By Joseph Guyler Delva and Pascal Fletcher
PORT-AU-PRINCE/MIAMI (Reuters) – No one disputes that Haiti needs battalions of builders, developers and investors to help it rise from the ruins of last year’s earthquake.
But does it need a gun-toting Haitian army?
With debris from the catastrophe still clogging Haiti’s capital and nearby towns, a plan by President Michel Martelly to bring back to life an armed forces disbanded 16 years ago is triggering potentially divisive political and social tremors.
Critics at home and abroad question the need to revive an entity associated with corruption, coups, abuse and killings in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest and most volatile state.
Major western donors, which fund a U.N. peacekeeping force of more than 12,000 in Haiti and are also shouldering the Caribbean nation’s reconstruction burden after the 2010 earthquake, are balking at the idea of having to finance and train a reconstituted army.
“Given the history of Haiti’s military, their existence alone could be considered a threat to security,” Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research think tank, told Reuters.
“A brigade of construction workers would do far more good,” the Miami Herald said in an editorial this week, reflecting a chorus of foreign opposition to Martelly’s army plan.