Social Power and Stabilization Strategies: A Case Study of Brazilian Troops Deployment in Haiti

ARTICLE | | BY Juliana Sandi Pinheiro, Danielle Sandi Pinheiro

Juliana Sandi Pinheiro
Danielle Sandi Pinheiro

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The actions of gangs in the urban area of Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, contributed to political instability and polarization of Haitian society. Both criminalization and the politicization of the gangs were emblematic of the complexity of the scenario where socioeconomic inequalities combined with the absence of government had denied, to large portions of the population, the minimum conditions of life to ensure, among other factors, protection, food, education and health. This crisis has been mediated by actions of the international community. However, there has not been enough consensus on the approach to be adopted, particularly as regards the problem of the gangs. The present study proposes an analytical clipping for description and analysis of the strategies of the Brazilian Army to counter the gangs within the framework of the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Such an approach presents actions directed primarily to the area of security. However, as a secondary effect, such initiatives have the impact of promoting civil organizations, civic social actions and other projects of improvement in the living conditions of the Haitian population. As a consequence, the stabilization method adopted by the Brazilian Army has the potential to promote social empowerment.

1. Introduction

The United Nations commands the second largest contingent of troops in activity in the world, behind only the United States. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has on peace missions its principal instrument of direct action in international crises and conflicts. Along with Japan, Brazil is the country that more often has exercised an elective mandate in UNSC. In part, the history of the United Nations is intertwined with the conceptual and operational paradox involving peacekeeping operations (PKO).

However, the dilemma of budget support, the limitations of decision-making process, controlled by the permanent members of the Security Council, and the difficulties inherent in the use of troops and personnel from different countries are varied. Consequently, there is a great diversity regarding the preparation of troops and technical field personel. The dissent and consensus built around the PKOs are often discussed and even used in media campaigns that take turns to support or criticize the interventions carried out by the United Nations.

Since the ’90s, because of some circumstances and also depending on the interests of countries that control the decision-making process, the UN has tried to expand the scope and the modalities of its intervention. The growing involvement of the UN in internal dilemmas of its member countries has stimulated the construction of a peculiar legal lexicon that justifies and reinforces broad interventions in terms of domestic policy of Member States. These operations have a wide spectrum and, from the experiences of stabilization in Haiti, have integrated the so-called human terrain intervention strategies, using the population as a collaborator of this process which promotes social and political stability through social empowerment.

This process, as identified by Friis (2010), is similar to the doctrine of United Nations peacekeeping to counter insurgency doctrines adopted by NATO members. Although the counter insurgency doctrines identify the need for integrated solutions in terms of security and development nexus, these doctrines tend to be built on the basis of possible risks and threats to internal and international security that countries in crisis can offer. In this sense, such initiatives are essential for security, but make use of development as a vector in security solutions. This is the case revealed by the doctrine of hearts and minds.

The strategies arising from this type of guidance focus on the so-called “stabilization”. If, at a given moment in history prior to the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York, it was possible to discern a global development agenda independent of the issues associated with the maintenance of security in countries and regions ravaged by conflict (related, among other factors, to inequality and poverty), the stabilization actions came to compromise on the notions of development for the domain of security factors.

However, there is no consensual position that delimits the focus and scope of the stabilisation operations. After the terrorist shock of the early 21st century, new experiences began, this time within the collective security system of the UN, namely the “Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haiti” (MINUSTAH), one of the most notorious and well-known examples.

According to Barakat, Deely and Zyck (2010), stabilization is a process that combines the combat (including counterinsurgency and irregular warfare), the humanitarian aid for reconstruction and/or local development during or as a result of a violent conflict in order to prevent the continuation or recurrence of conflicts or destabilizing levels of non-conflictive violence. These authors put the stabilization agenda from a historical process where there is the assumption that the “assistance for stabilization” oriented by humanitarian or developmental assumptions can mitigate the insecurity, making local populations more likely to support external agents and local authorities with little confidence on the part of these populations.

In other words, stabilisation operations employ strategies that have the objective of winning people’s hearts and minds at both local and international levels. The Brazilian participation in MINUSTAH and the performance of Brazil’s mission in Haiti are in a wider strategic and operational context where the old peacekeeping operations gave way to the stabilization operations (STABO).

This is a change in the pattern of use of force in crises along the impoverished populations that has not been well debated according to our strategic qualities. Until then, the Brazilian participation in peacekeeping operations of the United Nations was limited to the transfer of troops, commanding officers, observers and police experts. The experience in Haiti allowed the Brazilian MINUSTAH troops to carry on actions with a view to win people’s hearts and minds. It was the first time that doctrines of counter insurgency have been adopted within the framework of peacekeeping operations of the United Nations.

