The Brazilian military commander in charge of U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti was found dead Saturday. The commander’s death comes as the troubled country is struggling with political instability and growing violence.
Brazilian Lieutenant General Urano Bacellar was found dead in his Port-au-Prince hotel room early Saturday. A local journalist who saw the body said the general was sitting in a chair on his terrace in shorts and a T-shirt, with a gunshot wound to the neck.
The death comes at a difficult time for the troubled country. National elections were recently postponed for the fourth time, leaving Haiti with an uncertain political future.
Kidnappings in the capital have skyrocketed, generating millions of dollars in ransom money for Port-au-Prince’s heavily armed gangs.
On Monday, Haiti’s business sector plans a general strike to protest the rising kidnappings and violence. Business leaders say the strike is intended as a message to the U.N., to do more to provide security in Port-au-Prince.
Since June of 2004, the United Nations has deployed more than 9,000 peacekeepers to provide security in Haiti. But the U.N. has been increasingly criticized for its perceived failure to provide security for elections.
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council called on Haiti’s interim government to set a new date for elelctions, no later than February 7 amid concern about the spiraling violence.
The U.N. has not released any information concerning the death of General Bacellar. The Brazilian army is calling the incident a "firearm accident." There has been no announcement of his replacement.
Haitian Police Chief Mario Andersol said police have not found evidence to suggest foul play, but are launching an investigation.
General Bacellar became leader of the U.N. forces in September of 2005. Brazilian Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro said it was devastating to see such a good and honorable general killed in such circumstances.
U.N. troops were sent to Haiti in 2004, following the ouster of then-President Jean Bertrand Aristide after weeks of violent unrest.