Bolivian “Blue Helmets” in Haiti

Pablo Stefanoni

The doubts about the way in which the Bolivian army is conducting itself in its intervention in Haiti have begun to open a larger debate — albeit still in its very early stages — over whether Bolivia should be participating in this UN mission, and whether the Bolivian presence in the Black republic of the Caribbean is consistent with the anti-imperialist discourse of its government. The departure of the soldiers to Haiti and the Congo was a concession by the government to the military High Command, which sees these foreign missions as a not insignificant source of income.

Just a few days ago, the morning newspaper La Razón revealed that Bolivia is getting a discount of about 27% for its blue helmet soldiers, whose monthly wages amount to more than 1,000 dollars per month (with this they collect over 300,000 dollars every six months). Then the weekly Pulso chimed in, denouncing the purchase of military and transportation equipment “through an emergency presidential decree” to send to the Caribbean island together with “Civil Defense IVECO trucks which, these days are needed to bring assistance to flood victims” [in Bolivia].

Bolivia has about 300 troops in Haiti and some 200 in the Congo, under an agreement signed with the United Nations before Evo Morales became president.

This agreement was the argument used by Morales to send soldiers abroad and — as the former Hydrocarbons minister Andrés Soliz Rada has revealed — to close any discussion in the Cabinet. Then the mission was approved, somewhat administratively, in the Parliament, where only a few voices, such as that of the MAS senator Antonio Paredo, opposed participating in the “invasion”.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti is under Brazilian command and involves, among others, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

They have replaced the troops deployed by the United States and France after the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, which for many — such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez — was a French-U.S. “coup d’état”. Haitian President René Préval has recently asked that the mission continue, but on February 7 about 100,000 Haitians called for the withdrawal of the foreign troops and the return of Aristide.

Some people are questioning the actions of these “peacekeeping forces” in the poor neighbourhoods such as the huge slum ironically named Cité Soleil (Sun City) and the “collective punishments” against the civilian population."How could we oppose similar agression against Bolivia, especially at a time when we are preparing to carry out profound structural changes in Bolivia, if we endorse the military intervention in Haiti?"asked Soliz Rada.

In a context of integration based on “solidarity”, like ALBA, it might be appropriate to ask ourselves whether the future of Haiti, which is in a profound state of social disintegration, lies in the UN’s military approach or through continental cooperation, independent of the great powers and imbued by a Latin American vision oriented around the interests of the majority impoverished Haitian masses.

Translated from Bolpress

Bolivia Debates Military Missions

La Paz, Mar 11 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivian government will open a political debate on the so-called UN-sponsored peacekeeping missions, according to reports from the Ministry of Defense published in this capital on Sunday.

Defense Minister Walter San Miguel said that in addition to military and technical issues, the government would urge the international community to decide whether to continue those kinds of missions in poor countries like Haiti.

He added that deputy defense ministers met in Peru from Feb. 17-21 and decided to extend the soldiers´ permanence in Haiti for another year.

The decision was conditioned on the design of structural solutions to solve the problems that generate violence and worsen poverty in Haiti, San Miguel pointed out.

That opinion was shared by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru and Chile, among other countries, said the defense minister, adding that his country will send a commission to Haiti to verify the situation of Bolivian soldiers there.

The United Nations pays the Bolivian State 1,028 dollars per soldier, but the Army only spends 300 dollars of that amount to meet the troops´ needs for equipment and training, he noted.

San Miguel explained that the Bolivian State does not supply food to its peacekeeping troops in Haiti, as that is a responsibility of the United Nations.

Republished from Prensa Latina


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The departure of the soldiers to Haiti and the Congo was a concession by the government to the military High Command, which sees these foreign missions as a not insignificant source of income.

This, er, Shylockian consideration is not above other countries' military, such as the case is in Argentina. The military share in the luck of the remaining middle-class specialists: the best jobs can be obtained overseas, on the payroll of some foreign company or power. If this fact is used as a lever, it can provide excellent results among the military. The deeper the destruction provoked by neo- liberalism and its attendant "progressive" follow-ups (e.g. ellimination of draft in Argentina, which was a highly anti- democratic decission clad "progressive") the greater the eagerness of the military to get "international" jobs.

NG

BTW: most military in Arg are "part time" military, they need to take up some civilian job to keep up with the Joneses.