The participation in MINUSTAH was the largest Brazilian military operation abroad since World War II. The potential results of such operations are to broaden the cooperation programmes, the development of political, economic and social sustainability, in addition to access to investment in social services. However, such stabilisation operations are not always well successful in their political and strategic goals, something that often denigrates the image of the actors involved and results in human and material losses to the local people.

With this context in mind, the article aims to analyze the Brazilian engagement in UN peacekeeping missions, notably the coping strategies of urban gangs and paramilitary groups. We ask whether the modus operandi of the Brazilian troops in Haiti was decisive for stabilization. We adopt the hypothesis that military action with humanitarian goals is a potential source of social empowerment and the use of military troops to achieve this goal can be effective for local pacification and strengthening of the process of socio-political stability.

According to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (in PETTIT 2013, p.9), “power analysis is a learning process that supports staff, partners and other actors to understand the forms of power that reinforce poverty and marginalization, and identify the positive kinds of power that can be mobilized to fight poverty and inequality. Learning about power can develop our sensitivities and competencies to respond in ways that will shift these relations and empower people to realize their human rights. Lack of power—lack of opportunities, resources and security—is one of the multiple dimensions of poverty. Unequal power relations may also foster social conflict, acute political violence and insecurity. Power is dynamic, so individuals and groups may experience it differently from one moment or place to another. In order to identify opportunities, obstacles and risks for effective poverty reduction, human rights, conflict prevention, peace building and sustainable development it is important to understand how power works, who it benefits and how it can be changed.”

In this sense, as an expression of social power, stabilization strategies may have positive consequences for combating poverty and inequality. For this purpose, coordination between the various governments and international organisations engaged in assistance under the UN Security Council attributions is necessary.

The Brazilian troops in Haiti were pioneers in adopting civic social actions with needy populations as an instrument of social empowerment under the United Nations peace missions.

The imposition of peace, even if authorized by the Security Council, is a controversial and an objectionable issue, since peace is an attribute and a conquest of society itself. Thus, military interventions that incorporate social actions with the scope of local development, although promoted as part of strategic military objectives, are concrete expressions of the effective use of the instruments of social power to promote the stabilisation of a society.

Section 1 of this article contains the methodological description of the empirical approach through the use of official documents of the Brazilian Army, known as final reports of deployment. In section 2 is described briefly the social critical scenario experienced by Haiti where there is evidence of dysfunctional links between the Haitian citizens and institutions and how it favored the emergence of gangs and delinquent behavior. Section 3 deals with the theoretical approach. It is based on the concept of anomie as a macrosociologic explanation of this problem. Section 4 contains the main findings and, lastly, the final considerations are addressed and the main analytical topics are discussed.

2. Methodological Aspects

As a main element of empirical approach, particularly with regard to the gang problem, we analyzed official reports of the Brazilian Army. The reports are called “Final Reports of Deployment of the Infantry Battalion of Peacekeeping Force” (FDRIBPKO). These reports describe the performance and results of the actions of the Brazilian military contingents that served in Haiti. It was examined during a 10-year period, between 1 June, 2004 and 4 December, 2014, for a total of 20 military contingents.

Through FDRIBPKO reports, all operations of the Brazilian Army in Haiti were registered. It is important to note that the final reports of the 1st, 3rd and 13th to 16th contingents have not been made available by the Ministry of Defense. That is, a total of 10 reports cannot be analyzed, which did not bring greater losses for the analysis since the other sixteen reports were obtained and analyzed fully. It should be remembered that after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, MINUSTAH had two infantry battalions for peacekeeping force under the Brazilian command, each with their respective final deployment report (FDRIBPKO)§.

In this sense, the reports from 1st to 6th contingents recorded heavy fighting and crashes, mostly in Haitian regions of Bel Air, Cité Militaire and Cité Soleil. The sense of maintenance and stabilization after the conquest of the land taken by the first military contingents is described by the report of the 7th contingent, which reinforces the idea as successful. However, after the January 2010 earthquake, new conditions entered the scenario, but the gang problem persisted. This led to the third operational phase, where the stabilization by means of a military force gave way to actions with preponderance of local forces.

Although an extensive description of all the FDRIBPKO reports is far from our purpose, this explanation reveals the most comprehensive description of the facts and the circumstances the Brazilian troops faced in Haiti. See table 1 for a short list describing the Brazilian UN military contingents.

