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Brazil Spearheading U.N. Peacekeeping Efforts in Haiti

January 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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U.N. Undersecretary-General Alain Le Roy discusses the 9,000-person U.N. force in Haiti, which is being led by Brazilian soldiers.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The biggest security force in Port-au-Prince is the United Nations peacekeeping force, with Brazilians in the lead.

A few moments ago, I talked with Alain Le Roy, the U.N. secretary-general for peacekeeping.

Mr. Undersecretary-General, thank you very much for talking with us.

First of all, tell us how many peacekeeping troops are in Haiti with the United Nations. And what is their mission now?

ALAIN LE ROY: We have 7,000 troops and police in Haiti, among them, 3,000 just in Port-au-Prince.

Their main mission for the time being is first to patrol in the street to ensure security. Of course, we have a lot of engineers. They are moving the rubble. They are securing many important places in Port-au-Prince. And, one more time, they are patrolling. Their main task is to assure security and, of course, to help the Haitian people remove the rubble in all the places it can.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And are they getting that job done? We know many of the streets are not passable. We know there are still bodies, corpses in the streets. Talk — tell us about some of the challenges facing these troops.

ALAIN LE ROY: Yes.

We have to, of course, clean the main roads to ensure that the heavy equipment can reach the most important places. That has been done. But, of course, there are still many streets where thousands of bodies are lying. So, we have — of course, that is our task, to remove the bodies. We are also digging holes to ensure bodies can be buried.

But, of course, there are a huge number of bodies lying in the streets, so it takes some time, but we will continue that work. And, again, the main streets have been cleared to ensure that equipment can reach the most important places.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are the peacekeeping troops involved in actual — in search-and-rescue? We have seen so many places in Port-au-Prince where people are not able to get to their loved ones because of just the heavy, heavy structures still on top of them.

ALAIN LE ROY: Yes. Yes, we have engineers who are participating a whole lot in the search-and-rescue operation from the first hours of the earthquake, immediately after the earthquake.

But it’s clear that many streets in Port-au-Prince are very small. And, as you say, there are still many bodies. So, they — hour by hour, we are cleaning more and more streets to ensure that the equipment can reach the right places.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Under-Secretary, we — Under-Secretary General, we have also — I mean, various people have said that they don’t really think anyone is in charge, that the Haitian government has been so undermined by what happened that things are being done in an ad hoc way.

What is your understanding of that?

ALAIN LE ROY: Of course, we are still in the first 48 hours next — two or three days after the earthquake. So, it is still a transition phase. And it is clear that the Haitian authorities have been hit a lot.

But, clearly, they are still in charge. We are assisting them. And, of course, we are charged to coordinate the humanitarian activities. And we are working, of course, with all the major countries.

And any countries who are providing help in Haiti, we have the task to coordinate. Of course, as you know, lots of search-and-rescue teams have already arrived and are working. They are not on every spot, because — so thousands of buildings have been destroyed, but a number of them are being searched while we speak.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your understanding of the law and order situation? There has been — there have been reports of looting, other incidents, but there have also been people who have said there’s not much of that going on. What is your sense of it?

ALAIN LE ROY: Yes, there have been some incidents where people were looting or fighting for food. That is very clear. They are desperate. They have been three days now without any — some of them without any food or any kind of assistance.

So, it’s clear that are there incidents. But, globally, the situation remains still for the time being under control. And, again, the U.N. operation has the task to ensure security inside Port-au-Prince. Of course, we have, too, to make sure that the situation doesn’t unravel.

But, for that, we need very much to ensure that the assistance is coming as quickly as possible, so that the people who are dying for food, assistance, medicine get them as soon as possible. We clearly need medicine, water, food, shelter as soon as possible, because the people are desperate to get them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: From what you know, what is the outlook, do you think, for the next few days? Are things getting better by the day? I mean how do you see things unfolding in the next 24, 48 — three or four days?

ALAIN LE ROY: It is obvious that assistance is coming by lots of U.N. agencies, lots of countries. So, the situation of course is improving.

But, at the same time, we know that we will discover more and more people under the rubble. That is for sure. The situation is improving, improving at the airport, improving in the street. But, of course, as far as we speak, for the timing, we have only 7,000 bodies who have buried. And, of course, there must be thousands more, so still a lot to be done.

But I think the coordination is more and more in place. We have reinforced our mission. You know, our mission — the mission has been decapitated. We have a sent a new head of mission. And we are, by any hour, reinforcing our mission by more staff, more experts, and of course with the full assistance of many donor countries.

I think the situation is improving. But, of course, when you are walking the streets of Port-au-Prince, you will see the chaos, because you see all the bodies in the street.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know it is a monumental task.

United Nations Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy, thank you very much.

ALAIN LE ROY: Thank you very much. See you.