- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2005

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Representatives from all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council got a first-hand look last week at the troubled international peacekeeping mission in Haiti, which is under fire for failing to halt violence.

Instigated by Argentina and headed by Brazil, the four-day visit that ended yesterday was part of a push by the Latin American nations leading the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti to pressure international lenders and donors to provide more than $1 billion in aid pledged over a two-year period beginning in July 2004.

Some $270 million has begun to arrive, but its influence remains imperceptible for many Haitians.

“That [the peacekeeping mission] turns out well is vital in order to show the world that not only the developed countries can lead peacekeeping and peace-building missions,” said Cesar Mayoral, Argentina’s representative on the Security Council.

“What is clear is that if the donors don’t give the money, Minustah is going to fail,” he said, using the U.N. acronym for the peacekeeping mission.

Minustah is the first U.N. peacekeeping mission led by a group of Latin American countries, a sign of growing political cooperation in the region, especially among the left-leaning presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela.

“There is a profound consensus among the members that we are doing well, that we are doing right,” said Brazil’s U.N. Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg.

All but Venezuela have large troop contingents in Haiti, and the head of the peacekeeping mission is a Chilean diplomat, Juan Gabriel Valdes.

“The Latin American countries became involved in the peacekeeping mission to Haiti for various reasons, for example Brazil’s desire to obtain a permanent seat on the Security Council,” said Todd Howland, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

“Now that they have been in Haiti for close to a year, they realize that blue helmets alone cannot and will not impose security on Haiti,” Mr. Howard said.

More than 10 months after the U.N. peacekeepers arrived, armed groups continue to hold sway in the capital’s slums and in the countryside as the nation limps toward local elections scheduled in October and national elections in November.

The mission itself costs nearly $280 million annually, about half of it paid for by the United States and Japan, the two largest contributors to the U.N. peacekeeping budget.

Minustah has launched a pilot disarmament program, but fewer than 90 weapons have been collected nationwide, according to the U.N. Development Program.

A Philippine peacekeeper was shot and killed at the edge of Cite Soleil, a desperately poor Port-au-Prince slum that continues to be controlled by armed gangs four months after U.N. troops occupied the neighborhood.

Minustah has not been able to mediate between the interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

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