Table 1 – List of Brazilian UN Military Contingents




2004 December - June 2005

General João Carlos Vilela Morgero

2005 December – June 2006

Colonel Luiz Augusto de Oliveira Santiago

2006 June - December 2006

Colonel Paulo Humberto Cesar de Oliveira

2006 December - June 2007

Not Available

2007 June – 2007 December

Colonel Julio Cesar de Sales

2007 December – June 2008

Colonel Luiz Guilherme Paul Cruz

2008 June - December 2008

Colonel Pedro Antônio Fioravante Silvestre Neto


December 2008 – June 2009

Colonel Fernando Sampaio Costa


July 2009 – January 2010

Colonel João Batista Carvalho Bernardes

12º - BRABATT 1

January 2010 - July 2010

Colonel Otavio Santana do Rêgo Barros

12º – BRABATT 2

January 2010 – July 2010

Colonel Luciano Puchalski

14º – BRABATT 2

February 2011 – September 2011

Colonel Henrique Martins Nolasco Sobrinho

17º – BRABATT 2

December 2012 - April 2013

Colonel Sinval dos Reis Leite


June 2013 - November 2013

Colonel Zenedir da Mota Fontoura


December 2013 – June 2014

Colonel Anísio David de Oliveira Junior


June 2014 - December 2014

Colonel Vinicius Ferreira Martinelli

Source: Our own elaboration from Brazilian Army reports.

Obs: BRABATT 1: Brazilian Infantry Battalion 1.

BRABATT 2: Brazilian Infantry Battalion 2.

According to Bardin (2011), these kind of reports constitute the analytical body, that is, they perform the focal set that should be analyzed. They are based on the rules of completeness (they include all field reports available), the homogeneity (they refer to the object of the present study) and relevance (the documents are suitable as a source of information).

Reading the reports showed that in all the documents there are subdivisions. They are related to staff sections (G-1), intelligence (G-2), operations (G-3), logistics (G-4), command and control (G-6), civil affairs (G-9) and social media (G-10). In general, the main analysis and the reporting of operations have been presented in the sections of intelligence, civil affairs and operations of the reports, but this did not exclude the examination of the report as a whole.

Therefore, taking as reference the coping strategies of the Brazilian troops against Haitian gangs, it was possible to delineate a frequency table with regard to how many times the reports mentioned the adverse forces (for example, gangs and ex-military).

The objective of the military forces in MINUSTAH involved the confrontation of adverse forces, but additionally we linked the many other terms that have appeared. So, the frequency of the terms related to adverse forces was compared with the frequency of appearances of the terms related to humanitarian support. The aim of this comparison was to measure the several actions executed by the Brazilian troops in Haiti. The humanitarian actions were labeled in the FDRIBPKO reports with general names like “civic-social actions”, “civil-military coordination”, “quick impact projects”, “humanitarian aid”, “humanitarian action”, among others.

Strictly, the following terms have been used as indicators of frequency: “adverse force”, “gang”, “ex-military”, “civil affairs”, “humanitarian”, “civic-social actions”, “cooperation/coordination civil-military”, “quick impact project”. In this context, the frequency with which the words “gang” and “ex-military” relativized to the terms that imply humanitarian support appeared in the FDRIBPKO reports and worked as an indicator of the modus operandi of the Brazilian troops and the security situation.

The more references related to adverse forces, the more reckless will be the security situation. The greater the emphasis on humanitarian actions, the greater the detachment of the original military function. However, on the other hand, the better the security situation and social empowerment, the better the positive results of military actions against adverse forces carried out by the Brazilian troops of MINUSTAH.

In short, the analysis of the final reports of military contingents helped us identify the Brazilian troops’ modus operandi that combined coping actions against gangs and humanitarian actions. Additionally, it was possible to verify the strategic positions of the Brazilian Army about the Haitian scenario and the operational tactics experienced by the troops of MINUSTAH in this context.

The Final Deployment Reports were obtained in digital image format. In order to facilitate textual search, the images were digitally converted into text that can be recognized by the textual search tool from Adobe Acrobat (PDF file). This procedure allowed the textual research of the previously selected frequency indicators in each of the reports. The Adobe Acrobat tool automatically generated the document containing the search results for each of the textual indicators. On these documents there is information on the terms, date and time of the search, and in addition to the indication of the frequency the term appears throughout the document. For example, the term ACISO, Portuguese acronym for civic social action, is quoted 12 times in the report of the 2nd Brazilian Contingent. The Adobe Acrobat file indicates pages and sentences in which each term appears throughout the document. The survey was conducted for each of the previously selected frequency indicators.

The PDF documents were used in the creation of two worksheets in MS Office Word containing the composite image of the frequency indicators for each of the employment reports. The first worksheet contains the indicator “mention of adverse forces”. The second worksheet contains the indicator “mention of humanitarian work support”. Each worksheet has four columns. The first and second columns contain the number that shows the sequence in which each of the indicators was searched in the deployment report. For example, in all the sheets indicators were searched in the following order: The First Worksheet – (1) Opposing Force; (2) Adverse Forces; (3) Gangs; (4) Chimeres; (5) Ex-military; and Second Worksheet – (6) Civil Affairs; (7) the CIV AF; (8) humanitarian; (9) humanitarians; (10) Social Civic Actions; (11) ACISO; (12) Civil-Military Cooperation/Coordination; (13) CIMIC; (14) Quick Impact projects; (15) QIP. The third column refers to the frequency, that is, the number of times the corresponding indicator was repeated. For example, the term “Opposing Force” was repeated six times in the deployment report of the 2nd Contingent.

