BOUTIN – Last Wednesday’s attack on the Chilean delegation in Haiti comes after almost two decades of Chilean political and ‘security’ presence in the country. Haiti is living a profound crisis, whose endurance calls into question the effectiveness of international missions to help solve chronic social instability. One official of the Chilean delegation was killed.
An activity of América Solidaria, a foundation locally engaged in the UN’s Haiti efforts, had to be abandoned as five attackers shot with AK-47 rifles at a convoy which included members of the NGO and Chilean officials in Boutin, about an hour from Port-au-Prince. Part of the delegation were the Chilean ambassador to the country, Patricio Utreras and his wife.
Allegedly, the attackers moved in a white van but were repelled by fire from investigations police (PDI) members that formed the security detail.
Despite the PDI team’s efforts, Chile’s interior minister Andrés Chadwick confirmed that an Haitian official of the Chilean foundation, Frantz Elianciun, was killed and Utreras’ Haitian driver wounded.
With an investigation still underway, foreign affairs undersecretary Carolina Valdivia said it looks unlikely the attack had Chile as specific target. “This is part of the situation that exists today in Haiti, where there are constant situations of violence,” she said.
— CNN Chile (@CNNChile) March 27, 2019
Chilean presence in Haiti
The attack represents a violent episode in a history of over 18 years of Chilean military and humanitarian presence in Haiti. These efforts have led to achievements but could not nearly fix the endemic institutional and economic crisis of the Caribbean country.
The relationship began on February 29, 2004, when the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of the Interim Multinational Force for Haiti (MIFH). Chile swiftly acted on the authorization which was in line with its sense of collective action.
The resulting peacekeeping mission, led by Brazil, that Chile participated in, along with France, the U.S. and others, was created to restore order and confidence, rebuild public services and institutions, train the police and build democracy after years of state collapse and natural disasters ravaged the country.
Costs and benefits for Chile
On one hand, the experience in Haiti helped Chile to build an image as leading Latin American country for peace operations. This helped the country’s global credibility as a security player and promoter of multilateralism.
Chile has spent over US$ 170 million on its Haiti mission and has sent about 13,000 military and police (investigations and Carabineros) personnel, without suffering a major death toll.
In 2017, President Michelle Bachelet withdrew the Chilean troops but maintained a significant police contingent in the country, ramping up humanitarian, cultural, diplomatic and economic efforts at the same time.
Haiti’s already profound crisis has deepened even further since February. Protests broke out against President Jovenel Moïse over stolen Petrocaribe funds, supplied by Venezuela. Investigations uncovered that Moïse had a hand in the misuse of nearly US$ 2 billion that were earmarked for development.
The latest turmoil casts doubt on the effectiveness of UN and regional interventions to solve the endemic problems that keep Haiti the poorest country of the continent.