask where the disease came from. The World Health Organization certainly thinks it is, describing the question as "unimportant".

That could not be further from the truth. Haitians themselves care deeply about how their country got cholera. There is widespread suspicion that the disease was brought in by United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal, and that the UN is now covering it up. This suspicion has sparked riots that have killed people, both directly and by impeding medical efforts.

We should care too. Haiti's cholera tragedy - more than 1600 dead and 30,000 hospitalised as New Scientist went to press - tells us something important about our highly interconnected planet, and how we should - but still don't - govern it.

Cholera bacteria thrive on poverty and disruption, and Haiti has plenty of both. The country was free of cholera when the earthquake struck in January, but when the disease broke out in October it quickly took off.

When the news broke on 20 October, suspicion fell rapidly on 454 Nepalese UN peacekeepers based in the town of Mirebalais, 60 kilometres north of the capital Port-au-Prince. Haitian officials tested the river by the base two days later.

There were reasons to suspect these Nepalese. Cholera, which is carried by faeces-tainted water, is endemic in Nepal: there was an outbreak in Kathmandu, the country's capital, just before the peacekeepers flew in from there between 9 and 16 October. Their camp in Mirebalais dumped sewage straight into a stream that led to Haiti's main central river. The first cases were in Mirebalais and downstream, areas barely touched by the earthquake. What is more, the DNA in Haiti's cholera shows it was a single, recent introduction of a strain from south Asia, though we don't know if it is circulating in Nepal.

All of this is just circumstantial evidence, of course. The UN insists it is in the clear because the tests on water on or near the base did not find cholera, and none of the peacekeepers had symptoms.

Yet this doesn't clear the matter up. Many people with the strain now circulating in Haiti do not develop symptoms but shed bacteria in their faeces up to two weeks after infection. Nor are negative water tests conclusive: cholera researchers say the bacteria are hard to find in fast-flowing rivers. To settle the matter, the Nepalese soldiers themselves should have been tested, promptly.

A single positive swab from a soldier early in the outbreak would have strongly suggested they were the source. A negative result would not have entirely cleared them - tests can produce false negatives - but it may well have calmed public suspicion.

But no such tests were done. The Nepalese government claims the water samples alone prove that its troops are not the source. The UN Mission in Haiti even phoned me out of the blue to claim that tests cannot detect cholera in symptom-free people.

They can. That is an elementary scientific fact about cholera.

"Haiti: Epidemics of denial must end ", New Scientist

The UN has previously estimated that they expect 400,000 people to be infected with cholera. The standard treatment is oral rehydration therapy. If delivered promptly, the mortality rate is only about 1%. However, there are many logistical reasons why Haitians might not get cholera treated promptly.

If treatment is not prompt and/or not properly administered, the mortality rate increases to 50-60%. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that half the infected people fail to get treated promptly. That's 100,000 deaths.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

Stockholm - A Swedish diplomat said categorically Wednesday that a cholera outbreak in Haiti had originated in Nepal.

More than 1,000 people have died of the disease since its outbreak on October 19, with another 16,000 infected, and there have been violent protests at UN peace-keeping forces blamed by locals for the cholera.

'Unfortunately that is the case. It has proved that the cholera came from Nepal,' Claes Hammar, Sweden's ambassador to Haiti, told daily Svenska Dagbladet.

"Swedish diplomat says Haiti cholera strain came from Nepal"

Also:

STOCKHOLM: A Swedish diplomat claimed on Wednesday that Haiti's cholera outbreak originated in Nepal.

"Unfortunately that is the case. It has proved that the cholera came from Nepal," Claes Hammar, Sweden's ambassador to Haiti, told daily Svenska Dagbladet.

Hammar, who visited Haiti two weeks ago, said the information came from "a diplomatic source. It is 100 per cent true. Tests were made and the source was traced to Nepal."

"Swedish diplomat says Haiti cholera strain came from Nepal" The Times of India

I haven't seen this particular part of the story emerge in North American media.

bcholmes: watching the watchment (minustah)

The unrest comes ahead of Haiti's national election on November 28 to choose a new president. Some parties have sought to rally popular support by blaming the international community for the country's continuing misery from the earthquake and now for the outbreak of disease.

Rumors have been spreading for weeks that the cholera epidemic began because septic tanks at a base for Nepalese UN peacekeepers in central Haiti leaked into a major river, contaminating it.

"These guys are coming here and they rape our women, kill our people, and now bring us the disease," Haitian protester Joseph Jacquelin charged of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, in a Reuters interview. "We are tired of them and they must go. Down with MINUSTAH!"

The cholera epidemic isn't the sole root of this anger. The years of violence that MINUSTAH has waged on the people has not gone unnoticed.

The UN said it tested some of the Nepalese peacekeepers and found no trace of cholera. Meanwhile, health officials said it is impossible to know and the focus must be on containing the epidemic and not divining its source.

The targeting of the foreign peacekeepers for popular anger over the cholera epidemic is particularly worrisome as UN peacekeepers are scheduled to oversee the election later this month.

By discrediting them ahead of time as enemies of the Haitian people, some parties may be preparing the ground for rejecting the election results as unfair.

Um. The elections are unfair.

If so, that could set the stage for still more trouble for Haiti in the coming months as political unrest compounds the country’s already long list of problems.

"UN Sees Mounting Violence In Haiti Targeting Peacekeepers"

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BC Holmes

June 2017

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