Finally, the fourth column refers to the so-called contextual indicator, which is, “mention of adverse forces” or “mention of humanitarian work support”. This column contains the page and sentence or period in which each indicator appears in the text of the report. For example, the fourth column of the deployment report of the 2nd Contingent, in the row corresponding to the term (1) Adverse Force, reveals that on page 12 of the deployment report, the adverse force indicator was quoted in the following context: “coordinated operations involving large numbers and including House-to-House search are those that produce the largest number of prisoners. However, each new operation of this nature the number of detainees decreases by progressive knowledge of our employment form by the opposing force”. The content analysis of the reports allowed the relativization of the indicators related to the use of force, directly associated with “mention to adverse forces”, with the indicators associated with more subtle forms of the use of force, i.e. “mention of humanitarian work support”. Thus, for example, the indicator (1) Adverse Force could be compared and qualified with the indicator (6) Civil Affairs; and so on for each of the indicators.

3. Haitian Gangs, Anomie and Deviant Social Behavior

After the description of the methodological and analytical context of the study, we will discuss the problem of Haitian gangs from the concept of anomie. It is important to clarify that the concept of anomie was first employed by the sociologist Emile Durkheim in works published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some of which are “the Division of Social work” and “Suicide”. The sociologist Robert K. Merton in his book Social Structure and Anomie worked with the concept of anomie in other social and historical context.

Durkheim’s analysis is useful for understanding the structural and normative roots of the Haitian crisis. On the other hand, the studies of Merton help to understand the dysfunctional links between Haitian citizens and the country’s institutions, and how this social pathology favors the appearance of delinquent behaviour and gangs. Additionally, this discussion helps to identify the so called operating theater and justify the actions of the Brazilian troops. According to our hypothesis, it also highlights social empowerment as a consequence of Brazilian military stabilisation practices with humanitarian objectives. The studies of Athena Kolbe (2013), David Becker (2011), Robert Muggah (2010), Dziedzic and Perito (2008), help us to better understand the Haitian scenario of socio-economic problems as well as the environment of structural crisis.

The history of Haiti, as well as the origins of the structural crisis the country has been experiencing since the unsuccessful democratic transition, are described in two important references: The Prophet and Power by Alex Dupuy (2007) and Haiti: The Aftershocks of History by Laurent Dubois (2012). The socio-political experience, the dilemma of the economy and the cooperation and intervention of the international community are elements that are usually attributed to the historical process which, in general, resulted in the Haitian crisis. There are, however, few published references that have built databases about Haitian gangs.

“The quest for social stability is best undertaken by initiatives that encourage the society to support actions that aim at socio-political and economic development as a whole.”

The economic, political and social problems lead to an insufficient cultural integration and according to Merton (1938), this lack of cultural integration is connected with social upheavals and crime. The mere prospect of individual progress that drives life in societies virtually does not exist in Haitian society due to the lack of opportunities. As a result, there is social instability and pathological behavior on the part of many individuals and their representative bodies.

According to Merton (1938, p. 680-681), there is a correlation between crime and poverty. A consequence of poverty is the limitation of opportunities. Although it is not so simple to explain the causal link between poverty, social exclusion and armed violence in major urban centres in Haiti, as well as in Brazil, an association of these three factors (poverty, social exclusion and violence) is a vicious circle of hard solution. While every form of violence has local repercussions, there are also national factors of Haitian society that enable the use of the concept of anomie as a macrosociological explanation for the problem of the gangs.

Anomie is a social dysfunction that needs to be addressed through encouraging the establishment of social relations well ordered in the sense that, over time, could serve as a basis or help to build institutions that can rise and generally, for social progress. Therefore, the quest for social stability is best undertaken by initiatives that encourage the society to support actions that aim at socio-political and economic development as a whole.

The Haitian democratic transition process initiated in the late 1980s did not consolidate the State structures supporting the wishes and needs of the people. On the contrary, they used to ensure the rules of coexistence in society. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, various factions of the local elites have been competing for primacy in the management of the State without, however, ensuring that this structure provides legal support and social protection to the citizens.

At the time of the UN intervention in 2004, risk analysis institutes such as the International Crisis Group indicated that Haitian society was deeply polarized. The collapse of state authority and state institutions throughout the previous decade gave way to the emergence of violent groups based on social conflicts and political infighting. It also gave rise to gangs, drug dealers and kidnappers. Jointly, violence and the lack of commitment by political elites in organizing a honest structure to oppose chronic poverty, deprivation and social exclusion put the Haitian population at risk.

