5 September 2007Defence ministers and military officers from Latin American countries contributing troops to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti are at present visiting the Caribbean country to discuss security and other issues linked to the extension of the mission’s mandate, including strengthening the national police force. “This meeting is an opportunity for me to thank the peoples and governments of these countries for their contribution towards putting Haiti back on the rails with regard to security, development and stability,” Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis told the visitors. While acknowledging a net improvement compared to several months ago, Mr. Alexis stressed that “the situation remains fragile.” The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was set up in 2004 to help re-establish peace in the impoverished country after an insurgency forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile. The visiting delegation, comprising representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, has also met with President René Préval and other Haitian leaders as well as with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Hédi Annabi and Organization of American States Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza. Issues discussed including reinforcement of the national police, reform of the judicial system, strengthening legal institutions and the battle against corruption and drug trafficking. The need to promote development also figured on the agenda. “The fight against corruption, smuggling and drug trafficking constitute priorities for the Government,” Mr. Alexis said. Speaking for the delegation, Chilean Defence Minister José Goni Carasco noted that while a military presence is indispensable, it is not sufficient. “Only the formation of a more just, egalitarian society allows democracy to function,” he said, pledging Latin American support, within the framework of the UN, towards converting MINUSTAH units into forces capable of building up the country’s infrastructure and economic development. Of the 7,061 troops currently serving with MINUSTAH, Brazil provides 1,198, Uruguay 1,133, Argentina 551 and Chile 495.