Foreign Policy Blogs

Brazil: friend or foe to Haiti?

MINUSTAH Peacekeeping

In late July Haitian activists organized rallies in cities across the country to mark the 95th anniversary of the start of the US occupation of Haiti in 1915. Among the protestors’ concerns is the contingent of 11,000 uniformed UN personal – including 9,000 military troops – stationed in Haiti as part the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH. The mission was established in 2004, but the UN added thousands of police and military following last year’s earthquake.

What does this have to with Brazil? Plenty, in fact. With 1,300 troops posted on the island nation, Brazil has more soldiers working under MINUSTAH than any of the other 19 countries involved with the mission. Moreover, the operation is under the command of a Brazilian general, Luiz Guilherme Paul Cruz.

MINUSTAH has come under fire from critics in both Haiti and Brazil who view it as a thinly veiled imperial project. The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), a Brazilian social movement, has taken the lead in exposing the human rights abuses and killings committed by mission forces.

However, whereas many other nations have failed to deliver aid promised to Haiti, Brazil has largely kept its word, contributing $55 million into a World Bank fund. And in February Lula called on Haiti’s creditors to cancel the country’s debt.

It’s also worth noting that Brazil, both historically and recently, has been a minor player in Haiti compared to the US, which just five months ago had 20,000 troops stationed on the island. While the US has scaled back troop levels considerably, its massive mobilization post-earthquake reminded Haitians, and the world, of the real imperial threat to the country.

Image: Flickr user United Nations Photo