United Nations forces that have occupied Haiti since June 2004 were poorly trained, spied on student groups, mismanaged and staged elections, and recklessly shot, killed and wounded hundreds of civilians, according to secret US diplomatic cables.
The controversial 12,000-strong UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) intervened in the Caribbean country in the wake of the bloody February 2004 coup that ousted democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party. But the military and police mission, with an annual cost of more than $850 million and led by Brazil with key support from other Latin American countries, is up for renewal before the UN Security Council on October 15, and Haitian and international opposition is widespread.
The 2004 Security Council resolution establishing MINUSTAH called for it to ensure a “secure and stable environment,” reconstruct Haiti’s police force; engage in a comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program; organize elections; and protect human rights.
But the 1,918 secret US State Department Haiti cables released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks describe an extraordinary litany of failures and the political polarization of the mission, the third-largest UN military force anywhere in the world.
In one “astonishing” case, according to the cables, UN troops fired 28,000 rounds in just one month in Cité Soleil, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince known for resisting the UN occupation and the February 2004 coup that ousted Aristide.
“Civilian casualties [from UN forays] in Cité Soleil…[rose] from 100 wounded in October  to between 170 and 205 in December ,” wrote then Chargé d’Affaires Timothy M. Carney in a secret January 19, 2006, cable. “Half of these are women and children. Assertions that all were used as human shields strain credulity.”
Just six months prior, acting under intense US and Haitian elite pressure, 1,440 UN troops sealed off the pro-Aristide slum, firing 22,000 rounds and causing dozens of casualties in just one seven-hour night-time raid on July 6. UN troops continued their attacks throughout the year, regularly firing 2,000 rounds a day, one UN official told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Now, one of the key aggravating issues sparking resistance to an extension of MINUSTAH’s mission is the raging cholera epidemic that has killed more than 6,200 people and infected some 440,000 Haitians. Several scientific studies tie the outbreak of the South Asian cholera strain to Nepalese troops stationed in the center of Haiti. But the UN leadership has tried to deny that charge, which surfaced almost simultaneously with the disease last October. “It’s really unfair to accuse the UN for bringing cholera into Haiti,” said MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet at the time. Still, the UN and international organizations have not brought the epidemic under control.
In recent weeks, anti-UN sentiment has grown further in response to a video showing Uruguayan troops apparently sexually assaulting a young man in the southern town of Port-Salut. This follows the expulsion of 111 Sri Lankan soldiers for sexual exploitation and the abuse of under-aged minors in November 2007. “Among those repatriated are the battalion’s second-in-command and two company commanders at the rank of major,” noted one secret 2007 cable.