Report Says Brazil's Army Wasn't Prepared for Human Rights Mission in Haiti

There was a lack of guidelines in addressing civilians in Haiti

São Paulo

Lead militarily by Brazil, the UN mission began in 2004 and gave Brazil an unprecedented international projection, a priority of then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT). It also made Brazilians the target of criticism. The Brazilian army committed several violent acts against the civilian population in operations against armed gangs in favelas in Port-au-Prince, the capital of the Caribbean nation.

One of the most controversial cases occurred on the morning of July 6, 2005, when 440 Minustah, lead by Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, entered the Cité Soleil favela in Port-au-Prince. The goal of the mission was the capture gang leader Emmanuel Wilmer, who had invaded a prison and freed 493 prisoners five months earlier. In an operation that lasted 6 hours, the army shot 22 thousand rounds of ammunition. Reports say that up to 60 civilians were killed.

A tire placed by a small group of demonstrators burns on a street in the commune of Petion Ville in the Haitan capital Port-au-Prince, on February 17, 2019. - (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP) - AFP

Minustah, with the participation of 20 countries, was set up by the UN Security Council following the fall of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. Opponents and supporters of Aristide clashed on the streets of the country, the poorest of the Americas and with a long history of turbulence. Gangs took advantage of the scenery to practice acts of banditry.

During the 13 years of the mission, 37,500 Brazilian soldiers were sent to Haiti. Several former mission commanders today make up the top echelon of the Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) government.

Minustah veterans are the generals-ministers Augusto Heleno (Institutional Security Cabinet), Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz (Secretary of Government), Floriano Peixoto (General Secretariat) and Fernando Azevedo e Silva (Defense), as well as the army commander, Edson Pujol.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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