The Brazilian general who commands the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission in Haiti, the MINUSTAH, has indisposed himself with the US forces after the United States sent troops and help to Haitians following the earthquake that left over 270,000 deaths. He will be replaced soon by another Brazilian.
The United Nations force in Haiti has over 12,000 soldiers from around the world, about 1,500 being from Brazil.
The post of Force Commander currently held by General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto is renewed every year and Floriano Peixoto could have been maintained in place if it weren’t for his behavior after the earthquake. Peixoto has been in the post since April 2009.
In 2008, Brazilian General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz was kept by the US for one more year after his initial mission ended.
The general’s image was hurt soon after the United States sent more than 12,000 men to help support the earthquake victims. Asked if he was subordinating the blue berets to the U.S. Army he said he was the one in command.
Brazil’s Armed Forces, 11 days after the quake held their relief operation distributing 10 tons of food and 22,000 liters (5.800 gallons) of water to about 5,000 families. Among the items given away there were milk, tuna and ham.
Their message seemed to be that despite being outnumbered by the Americans, Brazilians were in control of the UN’s peacekeeping and relief mission in Haiti.
The local chosen for the food giveaway was very symbolic since the Brazilian military set up their operation at the National Palace, the same location where a few days earlier US Black Hawk helicopters had landed stirring condemnation from some quarters that it was invading Haiti.
Brazilian soldiers, 220 of them, parked 30 vehicles, 20 of them tanks, around the National Palace and raised two Brazilian flags. General Floriano Peixoto attended the operation handing down food and water to victims himself. He also talked on the occasion:
“It’s good to highlight that in the control of this chaotic situation, there is a Brazilian presence, the command of the forces belongs to a Brazilian official, since 2004.”
It was a clear message to the US: “I, General Floriano Peixoto, am the commander. My role is great articulation. Here is a Brazilian, a head of MINUSTAH. The security part is the responsibility of a Brazilian general. We must not lose the opportunity to show this to Brazil. We have the largest contingent of troops,” he said, adding: “The US participation is temporary.”
The new commander will be another Brazilian, General Luiz Guilherme Paul Cruz, who is now the chief of the 5th Armored Cavalry Brigade of Ponta Grossa, Paraná state.
Since MINUSTAH was established in 2004 after a civil war to overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, all military commanders of MINUSTAH have been Brazilians, but the UN is free to choose a commander from any other country.
Paul Cruz has already experience in Haiti, having commanded the Brazilian troops in that country in 2008. He was an instructor at the US Military Academy at West Point. The fact that speaks fluent English seems to have been a factor in him being chosen.