After a decade since the intervention of the MINUSTAH, despite an improvement in the security situation, the Haitian society challenges still remain: there is a need for social and economic revitalization, solution for the environmental problem, creation of jobs, social services and reliable electoral process. Haiti asks for institutions that provide equal opportunities for social rise and a simple guarantee of rights.

Durkheim (1999, 2000) argues that the absence of “normal” interactions between the institutions of the Haitian State and population over time does not allow the building up of coexistence rules, resulting in deregulation and the consequent state of anomie. Breaking this dysfunctional paradigm is a complex task that depends on the cooperation between the Government and Haitian institutions and the international community.

In this context, the anomie of the security area is a factor of prolonged consequence in the function of the collapse of political order. Without a leadership approved by the population, reform of the Haitian institutions continues to be postponed. According to Dziedzic and Perito (2008, p. 2), even before the January 2010 earthquake, the Haitian judicial system was ruined and with antiquated criminal structures. That is, it was unable to withstand the pressure of the gangs. In addition, the security force in the country, the Haitian National Police (HNP), presented a lack of people and equipment. It was the main focus of the population’s mistrust as a consequence of its legacy of corruption and involvement with the gang problem.

According to Dziedzic and Perito (2008, p. 2), despite their criminal character, the gangs are an inherently political phenomenon. Powerful elites have explored the gangs as instruments of political warfare, providing weapons, funding and protection against the detention. Ideologically linked to social demands of poor Haitians, the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and many of his supporters saw in the gangs the possibility of achieving an armed opposition to the pressure exerted by the ex-military (Haitian armed forces were demobilised throughout the 1990s) and by private security services funded by the economic elites.

According to Muggah (2010, p.-s446 s447), although there are some episodic bouts of violence and a little bit of controversial incidents assigned to MINUSTAH, the security situation shows sensitive improvement, particularly since 2007. Until 2007 there was considerable criticism to the so-called “occupation” of Haiti by MINUSTAH and western governments. This concern has increased after a series of actions carried out in the favelas of the capital searching for fugitives and drug dealers. However, the main emphasis of the peacekeeping operations carried out from 2004 has been the reduction of armed violence in the country. This objective has been pursued by conventional means such as investment in formal law enforcement mechanisms, including judicial, police and penal reform (Muggah, 2010, p.-s446 s447).

In addition to the initiatives to reform the security sector and provision of training and equipment to the Haitian police, the containment of violence has been carried out proactively at the level of communities and neighborhoods through local stabilization activities. These initiatives at the local level have become increasingly prominent in the wake of the so-called “pacification operations” carried out by MINUSTAH peacekeeping forces between 2004 and 2007 in large urban favelas, specifically in Bel Air, Cité Soleil and Martissant.

After a short period of time, it seems that interpersonal violence began to decline substantially, showing security dividends at the local level in terms of the decrease in the number of deaths, robbery and perception of insecurity, as reported by Muggah (2010, p. s447). The perception of improvement in the security situation persisted even after the January 2010 earthquake, as shown by research on the Haitian families in March 2010.

4. Main Results

Since the second deposition of former President Aristide in 2004, Haitian gangs have become poles for political disputes by applying strong pressure on the population based on unlawful means such as kidnapping, rape, arson, robbery and drug trafficking, among other crimes. The instability caused by gangs appears to be an eminently structural problem of Haitian society and as such with implications that do not refer exclusively to the security context, and also to the development of Haitian society.

On the one hand, the social practices of Haitian citizens were unable to erect regulatory standards that ensure peace and social justice because of the state of anomie which contributes to systemic instability of the Haitian Government. On the other, this absence of standards culminates with the establishment of dysfunctional institutions that do not provide instruments for social rise among Haitian citizens, thus contributing to the emergence of behavioral pathologies that challenge existing norms even if it is through delinquency. This perspective shows how the problem of gangs in Haitian society is preeminently structural in an anomalous form. In the absence of governmental bodies, these criminal groups raise public support by promoting means of social rise among their members and social services to underprivileged citizens.

Deployment reports of the Brazilian contingents show how the Brazilian troops sought to break the ties that bound the gangs to the dysfunctional society through actions that combined coercive, forceful means with activities of social and humanitarian impact. While coercive actions fought the terror exercised by the gangs, activities with a social impact promoted means for emergency and humanitarian assistance by MINUSTAH and the Haitian State.

The UN operational doctrine separates clearly the military actions from those being carried out by civilian components, which include humanitarian actions. However, Brazilian counter-strategies added humanitarian and welfare functions to the military actions carried out by the troops. The relevance of the action of the Brazilian troops to the positive results of peacemaking in Haiti can be observed from the analysis of the deployment reports.

The first Brazilian contingent had been prepared to act on the basis of Chapter VI of the UN Charter. However, the worsened security situation, as reported by the UN Secretary General, demanded the review of the modus operandi of the Brazilian Contingent which started operating based on the Chapter VII doctrine**.

