Friday, August 3, 2012

Haiti Should Shelve Army Revival: Crisis Group

A report on Haiti by International Crisis Group says that the country should put plans to revive its army and remove the UN stabilization force on hold while it improves its police force.

The report recommends that the UN stabilization force MINUSTAH should not leave immediately, as “even its critics admit the country’s still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability.”

It says that a full withdrawal by MINUSTAH should not be carried out until the end of President Michel Martelly’s presidency in five years time , which is also when a five-year plan to reform the police would be completed.

Crisis Group notes that there is local anger against the UN force due to the cholera outbreak, which it has been held responsible for, and accusations of sexual assault. It says however that the force has been successful in preventing the overthrow of the government, which was its original mission. It has now been in the country for eight years, and its mandate comes up for renewal in October.

Both the Haitian government and the UN Security Council are looking for a way out for MINUSTAH, but it would be foolhardy to rush that process given the serious gaps in consolidating security and justice.
The main factor in this consolidation is a strengthening of the police -- Crisis Group calls for a doubling in the number of police, and measures to make sure they are well trained and vetted, and part of a strong justice system.

Martelly came to office on a promise to revive Haiti’s army, an institution which carried out massive human rights abuses and took part in a 1991 coup against Jean-Bertrand Artistide. It was disbanded in 1995 when he returned to power. The plan to revive it is popular in the country due to a feeling that it would be better for a Haitian army to keep order than the UN force.

The scheme has been widely criticized by the international community, however, and Martelly has put it on hold. The US and the UN have both expressed concern, due to the army’s human rights record and Haiti’s lack of funds.

There are interest groups in Haiti which want the army to be brought back, as demonstrated by the existence of armed groups who set up training camps and held demonstrations and the streets of the country.

Earlier this week, the governments of Brazil and Ecuador expressed their willingness to help Haiti reconstruct the army: "Brazil will give all its know-how to help Haiti rebuild its army," a defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.

News Briefs

  • The New York Times has a report from Cheran, in southern Mexico, where locals have risen up against illegal loggers linked to drug traffickers who have been abusing the population and devastating the environment. It says that isolated communities in Mexico often have to give in to gangs, who “act like a state within a state, making their own rules and meting out grisly punishments to those who do not obey.” In this case, however, the townspeople expelled the traffickers and the representatives of the government, setting up their own patrols which guard the entrances to the town at all times. InSight Crime highlights a report from Proceso magazine on the same subject, commenting that one thing that drove the residents to take action was the drug gangs’ encroachment into the licit economy, spreading into industries such as logging, mining, and even water extraction
  • The NYT blog has a post on the issue of voters in Venezuela who refuse to support either candidate, seeing the government as “an ineffective cult run by a ridiculous megalomaniac,” and the opposition as “a plutocratic club run by a resentful, greedy former elite.” They are a product of the polarized political culture, according to Francisco Toro of Caracas Chronicles, influenced by each side’s deeply negative portrayal of the other. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal says that, despite predictions the economy will expand more than 5 percent this year, excessive government spending ahead of the elections means that it will likely suffer a sharp reversal next year.
  • The WSJ says that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appears strong both politically and physically, enjoying a 20-point lead for October’s elections, and looking much healthier than in recent months, helping him cast himself as cast himself as “a ‘Comeback Kid,’ a veteran political fighter beating back a young presidential contender.”
  • Bolivia’s government has backpedalled on statements that the Coca Cola company would have to leave the country, saying that the foreign minister’s comments on the matter were taken out of context, reports the WSJ. The newspaper notes that the only countries in the world where the company does not have operations are Cuba, North Korea and Myanmar. Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca had suggested that Bolivians would substitute the soft drink with Mocochinchi, a home-made prune juice.
  • A former governor , the most high-ranking Mexican politician to be extradited to the US over drugs charges, has pleaded guilty in a New York court to laundering funds from the Juarez Cartel, reports Reuters. Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid has been accused of turning Quintana Roo into a “narco-state.”
  • The lawyer of one of three Mexican generals who are being detained over accusations of working with the Beltran Leyva Cartel says that BLO boss “La Barbie” has denied knowing his client, reports Proceso.
  • President Felipe Calderon told a meeting of the national security council that homicides had fallen 7 percent in the first half of 2012, reports Excelsior.
  • The family of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in a car crash on July 22, repeated their claim that they have been told there was another car involved in the smash. They say it was a red Lada, a car used by State Security agents, and that after the crash the driver got out and called an ambulance, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Mexico is set to open its first privately run prisons this year, with construction firms who lack previous prison administration experience winning the contracts, reports Bloomberg.
  • The International Institute for Strategic Studies has a post on the struggle of Central America’s governments to respond to the growing presence of drug trafficking organizations in their territory, noting that tax reform could be their best chance of improving security.

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