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5/9/04 - A CHANCE FOR HAITI - 2004-05-11

Stability is returning to Haiti under the interim government of President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. An electoral council has been created and elections are planned for 2005.

Prime Minister Latortue was in Washington, D-C, where he met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mr. Powell says Haiti has avoided a bloodbath, but “is in great need of financial support”:

“We’re looking at all the accounts that are available to see what we might be able to transfer into support for Haiti. We’re looking at our counter-narcotics accounts.... And of course, once we have a better understanding of the overall need, we’ll put it into a normal budgeting process. But we are looking hard, and looking at other departments as well for what they are able to do.”

Interim Prime Minister Latortue has pledged to reform Haiti’s government, to improve the investment climate, to restore independence and professional leadership to the Haitian National Police, and to fight drug-trafficking. Such actions are needed if Haiti is to recover. The U.S. is committed to helping Haiti eliminate the corruption that has contributed to widespread poverty. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About eighty-percent of the population lives in poverty. Nearly seventy-percent of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, which consists mainly of small-scale subsistence farming. On April 30th, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1542 to send peacekeepers to Haiti. The U-N will take over on June 1st from a three-thousand-eight-hundred member multinational force from the U.S., Canada, Chile, and France.

The U.S. and other countries are committed to helping Haiti, and the U-N Security Council resolution is an important step in the right direction. Financial assistance is important as well. But whether a democratic Haiti emerges is ultimately up to the Haitian people and their new leaders.