Chilean President Michelle Bachelet ended a visit to Haiti Monday by reaffirming her South American nation’s commitment to the country and telling her troops in the United Nations peacekeeping mission that it’s time to wrap up.
Bachelet is the first foreign head of state to visit the country since Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was sworn in on Feb. 7 as his nation’s new president. She began the visit by meeting with Moïse at the National Palace before heading north to Cap-Haitien to meet her troops. Chile has about 400 troops in Haiti taking part in the U.N. stabilization mission.
Bachelet’s trip to Haiti came ahead of an April 11 debate by the U. N. Security Council in New York on the fate of its stabilization mission in Haiti and the recommendation by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that the mission close by Oct. 15.
Guterres is calling for “a staggered but complete withdrawal” of the 2,370 blue-helmet soldiers after 13 years in Haiti. Some U.N. police officers would remain to help develop the Haiti National Police. Prior to Bachelet’s arrival in Haiti, Chile had already announced the withdrawal of its military peacekeepers. The country has now said the withdrawal will begin on April 15.
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“More than 12,000 Chilean soldiers have contributed to peace in Haiti,” she tweeted.
Chile’s embassy in Haiti said the purpose of Bachelet’s visit was two-fold: the withdrawal of peacekeepers, and the reinforcement of the South American nation’s commitment to Haiti’s development.
Bachelet renewed that commitment while attending the inauguration of a school, República de Chile, in Port-au-Prince late Monday afternoon. The school was built by Chile after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. The school, she said, “symbolizes the Chile-Haiti bond, a link that goes beyond international cooperation.”
Also high on Bachelet’s to-do list before flying to Switzerland late Monday was the signing of an agreement with Haiti in which Chile will recognize Haiti-issued high school degrees.
Chile is home to about 40,000 Haitians, many of whom have arrived from Haiti and Brazil in the last seven years. The degree recognition will allow Haitians to attend Chilean universities.