SANTIAGO — Haitian President Michel Martelly has said while on a visit to Chile that he would like the UN peacekeeping mission in his country to be converted into an economic development mission.
The 12,000-strong United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is currently under the command of former Chilean foreign minister Mariano Fernandez. Chile has contributed to the force for years, and currently there are 500 Chileans among MINUSTAH's 8,700 soldiers and 3,300 police.
"We would like to transform this mission into a development mission, because today it is (only) tasked with maintaining the peace," Martelly said in a joint press conference with his host, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.
Martelly said they would study if this could happen from a technical viewpoint, and look at the equipment the peacekeepers have in Haiti "to see how we can transform this mission," he said.
MINUSTAH was formed in 2004 to help maintain peace in Haiti after a chaos erupted at the end of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's presidency.
The UN Security Council periodically renews its mandate. It was last renewed in October 2010 for one year to provide support for the presidential and legislative elections in March.
MINUSTAH's presence however has been questioned since late 2010, when Nepalese soldiers within the force were suspected as the possible source of a cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti.
Martelly's visit includes a trip to the areas most affected by the massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck central and southern Chile in February 2010, one month after the 7.0 magnitude quake that devastated Haiti.
On Friday Martelly will visit Argentina, another step in his regional tour.
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