Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 7 News List

UN mission head in Haiti found dead

GUNSHOT WOUND The Brazilian commander of UN forces in Haiti appears to have shot himself, while continued strife caused the postponement of elections

AFP , PORT-AU-PRINCE

An ambulance carrying the body of Brazilian Army General Urano Teixeira da Mata Bacellar, who was in command of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti, leaves the Hotel Montana in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Saturday.

PHOTO: EPA

The Brazilian commander of the UN mission in Haiti has been found dead in an apparent suicide, according to the mission, which is struggling to bring security to the troubled Caribbean nation.

General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar "was found dead in his room from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," on Saturday, according to a report from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

A military source with the mission said that the general had shot himself through the mouth.

Chilean General Eduardo Aldunate Herman took over as interim military commander of MINUSTAH, just hours after Da Matta Bacellar was found dead, according to Chile's defense ministry.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's spokesman said Annan was "shocked and saddened" to learn of the general's death.

"A full investigation is under way," the spokesman said in a statement, noting that Da Matta Bacellar had served his country with "honor and distinction."

The UN mission said in a statement that the general's "untimely death and sacrifice in the cause of peace will not weaken the resolve of MINUSTAH and the international community to ensure the will of the Haitian people prevails and Haiti joins the democratic community of nations."

Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva expressed his "profound grief" at Da Matta Bacellar's death.

Lula added in a statement that Brazil "is determined to continue supporting Haiti in building peace and in political normalization."

With the 1,213 Brazilian troops the largest contingent of the 7,500 total MINUSTAH military personnel, Lula expressed his "full confidence in the development work of the Brazilian troops in Haiti."

The UN commander's death comes as UN forces and Haitian authorities struggle to maintain order amid high levels of unrest and numerous kidnappings in the capital.

In recent days political parties have accused UN peacekeepers of "passivity and tolerance" as armed groups run amok.

Violence has plagued the impoverished Caribbean nation since former president Jean Bertrand Aristide fled on Feb. 29, 2004 as rebels closed in on the capital.

The first presidential elections since Aristide's regime fell were supposed to be held months ago but have been repeatedly postponed, partly due to the precarious security conditions.

Most recently scheduled for Jan. 8, the vote has been delayed for a fourth time, with government preparations mired in disarray.

Many of the 3.5 million registered voters have yet to receive their electoral identification cards, while officials have not determined the location of the 800 voting offices and the make-up of electoral observer teams.

On Friday, the UN Security Council called on Haiti's interim government to hold the presidential polls no later than Feb. 7. The Organization of American States, based in Washington, also urged elections by Feb. 7.

Late on Saturday, the provisional government announced that the first round of Haiti's presidential and parliamentary elections had indeed been rescheduled for Feb. 7. Under the new schedule, the first round of polls will take place on that date and the second round on Feb. 15.

A total of 34 candidates are running for president, and some 1,300 are competing for 130 seats in the legislature. The new president will take office on March 29.

Da Matta Bacellar, 58, had served in Brazil's armed forces for 39 years before he was appointed as commander of the UN force in Haiti. He assumed his post on Aug. 31. He was married and had two children.

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