Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, extended his apologies to Haitian leader Michel Martelly following a rape scandal involving soldiers from Uruguay that has enraged the nation.
Recently, a video surfaced on the Internet showing Uruguayan United Nations peacekeepers holding down a young Haitian man and sexually assaulting him that has prompted Haitians to stage protests outside the U.N. base. The Uruguayan troops have been a part of the U.N. peacekeeping force stationed in Haiti since 2004 when the troops were used as a security force to help squelch post-election violence.
"We apologize for the outrage that some soldiers from my country have perpetrated," Mujica said in a letter to Martelly, according to the BBC. "Although the damage is irreparable, be assured that we will fully investigate the matter and apply the harshest sanctions to those responsible."
In addition, Al Jazeera is reporting that Uruguay’s Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro said that his country would compensate 18-year-old Johnny Jean for the attack.
Meanwhile, the U.N. has launched its own investigation, which has preliminarily concluded that the men did not rape Jean, but did violate peacekeeping rules when they invited the man onto the base.
The Haitian government is also taking a look into the events depicted in the video and Martelly has vowed that the perpetrators would not go unpunished.
This is not the first time the Haitian public has taken issue with the 12,000-person peacekeeping force stationed in the country. Last year, when the cholera epidemic swept the country, claiming thousands of lives, U.N. peacekeepers were blamed for bringing the infectious, bacterial disease to the vulnerable country after information surfaced indicating that Nepal’s troops had not been tested for cholera before traveling to Haiti.
In 2010, after the country suffered extensive damage from an earthquake, the U.N. extended its peacekeeping mandate in Haiti to support the country’s recovery efforts. Now that the country is on the calm road to recovery, Martelly has called for a decreased U.N. security presence in the nation and it appears Brazil may grant his wish. Brazil, a major contributor to the peacekeeping troops, announced this week that it is seriously considering pulling out its 2,000 soldiers stationed in the country as political tensions in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, have calmed following the democratic election of Martelly.
(Photo: REUTERS/ St-Felix Evens)