There is no way to determine with accuracy if the operational posture of the troops of MINUSTAH, including Brazilian contingents, relates to the escalation of the situation on the ground, but it is important to note that the mission task force only reached the desired level and stipulated force after one year of mobilization. From the beginning the Brazilian troops needed to adapt their modus operandi to fit the area of responsibility.

According to the General Augusto Heleno, first Commander of the MINUSTAH, the most important contribution from the Brazilian military command to the United Nations peacekeeping doctrine, especially regarding the Chapter VII deployment, was the humanitarian action carried out by the military. These actions have contributed to raising the confidence and solidarity actions by the local population. In other words, they resulted in social empowerment. Despite the fact that these assignments are not traditional tasks of the military, such instruments, considering the absence or impossibility of other instruments operating in crisis situations, are an efficient way to achieve a balance between the peace mission and the local population††.

The FDRIBPKO showed that this posture on the part of Brazilian troops followed the operational guidance of the Commander of the military force (force commander) and humanitarian actions carried out by the Brazilian contingent were performed even with the lack of support of MINUSTAH’s civilian command. The employment of troops took place simultaneously in coping with humanitarian work.

According to the Commander of the Brazilian Battalion, the Brazilian experience in humanitarian aid activities working together with military operations was a differentiating factor of the Brazilian contingents. This fact enabled the Brazilians to be better welcomed by the Haitian population (Ministry of Defense, Final Report of Deployment, 4th Contingent, 2006, p. 28).

The Brazilian approach to the Haitian case may involve the “Brazilian way” of using the Civil-Military Coordination (CIMIC). The Brazilian way presents a convergence of functions typically performed by civilians exerted by the military, in addition to the strategic design of the mission that includes the protection of civilians and the military objective to raise public support to military operations. As a result, there is a trend in the improvement of the level of protection of the mission, both the civilian and military components and the population itself.

The practice of civic-social action and other humanitarian support work by the Brazilian troops, in the context of UN-CIMIC, moves from the individual application with its own resources to join the broad spectrum of mission. This process does face resistance from military actors, conditioned to perform tasks exclusively military, as well as from the civilian components that act on peace missions which tend to safeguard their roles that in principle would not be associated with strategic objectives. Soon, the initiatives of the Brazilian Battalion in coordinating and seeking support for their actions with the civilian MINUSTAH offices are revealing of the Brazilian practice.

As a result of the safety level reached, the Brazilian troops intensified the CIMIC actions to meet the strategy to “win hearts and minds” of the population in order to obtain the trust and support of the local leaders who were committed to the socioeconomic development of the Haitians (Ministry of Defense, Final Deployment Report, 6th Contingent, 2007, p. 24). The operational success of the Brazilian troops in Haiti can also be attributed to the work of the section of psychological operations whose activities covered both the internal public as well as the Haitian population in the area of operations.

The Brazilian strategies, besides ensuring the improvement of security, assisted in the construction of an international image of the country as “peacekeeper”. According to Colonel José Ricardo Vendramin Nunes (2015, p. 6), former Commander of the Center of Joint Peacekeeping Operations of Brazil (CCOPAB), Brazil engaged decisively in Haiti. From the beginning, the country did not just make the biggest military contribution and assume the responsibilities of leadership of the military component. Brazil proposed development projects, led political efforts, emphasized the humanitarian appeal for donations, made diplomatic initiatives by the UN and acted firmly in the non-permanent membership of the UNSC. The reputation of Brazilian solidarity and commitment to international peace was reinforced with justice for more than ten years of MINUSTAH.

It is possible to deduce from the content analysis of the final reports that the forces of MINUSTAH, including Brazilian military contingents, have been successful in ensuring stability in Haiti, despite the critical periods of early mobilization, especially between 2004 and 2007. Thus, analysis of such reports revealed two dynamic achievements in terms of deployment of the Brazilian troops in Haiti. On the one hand, the doctrines of pacification and of law and order guarantee of the Brazilian Army adopted by the Brazilian Contingents have proved to be effective for deployment in UN peace missions, if there were symmetry between the operating environment and the reality to which the troops were prepared. In the absence of a doctrine for action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the recourse to domestic doctrine (law and order guarantee), even in the face of the similarities and differences of the Haitian scenario compared to the Brazilian reality, proved to be a wise decision.

On the other hand, the participation in MINUSTAH allowed Brazilian law and order techniques to be improved through the work of the Center of Joint Peacekeeping Operations of Brazil (CCOPAB). This evolution is felt in the way each Final Deployment Report describes the various operational situations, mainly regarding the approach to civil affairs and CIMIC activities. The focus on the analysis of the Brazilian Final Deployment Reports is relevant because the United Nations Secretary General’s Reports on Haiti do not state how decisive the Brazilian practices were for the success of the mission or the relevance of humanitarian actions conducted by military personnel.

