Former Ecuadorian Diplomat to head UN Political Office in Haiti
A former diplomat from Ecuador will soon head the U.N. political office in Haiti
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
UPDATED MARCH 02, 2023
A former tourism and foreign affairs minister of Ecuador has been tapped to head the United Nations’ political mission in Haiti. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres announced that María Isabel Salvador will serve as his special representative for Haiti and the head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, known as BINUH, its French acronym. She will replace Helen Meagher La Lime, a former U.S. ambassador to Angola. La Lime, who has been in Haiti since 2018, oversaw the final days of the closure of the 15-year U.N. peacekeeping mission.
In 2019 she became head of the new political mission overseeing human rights and police advisers. In her role, she was expected to work on issues concerning elections, which had been delayed, and the improvement of the Haiti National Police’s record on human rights and compliance with international obligations. The U.N. was also charged with helping the force grow in strength in the face of an expanding gang problem. As part of the response, La Lime backed a disarmament effort, which has not been successful, and supported the push for a new constitution. Under her tenure the U.N. investigated the gang massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline that led the Trump administration in December 2020 to sanction gang leader Jimmy “Babercue” Cherizier and two officials of the Jovenel Moïse administration, Fednel Monchery and Joseph Pierre Richard Duplan.
La Lime also recently played a role in helping the current interim government reach a Dec. 21, 2022, political accord that establishes a High Transitional Council to lay out a road map for new elections. La Lime’s tenure, however, has been difficult, with the collapse of the Parliament, the encroachment of kidnapping gangs and growing criticism of Haitian President Moïse prior to his July 7, 2021, assassination. Critics accused her of supporting the president and his controversial push to create a new constitution as he ruled by decree, and they questioned the independence of the U.N. political mission. At times, they accused her of supporting policies and even turned protests against her, once chanting she didn’t know how to count when the United Nations estimated there were fewer protesters marching against Moïse than the crowd had claimed. Despite the challenges, Guterres said he is grateful for La Lime’s dedicated service and steadfast commitment to the work of the United Nations in Haiti.
Salvador inherits a difficult role. She is going to Haiti at a time members of the national police are defecting, the judiciary is almost nonexistent, the healthcare system is collapsing and kidnapping gangs are increasingly terrorizing the population. Meanwhile the U.N., along with the United States, have been unable to persuade foreign governments to support the interim Haitian government’s request for a rapid deployment of foreign forces. The U.N. said Salvador has more than 25 years of experience in managerial, advisory, political and diplomatic functions. She has served as president of the Governing Council of the Galapagos, permanent representative of Ecuador to the Organization of American States, member of the Andean Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration and Minister of Tourism of Ecuador. She also has management experience in the private sector, having served as the general manager and legal representative of Air France in Ecuador.
She is currently director of external relations at the University of the Americas in Ecuador, a post she has held since 2015. Salvador holds a master’s degree in business administration from Andrés Bello University in Chile and a bachelor’s degree in French Language and Civilization from the University of Geneva in Switzerland. She is completing a law degree in Human and Nature Rights at the University of the Americas in Ecuador. She is fluent in English and French, in addition to her native Spanish.
Jacqueline Charles has reported on Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for over a decade. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she was awarded a 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize — the most prestigious award for coverage of the America