Brazil’s moment to lead

Countries around the world are frantically searching for their citizens in Haiti, but this week’s events have been particularly hard on Brazil, which had a big footprint in the country before the quake. At least 14 Brazilian troops were killed in the quake with four more still missing. Brazil is the leader and largest troop ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
ADRIANO MACHADO/AFP/Getty Images
ADRIANO MACHADO/AFP/Getty Images
ADRIANO MACHADO/AFP/Getty Images

Countries around the world are frantically searching for their citizens in Haiti, but this week's events have been particularly hard on Brazil, which had a big footprint in the country before the quake. At least 14 Brazilian troops were killed in the quake with four more still missing. Brazil is the leader and largest troop contributor to the UN's MINUSTAH peacekeeping force. The famous Brazilian doctor Zilda Arns Neumann -- sometimes called Brazil's Mother Teresa -- was also killed.

But Brazil has also been on the frontlines of the response. In a telling sign of the priority the country is giving the disaster, Brazilian defense minister Nelson Jobim is on the ground in Haiti with a delegation to assess the situation and devise a recovery strategy. President da Silva has been in communication with President Obama and former President Clinton to coordinate the aid effort. The Brazilian government has pledged $15 million in aid and its military cargo planes are flying in supplies. Additionally, Foreign Minsiter Ceslo Anorim is arguing that MINUSTAH's mandate be expanded to assist with the recovery effort.    

With the already rickety Haitian state essentially dealt a knockout punch this week, the country is going to need an unprecedented level of international assistance in the years to come. The United States is understandably taking the lead in the immediate rescue effort, but given its nation-building commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and history of frequently occupying Haiti, the U.S. may not be the best candidate for the long-term stabilization effort. 

Countries around the world are frantically searching for their citizens in Haiti, but this week’s events have been particularly hard on Brazil, which had a big footprint in the country before the quake. At least 14 Brazilian troops were killed in the quake with four more still missing. Brazil is the leader and largest troop contributor to the UN’s MINUSTAH peacekeeping force. The famous Brazilian doctor Zilda Arns Neumann — sometimes called Brazil’s Mother Teresa — was also killed.

But Brazil has also been on the frontlines of the response. In a telling sign of the priority the country is giving the disaster, Brazilian defense minister Nelson Jobim is on the ground in Haiti with a delegation to assess the situation and devise a recovery strategy. President da Silva has been in communication with President Obama and former President Clinton to coordinate the aid effort. The Brazilian government has pledged $15 million in aid and its military cargo planes are flying in supplies. Additionally, Foreign Minsiter Ceslo Anorim is arguing that MINUSTAH’s mandate be expanded to assist with the recovery effort.    

With the already rickety Haitian state essentially dealt a knockout punch this week, the country is going to need an unprecedented level of international assistance in the years to come. The United States is understandably taking the lead in the immediate rescue effort, but given its nation-building commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and history of frequently occupying Haiti, the U.S. may not be the best candidate for the long-term stabilization effort. 

Brazil, on the other hand, is already involved Haitian security, and as others on this site have written,  has been increasingly looking to act as a global player. The Haitian crisis is an opportunity for the rising superpower to take a leadership role in regional security. And lord knows Haiti will need the help.   

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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