One can see, in this context, even for the strategic design and doctrine of the UN troops in Haiti to prevail, in practice, the Brazilian troops have developed operations on the basis of a self modus operandi with positive results to the conjunction of the mission. This is not to say that the Brazilian contingent of MINUSTAH does not respond to chains of command. It only shows that operations within the framework of the UN peace missions are sensitive to cultural and doctrinal trends of troop-contributing countries.

In the case of Brazil, in addition to the force commander of MINUSTAH, a purposeful stance of Brazilian troops in operational terms is due, among other factors, the country commanded the largest mobilized military contingent in Haiti and Brazilian battalions and is responsible for the most sensitive areas of the Haitian capital.

Content analysis of the Final Reports of Deployment showed that references to counter adverse forces were decreasing over time because of the sensitive improvement of security environment on the ground. In addition, content analysis showed a sharp increase in references to support humanitarian work carried out by the Brazilian troops, even before the January 2010 earthquake, which confirmed the improvement of the security situation.

Theoretically, the actions concerning humanitarian support may represent a deviation from the original military function of the troops. However, in the case of the Brazilian troops, military objectives to be achieved with humanitarian practices show that there is no deviation from the original military function, but rather the systematic deployment of troops with a view to achieving positive results in terms of the so-called “human terrain” (wininng of hearts and minds) and the search for social re-empowerment. The use of psychological operations, in this context, is a strong indicator that the use of force by the Brazilian troops under MINUSTAH incorporates subtle elements from the motivational field with a view to promoting a change of attitude in the population regarding gangs and for UN forces to be accepted by the Haitian society.

When the Final Reports of Deployment mention winning hearts and minds as a strategy to drum up support for the Haitian population at activities of Brazilian troops, it can be observed how the contingents have worked for changes in attitudes between conflicting parts. The development of psychological operations was a natural consequence of analysis of the Haitian scene made by Brazilian commanders and an effective strategy to break the power exercised by the gangs and to the promotion of MINUSTAH and the Haitian State institutions.

In the absence of a specific doctrine for action under Chapter VII of the UN, in missions that involve stabilization, the Brazilian troops proposed and made sure that humanitarian actions were performed by the military, backed by the Brazilian doctrine’s operational stance of ensuring law and order and peace.

Based on the doctrine of ensuring law and order, the strategy of the “focal strengths points” was applied, which was key to resuming control from regions within the Haitian slums. In addition, the doctrine of pacification, which serves as the basis for winning hearts and minds, is crucial to the success of the operations, among other things, to guarantee a secure environment, the development of essential services and infrastructure, right attitude and good communication between the members of the military component and the locals where actions are triggered.

This is the first Brazilian experience of use of force at the tactical level in a UN stabilization mission governed mostly by Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The Brazilian operation was not restricted to the transfer of troops and the force commander, but it comprised of a broad cooperation in various economic and social sectors, such as agriculture, education and health.

Thus, the approach adopted by the Brazilian troops about the chronic instability scenario in Haiti introduced features that make Brazil a provider of security and development solutions to crises in fragile States with similar characteristics as in Haiti. It is appropriate to point out that the Brazilian practices to counter gangs in Haiti were successful in their operational objectives and contributed to the fact that for the first time in the United Nations’ history one single country has led the military component of a peacekeeping mission for more than 10 years.

5. Concluding Remarks

This article has analyzed the counter strategies of Haitian gangs by the Brazilian contingents of MINUSTAH. With this in mind, we analysed the problem of gangs in Haitian society based on the concept of anomie and the operational experience of the Brazilian troops of MINUSTAH. It was possible to deduce from the analysis of the military reports (FDRIBPKO report) that the forces of MINUSTAH, including Brazilian military contingents, have been successful in ensuring stability in Haiti. In this context, the analysis of the FDRIBPKO report of the 20 contingent reveals that most of the activities carried out by the Brazilian troops in Haiti had a humanitarian focus, although in their original conception the humanitarian troops were governed by strategic military objectives.

The analysis of the Final Reports of Deployment (FDRIBPKO) revealed the consolidation of two dynamics of actions in terms of the Brazilian troops in Haiti. On the one hand, the doctrines of pacification and guarantee of law and order adopted by the first Brazilian contingents, have proved to be effective for UN peace missions, if they observe the conformity between the operating environment and reality to which the troops were prepared.

In the absence of a doctrine for actions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the expedient to domestic military doctrine (that is, the use of foundation and protocols for self-expertise), even in the face of the similarities and differences of the Haitian scenario compared to the Brazilian reality, proved to be a wise decision. On the other hand, there was an improvement of the Brazilian military techniques. These techniques, operated by the Brazilian Joint Center of Peacekeeping Operations, came to suit the doctrinal reality of United Nations in terms of its peace mission. This evolution is shown in the way each final report of deployment described the various operational situations, mainly regarding the approach to civil affairs and civil-military coordination activities.

