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 said.
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 inHaiti. 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 but would not interfere with Haiti’s rights to set it up.
Martelly, acknowledged that some countries have been…
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