UN seeks Brazilian successor to late force commander in Haiti peacekeeping chief

Speaking to reporters in New York, Jean-Marie Guéhenno paid tribute to 58-year-old Lieutenant-General Urano Teixeira Da Matta Bacellar of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for a long and successful career. “The tragic death of General Bacellar has affected all of us,” said Mr. Guéhenno. “He was a committed soldier who served his country for 39 years and had a distinguished service with MINUSTAH.” Brazil has made a very strong commitment to Haiti, and another Brazilian Force Commander would be welcomed, he added.With the investigation into the death still going on, he declined to comment further on the circumstances, but stressed that MINUSTAH’s work continues apace. “The mission is very much under control. Actually, it is working to prepare for the elections.”Mr. Guéhenno also welcomed an announcement from the Caribbean country during an otherwise tragic weekend that the twice-postponed first round of elections would take place on 7 February. The Security Council had said last week that the poll should be held by that date at the latest.Mr. Guéhenno attributed recent trouble in Haiti to the fact that the status of the elections had changed from having been a dream 12 months ago to becoming a reality. “And it is a reality that everybody will have to face up to because the elections are going to be free (and) honest,” he said. MINUSTAH, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Haitians would exert all possible efforts to ensure that the elections would give everyone a fair chance to compete and that afterwards the losers would not be “sidelined or crushed” in the too frequently manifested winner-take-all proposition in that country, but would be reconciled, Mr. Guéhenno said. He said Haiti had made tremendous progress in a number of areas. “When I visited Haiti in June in Bel Air I had to be in an armoured personnel carrier, with a helmet and a flak jacket and Bel Air was basically an off-limits place. Now the situation in Bel Air is much better, as it is in most parts of Haiti.” He acknowledged that the situation in Cité Soleil, another poor suburb of the capital, remains difficult. There, gangs are mixed with civilians, which is an operational challenge for any force in the world, Mr. Guéhenno added, and the peacekeepers were looking for ways to “strengthen their posture.” Deputy Force Commander General Eduardo Aldunate Herman of Chile has assumed command of the MINUSTAH force. read more