MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Uruguay's president has apologized to the leader and people of Haiti for alleged sex abuse by some of his country's peacekeepers, saying he feels personally ashamed and promising maximum penalties for those responsible.
Jose Mujica sent a personally signed letter late Tuesday to Haitian President Michel Martelly, asking for forgiveness from him and the "beloved and heroic people of Haiti" for what he described as "the criminal and embarrassing conduct of a few" Uruguayans.
Mujica wrote that he agrees with Martelly, who described the alleged sex abuse of an 18-year-old man by Uruguayan peacekeepers inside their base in Port-Salut, Haiti, as an affront to "the national conscience of the Haitian people."
Mujica said he personally feels ashamed for his countrymen and offered his apology on behalf of Uruguay's armed forces. He also promised a complete investigation and said those responsible will receive the maximum penalties.
The letter also carries the signature of Uruguay's defense minister, Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro.
Aides told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the minister had forbidden them to release more information after a spokesman described the episode as a "bad joke."
The scandal arose last week after an Uruguayan peacekeeper shared his cell phone with some young Haitians who discovered a video showing the 18-year-old man apparently being abused inside the base in June. The video shows him repeatedly saying "no problem" as the sailors shout at him and hold him face-down on a mattress while a peacekeeper simulates a sex act between his legs and slaps him.
In Uruguay's capital on Thursday, foreign and defense ministers from Latin American countries that have more than 12,000 peacekeepers in Haiti will meet to consider the case and decide the future of the U.N. mission. Brazil has made public its wish to reduce its forces ahead of an eventual withdrawal.