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Posted Thursday, November 5, 2009
U.N. occupying troops, not departing Haiti soon
By Silvio Cascione, Reuters Writer


* U.N. troops unlikely to leave Haiti any time soon * Security gains not matched by socioeconomic advances

SAO PAULO, Nov 5 (Reuters) - United Nations peacekeeping forces will not leave Haiti any time soon as the country, one of the world's poorest, remains fragile, the Brazilian general in charge of the U.N. troops told Reuters.

 "I don't see any signs that point to an end to the mission here," Gen. Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto said by telephone late on Wednesday.

"The strides we've made in security haven't been matched by the socioeconomic gains we hoped for, and so that's why we say that the status in Haiti is extremely fragile," he said.

Haiti has been roiled by political violence for decades. The latest round began in 2004, when an armed revolt led to then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's flight into exile.

Haiti then asked the United Nations for help, the genesis of the current mission. But accusations of human rights violations and corruption are still common.

Haiti's Senate last Friday voted out Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis over her failure to improve the economy.

President Rene Preval chose economist Jean-Max Bellerive to take her place later the same day, after the U.N. mission in Haiti appealed for the swift appointment of a successor to avoid further instability.

Haiti ranks 149 out of 182 nations in the U.N. Human Development Index.

Life expectancy at birth is 61 years of age, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, according to 2007 World Bank numbers. The per-capita gross national income is also the region's lowest.

Poverty has for long fueled unrest in Haiti and, despite some improvement in political stability, last year at least five people were killed in protests over food prices.

"The situation can change suddenly," Peixoto said, adding that the instability means the U.N. peacekeepers have no timeline for withdrawal.

The mission is led by U.N. official Hedi Annabi, but the peacekeeping forces are commanded by Brazil, which in recent years has emerged as Latin America's diplomatic heavyweight.

Last month the U.N. Security Council extended the mission's term until October 2010. Brazil commands more than 7,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops in Haiti.

In October, Brazil was voted onto a temporary spot on the U.N. Security Council, but the country wants a permanent seat.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sees the mission in Haiti as a way of showing that Brazil is ready to take on a greater share of world leadership.

(Writing by Luciana Lopez, Editing by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray)

© Thomson Reuters 2009

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