US seeks Brazil help as frustration grows on Haiti force
Months after Haiti's prime minister and the UN pleaded for intervention in the violence-ravaged nation, world powers are searching for new ideas with no country eager to lead a force.
In the latest effort, a senior US envoy sought forward movement on Haiti on a visit to Brazil, which spearheaded a previous UN-led mission in Haiti and sits on the Security Council.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said she came away with the view that the Brazilians under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "care about Haiti."
"They want to see something done, and they committed to working with us in the Security Council to find a path forward," Thomas-Greenfield told AFP on her plane back from Brasilia.
"We're making some progress but we're all frustrated that we have not been able to make more progress more quickly," she said.
Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, has been torn apart by intersecting security, political and health crises with armed gangs controlling most of the capital Port-au-Prince.
Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, told the Security Council on Wednesday that Haiti was "dangling over an abyss."
Initial efforts led by the United States aimed for another nation to lead an operation to restore basic security and government functions and pave the way for a political transition.
With no country stepping forward, diplomats said that other options on the table now include establishing a conventional peacekeeping operation with contributions around the world.
The United States, long a key power in Haiti with major interventions in the early 20th century and the 1990s, has focused on sanctions and funding the fledging national police.
President Joe Biden, who ended the US war in Afghanistan, has made clear he will not put Americans at risk, although his administration has promised support if another country takes the lead.
Canada was seen as the leading contender but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau too has appeared to conclude that an operation would be too risky.
Maria Isabel Salvador, the UN special representative for Haiti, said she still hoped a single country could come forward or that the CARICOM community of Caribbean nations could take the lead.
But she said it was also time for the United Nations to start "to be innovative" and "find other ways of providing this force."
Brazil has historically sought a UN lead. Any Security Council effort would need to bring onboard veto-wielding China, which resents that Haiti is one of the dwindling number of countries that recognizes rival Taiwan.
- 'No one wants to do it' -
"It's pretty simple. No one wants to do it. There's just no country that right now feels either a responsibility or a compulsion to do this," said Keith Mines, director of the Latin America program at the US Institute for Peace.
He said that Haiti was not without hope. On December 21, a coalition of political leaders, civil society and business figures signed on to a plan for a transitional government that would culminate in elections by the end of 2023.
"But there's this chicken-and-egg problem because it's difficult to see how a political process can go anywhere as long as there's this collapse of security," he said.
Some US officials are pessimistic.
Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, voiced pessimism on Haiti during testimony to Congress on Thursday, saying, "It does not look as if it is going to get better anytime soon."
Prime Minister Ariel Henry pleaded for intervention in October. But he has also faced questions over his legitimacy with no elections in Haiti since 2016 and the last winner, president Jovenal Moise, assassinated in 2021.
In an open letter to Biden after Henry's appeal, a coalition of Haitian civil society groups and left-leaning supporters opposed military intervention which they warned would "only perpetuate and strengthen Henry's grasp on power, while doing little to ameliorate the root causes of today's crisis."
A previous UN peacekeeping force was marred after it introduced deadly cholera to Haiti and a UN probe found credible accounts of sexual abuse of children by Sri Lankan troops.
But Mines called the narrative of "constant catastrophe" in Haiti operations misguided, saying that Brazilian, Canadian and Chilean forces had been effective on the ground.
"We're riding this wave of anti-nation building right now which I think is very unfortunate," he said.
"There are tools that are going to go unused as nations like Haiti just collapse."