New MINUSTAH chief appointed as leaked cables detail 2005 assault on Cité Soleil

CHAN, June 28, 2011
The Washington Post reports that career diplomat Mariano Fernandez Amunategui from Chile has taken over as head of the UN's military force in Haiti, MINUSTAH (UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti).

According to the Post, Mr. Fernandez Amunategui, "replaces Edmond Mulet, a Guatemalan diplomat who left the job in late May. Fernandez will oversee the U.N. mission that was sent to Haiti in 2004 to stabilize the poor Caribbean country after a violent rebellion toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and sent him into exile."

Fernandez Amunategui's appointment comes as Haïti Liberté and the Nation are publishing analyses of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and other sources. In an article entitled 'Haiti's elite tried to turn the police into a private army', Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives discuss a troubling period in MINUSTAH's history, "the period after the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d'état that ousted Aristide, repressed his Lavalas Family party, set up a US-backed de facto government, and ushered in a 9,000-strong UN military occupation known as MINUSTAH."

The coup government of Gerard Latortue was attempting to crackdown on Lavalas supporters in the Cité Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. The Haitian elite, and the US Ambassador, James Foley, felt MINUSTAH was doing too little. In response, "Foley asked the 'Core Group' of international donors and the UN military for a "swift, aggressive" response to the business sector's call for action against the "criminal elements" from slums like Cité Soleil...Weeks later, on July 6, 2005, at 3 a.m. in the morning, 1,440 Brazilian and Jordanian soldiers sealed off Cite Soleil with 41 Armored Personnel Carriers and attacked. Helicopters dropped grenades and UN troops fired more than 22,000 bullets, leaving untold dozens of civilian casualties, including women and children...

Foley remarked in a July 26, 2005 cable that, "It remains unclear how aggressive MINUSTAH was, though 22,000 rounds is a large amount of ammunition to have killed only six people" (the UN's official death toll)."

Although the UN claimed to kill only 6 gang members, "Doctors Without Borders reported receiving 26 gunshot victims from Cite Soleil on July 6, of whom 20 were women and at least one was a child."

The UN troops' attack on Cité Soleil is presented in greater detail in Kevin Pina's documentary: "Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits".