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World

UN accused of complacency over Haitian crisis.

By Cathy Ceïbe; translated by Nancy B.

Translated Friday 20 January 2006, by Nancy

Port-au-Prince: Speculation surrounds the circumstances of the death of the United Nations’ peacekeeping force commander.

The body of Urano Teixeira Da Matta Bacellar, the commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), who was found dead in his hotel room in Port-au-Prince on January 7th, has this week been flown home to Brazil.

On the eve of his repatriation, the UN representative in Haiti Juan Gabriel Valdés, the Haitian minister for Foreign Affairs Hérard Abraham, and Brazilian ambassador in Tahiti Paolo Cordeiro, amongst others, paid official tribute to the dead man.
His death "will not change the United Nations’ determination to restore peace and security” in Haiti, said Valdés at the ceremony.

However, the circumstances surrounding the general’s death are still unclear.
According to an initial internal MINUSTAH report, quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP), General Teixeira, who took up his position as head of the UN peacekeeping force there six months ago, “apparently committed suicide”.
According to Brazilian press , the Brazilian Army is said to have recorded his death as a “firearm accident”.
A more contentious line of enquiry was suggested by the Dominican newspaper El Nacional, which hinted at a possible assassination.
The Brazilian commander is said to have been killed by a “sniper” when out on his balcony, according to sources at the scene.
UN spokesperson Damian Onses Cardona pointed out that an enquiry was currently underway.
The commander’s body should normally be undergoing an autopsy at the Brazilian Forensic Medical Institute.

The lack of hard evidence adds to a deepening sense of tension and suspicion around MINUSTAH.
Detractors point to this as proof of complacency in the face of endemic violence and the activity of armed gangs in the capital, especially in the shantytowns.
In the town of Port-au-Prince alone the police have recorded over 40 kidnappings since January 1st, of a total 1900 over the last ten months.
In response to this, on Monday Haiti’s Chamber of Commerce, business and community leaders, along with political organizations, called for a strike - which was well supported in Port-au-Prince - to demand that MINUSTAH improve security.

The head of MINUSTAH responded by saying, with some justification, that he considered that the “complex and multidimensional” nature of criminal activity in the country called for a number of different approaches.
Indeed, Chapter 6 of the United Nations charter is aimed at “preserving peace” and not at “imposing” it.
Faced with the decline of Haitian institutions undermined by corruption, and, arguably, the collapse of the democratic state, the actions of MINUSTAH have been called into question.
Some are holding MINUSTAH indirectly responsible for the fourth consecutive postponement of the elections, which are finally due to take place on February 7th.

Nevertheless, in the current crisis the political and economic forces in Haiti are not meeting their responsibilities, nor is the international community, and most crucially, neither are the US and France.


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