Latin American Forces Help Haiti Even as MINUSTAH Reduces Presence

first_imgBy Dialogo March 18, 2013 PORT-AU-PRINCE — The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was born out of UN Security Resolution 1582, ratified in April 2004 after the resignation of Haiti’s then-president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The resolution cited concerns of “human rights violations, particularly against civilians” as the prime cause for intervening in Haiti. MINUSTAH marks the first United Nations campaign that’s been led by and comprised almost exclusively of Latin American forces. Both Chile and Brazil have taken lead roles within MINUSTAH, with Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guatemala, among others, contributing to the effort. On Jan. 30, Brazil’s Ministry of Defense announced it would start to gradually reduce the number of military personnel sent to Haiti as part of MINUSTAH three years after the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation. At present, Brazil has 1,910 troops deployed, but this number will fall to 1,450 in June with the change of contingents, returning to the same number before the January 2010 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince and its environs, killing more than 250,000 people. The binational Chiecuengcoy contingent Its name is a tongue-twister, but the Chiecuengcoy contingent — formed by Ecuadorian and Chilean soldiers serving in MINUSTAH — has been crucial in the rebuilding of Haiti. Chiecuengcoy is an abbreviation for “Compañía de Ingenieros Chileno-Ecuatoriano de Construcciones Horizontales” [Chilean-Ecuadorian Horizontal Construction Company]. Its 156 soldiers — 90 from Chile and 66 from Ecuador — start each workday at 6 a.m. They’re involved in a variety of tasks, ranging from fixing roads and cleaning drainage ditches to building new structures and demolishing unstable ones that might collapse at any moment. MINUSTAH is in charge of assigning tasks, according to priorities set by the Haitian government and the resources provided by donor countries. “The Haitians are witnessing how we help to rebuild their country. Every day, they come to us to help us and look after us,” said team member Luís Fernando Guamán, who like his fellow soldiers works 12 to 16 hours a day. Meanwhile, El Salvador will also send 34 soldiers to join Chilean peacekeepers in Haiti. During a March 1 visit to San Salvador, Chilean Defense Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter signed a memo of understanding with his Salvadoran counterpart, Defense Minister and Division Gen. José Atillo Benítez Parada. Under that agreement, Salvadoran soldiers will be trained in Chilean defense institutions and study under Chilean professors at defense academies in El Salvador. Benítez told the San Salvador newspaper El Mundo that his men already received “intense training” in Chile late last year. Ecuador focus on Artibonite area Ecuador’s work in Haiti did not begin with the magnitude-7.0 earthquake. It’s been sending peacekeepers here since 2004, when MINUSTAH was established. The current mission here is the 16th, with each contingent made up of 60 men. Members of the Chiecuengcoy contingent spend their days building roads and other infrastructure in Artibonite, three hours from Port-au-Prince. A major rice-growing area, Artibonite is one of Haiti’s 10 departments, comprising nearly 5,000 square kilometers and just over 1.3 million inhabitants. Ecuador also has given $13 million in grants, with that money going towards bridges and houses. A bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in July 2012 has made another $15 million available for construction of schools and clinics. Ecuador’s “Blue Helmets” have built 138 bridges and 145 kilometers of roads, according to MINUSTAH. Its peacekeeping troops have also cleared irrigation canals and provided water to shelters and orphanages in densely populated areas. “At first, I suffered so much discomfort because of the heat,” said one Ecuadorian soldier, Darwin Cusquilcuma. “But living in this country, with so many disadvantages, has helped us to appreciate what we have. Our daily interactions with Haitians — especially the children — are one of our warmest memories.”last_img read more