Recreation of army supported by Haitian president.Critics point to appalling human rights record. Brazil heads U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
Brazil and Ecuador have agreed to help Haiti set up a new
army that will eventually replace the U.N. peacekeeping force that has
protected the impoverished Caribbean nation on and off since 1994, officials say.
Haiti's President Michel Martelly has been pushing the
idea of reconstituting the army for almost a year, saying Haitians would prefer
to have their country protected by its own troops rather than United Nations soldiers deployed in Haiti.
Brazil's Defense Ministry confirmed it was prepared to
help Haiti in everything it needs to restore its army, including military
training and engineering. Ecuador has also pledged its
support, a defense ministry official said.
"Brazil will give all its know-how to help Haiti
rebuild its army," a defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
Brazil, which heads the U.N. peacekeeping mission in
Haiti, will send a military team to
Haiti in the next two to three weeks to assess the situation, the spokesperson
Martelly personally requested Brazil's support during a visit
by President Dilma Rousseff to Haiti earlier this year, officials said. An
agreement was made in Brasilia last week
during a meeting of Haiti and Brazil's defense ministers.
U.S. and U.N. officials are concerned that restoring the army
could undermine international efforts to train and equip a new civilian police
force, a key goal of the U.N. mission in
Haiti. Critics also point to the Haitian Army's appalling
human rights record, including a bloody coup in 1991.
International aid donors and human rights activists also
say they fear the return of the institution could be divisive and divert
resources from more pressing challenges of rebuilding
after a 2010 earthquake killed more than 200,000 people.
The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten,
said recently that Washington had no plans to help fund the army butwould not
interfere with Haiti's rights to set it up.
Martelly, acknowledged that some countries have been reluctant
to contribute but maintained that a military force was necessary to replace
U.N. troops when they leave.
"What we want to create is a force that will help
with development, natural disasters, protecting our borders and supporting in
security issues when the police are overwhelmed,"
Martelly told Reuters.
"We are talking to other partners that had concerns,
particularly because of past practices of the Haitian military that were
involved in human rights abuses and coups," he added.
Martelly said the current U.N. stabilization mission can
be considered a success only when it departs the island, leaving behind a
peaceful and stable environment.
Haiti's Defense Minister Rodolphe Joazile said Haiti's
plan did not signify any sidelining of international efforts to reinforce its
"President Martelly's plan is clear. It focuses on
the reinforcement of the police, the setting up of the new force and a
progressive and orderly withdrawal of U.N. troops," he said.
Due to financial constraints the army would be relaunched
with only about 1,500 troops, Joazile said.
Haiti was not ready to announce a cost for the new force
or a timetable for its launch, because the support of other possible partners
was being evaluated, he said.
Joazile, who accompanied Martelly during an official trip
to Ecuador earlier this month, said Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa,
committed to providing support for the military plan.
"He said it very clearly to President Martelly
during his last visit to Ecuador," Joazile told Reuters.
*Additional reporting by Hugo Bachega in Brasilia and Eduardo
Garcia in Quito; Editing by David Adams, Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker