*UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal is reporting confusion over whether Haiti will accept Dominican peacekeepers with some officials saying that Haiti has reversed its earlier decision to deny the offer. If so, this is great news, because, as the WSJ reports, the troops would relieve peacekeepers currently securing the aid corridor between the border and Port-au-Prince and allow them to engage in other desperately needed operations.
Reuters is reporting that Haiti has turned down an 800-man peacekeeping battalion offered by the Dominican Republic as part of the 3,651-troop boost to MINUSTAH authorized by the UN Security Council on Tuesday. The battalion would have secured the aid corridor between the border and Port-au-Prince, a need specifically mentioned by UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy prior to the Security Council plus-up.
Tensions between the two nations stretch back to 1822, when Haiti began a 22-year occupation of the Dominican Republic. Independence was followed by another two decades of continued violence. In the 20th century, a more prosperous Dominican Republic saw a wave of cheap labor cross the border from Haiti, fueling latent racism and leading to a massacre of over 20,000 Haitians living near the border by the Dominican despot Rafael Trujillo. Relations have reportedly improved over the past few decades, but the continued sharp contrast in prosperity between the two halves of the island (want to know why?) is, undoubtedly, still a sticking point, as are, of course, random acts of violence. The UN’s Human-Development Index (an aggregation of indices measuring life expectancy, knowledge and education, and standard of living) puts the Dominican at 90 out of 182 (just below Thailand and Georgia and above China) and Haiti at 149 (below Bangladesh and one above Sudan).
Understandably, given the above, the relationship between the two countries is delicate. But, at this point, it’s easy to make the argument that Rene Preval shouldn’t turn down assistance from anybody, period. His state has failed, and it appears as if it will be quite a while before foreign positioning again ranks as one of Haiti’s top concerns. The number of nations with have the capacity and political will to contribute to UN peacekeeping is not unlimited, and none could get boots on the ground as quickly as the Dominican.