PORT-AU-PRINCE - On an empty road in Cite Militaire, an industrial zone across from the slums of Cite Soleil, a group of women are gathered around a single white sack of U.S. rice. The rice was handed out Monday morning at a food distribution by the Christian relief group World Vision.
According to witnesses, during the distribution U.N. peacekeeping troops sprayed tear gas on the crowd.
"Haitians know that's the way they act with us. They treat us like animals," said Lourette Elris, as she divided the rice amongst the women. "They gave us the food, we were on our way home, then the troops threw tear gas at us. We finished receiving the food, we weren't disorderly. "
Some 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers, known by the acronym MINUSTAH, have occupied Haiti since 2004, including 7,000 soldiers of which the majority are Brazilian. The mission has been dogged by accusations of human rights violations.
"It's time to begin thinking about changing the nature of MINUSTAH's mission," Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim told the Brazilian newspaper O Estado after the January earthquake struck Haiti.
"MINUSTAH's mandate is to maintain the peace, that is, security, but the U.N. needs to realise that its mission is no longer solely to strengthen security but also to build the infrastructure," he said.
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