Finally, it is important to add that general improvement in the security perception can be reflected in a renewed acceptance of the security forces of the State by the Haitian people. However, should anomie persist, the trend is that Haitian society creates dysfunctional links with its international partners becoming dependent on the actions of MINUSTAH in promoting social order at each electoral period. The instability of the electoral process demands continued attention. However, Brazilian army officers who worked on MINUSTAH until 2014 declared “in informal conversations” that now is the time for withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces from Haiti.

Such a point of view finds resonance in the policy of the United Nations for Haiti. Since October 2012 the UN has promoted the reduction of the military contingent of MINUSTAH. Between October 2012 and October 2013 the military personnel was reduced from 6,270 to 5,021 men and women agents. On 18th March, 2015, the UNSC authorized further reduction of military personnel to 2,370 agents from June 2015.

In general, the process of reduction of the United Nations’ military personnel in Haiti shows that the mission as a whole has been successful in ensuring a secure and stable environment and in promoting the strengthening of the institutions in the Haitian State. The activities of the Brazilian troops under MINUSTAH encouraged changes of attitudes in the population with respect to gangs and gave support to the strengthening of the Haitian institutions.

In summary, the strategies developed by the Brazilian military in Haiti contributed to the success of the MINUSTAH. The actions of the Brazilian troops in Haiti were crucial for social stabilization. The Brazilian way of applying military action with humanitarian goals proved to be a way of seeking international help with country specific characteristics. As a secondary effect, this effort has enabled social empowerment through civil-military actions.

Therefore, the content analysis of the Final Deployment Reports of MINUSTAH’s Brazilian Contingents was instrumental in analyzing the actions undertaken by the troops. The analytical structure created for review of these reports, using the comparison between thematic indices in conjunction with their respective indicators, proved to be an effective tool. It allowed the extraction of information from the documents appropriated to the elucidation of the problem in the Haitian society.

Future studies could examine the implications of the use of psychological operations in the context of United Nations’s peace mission to win the support of local populations. This topic is little explored by the Academy. Certainly, the so-called civil-military coordination (CIMIC) based on Brazilian method applied in Haiti should be better discussed. Perhaps, in the context of the MINUSTAH, an alternative modus operandi has been proposed. This process of adaptation between the Brazilian doctrine and the doctrine of the United Nations is a topic that deserves to be discussed.

The Brazilian military involvement with MINUSTAH marks an evolution in Brazilian approach in relation to peacekeeping missions. However, the faith in the traditional moderate use of force, based on the doctrines of domestic work, by the Brazilian troops demonstrated a high degree of impartiality and reluctance to resort to violence in Haiti. Something that analysts like Robert Muggah (2015, p. 14) call the “Brazilian way of peacekeeping”.


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*All contact must be addressed to the second author

The Security Council consists of 15 members. Five of them are permanent members with veto power (the United States, France, Britain, Russia and the People’s Republic of China). The other 10 members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year mandates. Brazil participated as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the biennia: 1946-1947, 1951-1952, 1954-1955, 1963-1964, 1967-1968, 1988-1989, 1993-1994, 1998-1999, 2004-2005, 2010-2011.

These reports are confidential and have restricted circulation. Their access was guaranteed by deference of the high command of the Brazilian Army after a year and half of negotiations with military organisations: Ministry of Defense, the Army High Command and Command of Grounded Operations.

§ See table 1 for a list of analysed FDRIBPKO reports.

In the report of 18 November 2004 (S/2004/908), Kofi Annan stated that the security situation deteriorated particularly in Port-au-Prince (p. 2). The main threat came from armed groups that challenged and confronted the Transitional Government. The violence was present at the action of ex-military who tried to assume positions of the Haitian National Police (HNP) and the demonstrations in support of former President Aristide, with the construction of barricades and shootings in Port-au-Prince, mostly in the favelas of Bel Air and Cité Soleil, considered strongholds of the supporters of the former President.

** The Chapter VII of the UN Charter is about the adoption of coercive measures for peace enforcement subject to the approval of the Security Council

†† General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira in a lecture entitled “Peace operation in Haiti”, Secretariat of Strategic Affairs (SAE), the Cabinet Institutional Security (GSI) of the Presidency of the Republic (PR), held on 14 October 2005, at the Presidential Palace, Brazil.

About the Author(s)

Juliana Sandi Pinheiro
Associate Researcher, University of Brasilia, Brazil
Danielle Sandi Pinheiro
Associate Professor, Department of Administration, University of Brasilia, Brazil; Junior Fellow, World Academy of Art and Science