Paulo Sotero, 01/18/10
The Obama administration views the need to respond to the catastrophe in Haiti as an enormous leadership challenge and, thus, an opportunity for Brazil and the United States to cooperate in stabilizing and reconstructing a country in which both governments play an important role.
After a haphazard start due to the lack of coordination between the countries in the initial days following the tragedy, government officials, including Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Celso Amorim, and U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, held a teleconference to map bilateral and multilateral responsibilities and actions.
On Saturday, American officials hastened to explain the U.S. decision to take control of airport operations in Port-au-Prince as a response to the Haitian government’s request for urgent help to organize the influx of aid. Several countries and non-governmental organizations, including some from the United States, criticized the United States after its military denied the landing of aircrafts transporting personnel and aid.
It is wrong to assume that the United States will take exclusive leadership of international cooperation in post-quake Haiti. Nor will the Obama administration have an interest in diminishing Brazil’s
role. Assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Arturo Valenzuela, said Wednesday in a speech in Washington to U.S. ambassadors in the region that the United Nations mission in Haiti, Minustah, led by Brazil, has the responsibility of maintaining security. “The US will continue support the US mission but will not supplant it” said Valenzuela.
The dramatic U.S. fiscal situation, the political resurgence of conservative forces and the inefficient model of international assistance used until now will limit Washington’s capacity for effective action.
These factors lead to the greater participation of other countries in Haiti’s rescue and construction including Brazil. Washington welcome Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim’s declaration indicating the willingness to extend Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH for another five
years, a mandate currently due to expire in October.