Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Brazil and Reconstructing Haiti, Part II


Reconstruction of Haiti – Part II

Mario Osava

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 26 (IPS) – Brazil has expressed its staunch support for reconstruction in Haiti, signing several agreements with the new democratically elected government of Ren� Pr�val to contribute to school lunch programmes, the promotion of sports as educational support, the production and use of ethanol fuel produced from sugar cane, and a massive vaccination campaign.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim called for greater participation by Latin America and the Caribbean in the reconstruction process in Haiti, where Pr�val took office on May 14, in order to consolidate democracy and boost development.

Haiti “cannot be, should not be, and is no longer seen as the disowned son of Latin America and the Caribbean,” Amorim said at a high-level international conference on Haiti this week in the Brazilian capital, in which representatives of 19 governments and several international bodies took part.

The minister was not only referring to the isolation of Haiti, which will be formally readmitted to Caricom (the Caribbean Community) at a July donor conference in Port-au-Prince, but also to its economic plight as the poorest country in the Americas.

Haiti is the only nation in the Americas included in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), noted Amorim.

Tuesday’s meeting in Brasilia was aimed at encouraging dialogue among donor countries, United Nations agencies and multilateral lenders, in search of a vote of confidence in Haiti’s new government, and a commitment to expand aid to that country, said Ambassador Gon�alo Mourao, director of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry’s Central America and Caribbean Department.

The meeting also began to prepare for the July donor conference in Haiti, which will reach decisions on international aid, but “according to the priorities and plans defined by the new government,” Mourao told IPS.

Besides the agreements reached with Haiti, Brazil signed accords with Argentina and Canada that will involve joint cooperation efforts in the impoverished Caribbean nation in the fields of health, agriculture, social development and the strengthening of institutions to achieve “democratic governability.”

The Brazilian military, which is heading the U.N. Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), will remain in that country as long as the Pr�val administration “sees fit, and considers it useful,” said Mourao.

Although Haiti lived up to the commitment to hold general elections on Feb. 7, with a presidential runoff on Apr. 21, it still needs military aid to maintain order and curb crime and civil unrest. “There are only 4,000 police officers in that country of 8..5 million, while Brasilia, with a population of two million, has 20,000 police,” the Brazilian diplomat pointed out.

But MINUSTAH, in both its civilian and military functions, is in need of a major overhaul. President Pr�val said his country now needs tractors and construction machinery “instead of tanks,” said Amorim.

Brazil could make a particularly important contribution, with its experience in social programmes and technology in the areas of education, health and even public safety, said Mourao.

In the field of agriculture, the significant technological advances made by the governmental Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation

(EMBRAPA) is a vital part of the aid that Brasilia offers to other developing countries, especially the poorest.

Another important contribution would be to share Brazil’s experience in prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, which has been recognised as one of the best programmes of its kind in the world, said Argemiro Procopio, professor of international relations at the University of Brasilia.

Procopio told IPS that Brazil’s decision to send peacekeeping troops to Haiti, to strengthen its case for an eventual permanent seat on the U.N.

Security Council, was a foreign policy mistake.

It is not foreign troops that Haiti needs, said the analyst, but “the recovery of its industry, agriculture and forests” – activities that would generate the jobs so desperately needed in the country.

In response to the frequent criticism of Brazil’s participation in the peacekeeping operation in Haiti, Amorim said “it is not necessary to be rich to show solidarity.”

He also advocated “intense” Latin American cooperation in order to help reestablish democracy and foment development in Haiti. Not only Brazil, but Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay are all taking part in MINUSTAH, the minister noted.

In Haiti, “it was imperative to resume the democratic process,” as occurred with the elections held this year, “and there was a serious public security problem and weakening of the structures of the state, besides the severe poverty and other social woes,” he underlined.

The minister said cooperation efforts with Haiti are three-pronged:

maintaining security and stability; political dialogue for national reconciliation; and the promotion of economic and social development.

The talks that Pr�val is holding with all of the country’s political forces, seeking to overcome the fact that his coalition, Lespwa – the Haitian Creole form of the French l’espoir, which means “hope” – lacks a majority in parliament, was one of the reasons for the overall sense of “optimism” among the participants in the meeting in Brasilia, said Mourao. (FIN/2006)

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