Posted on July 20, 2007

Say What??
“This is a short visit, a doctor’s visit,” Preval said of Harper’s one-day tour. “You can be sure your patient is no sicker, but remains fragile. Our country is recuperating, but is still weak, very weak.”

So Harper is going to doctor Cite Soleil? Since his country was an integral part of the coup d’etat that led to the kidnapping and overthrow of President Aristide, rendering Haitian soverignty null and void, I’d say he’s more inclined to finish off the patient. What was Preval thinking? As for Harper’s comments in Cite Soleil, — classic, inappropriate, white guy mumbo-jumbo when in the midst of an overwhelming number of poor, black people.

Ay, Dios Mio!

Harper shows Canadian aid efforts in heart of Haitian slum
Canadian Press Article online since July 20th 2007, 0:00

Prime Minister Stephen Harper chats with women waiting to have their children vacinated while visiting a hospital in the notorious Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday. (CP/Ryan Remiorz)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CP) – Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the first foreign leader in many years to visit the infamous Cite Soleil slum at the heart of the Haitian capital Friday – a symbolic gesture to demonstrate that the hemisphere’s poorest and possibly most dangerous neighbourhood has improved along with the rest of the country.
But that image was far from clear. The prime minister’s motorcade was led by an army jeep with three heavily armed UN troops, one pointing a mounted machine-gun directly at the throng of people lining the rutted roadway.
“I think all of us as fellow human beings, people who have our own families, only begin to understand the true difficulties and challenges that so many people face on a day-to-day basis, it is extraordinary,” Harper said after seeing the troubled area.
“And I think Canadians should be very proud that they are offering to help, that our help is making a difference in terms in safety of people’s lives, in terms of giving them some hope and some opportunity.”
Harper’s assessment was backed by Haitian president Rene Preval, who said the Canadian leader’s visit would have been ill-advised only six months ago, when gangs of thugs menaced the locals and anyone who ventured into the neighbourhood of dirt streets, open sewers and tin-roofed shacks.
Preval noted that Canada’s aid to his country is its second largest, next to Afghanistan, with commitments of about $100 million a year until 2011 – a large number considering Haiti’s population of 8.5 million.
And yet, it is far from enough.
“This is a short visit, a doctor’s visit,” Preval said of Harper’s one-day tour. “You can be sure your patient is no sicker, but remains fragile. Our country is recuperating, but is still weak, very weak.”
Harper’s visit to Haiti, the last in a four-country tour of South America and the Caribbean, was intended to demonstrate that through democracy, open markets and trade with countries such as Canada, the hemisphere can be made more prosperous and safer for its citizens.
But it’s a hard sell in Haiti, by far the poorest country in the region. Here, the Canadian prime minister stressed Canada’s commitment to play a role in the UN stabilization and reconstruction mission. Preval said Haiti still lacks the basic institutions of a functioning society, such as a judicial system that investors can trust to enforce contracts.
Still, he said there had been improvements, including a reduction in violence and a 300 per cent cut in inflation since 2004, when he replaced the ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
But the economy remains in a shambles and jobs are scarce, said Paul Lulu Cherie, general secretary of the Confederation of Haitian Workers. “Violence is not the problem now, we have stability now, but people need jobs, jobs, jobs, and can’t pay to send their children to school,” he said.
On Friday, Harper announced several assistance initiatives to Haiti, including debt relief. Most visible was a blood-analysis machine that accompanied the prime minister to the Hospital Sainte Catherine Laboure, in the heart of Cite Soleil.
Harper posed for pictures with the machine and then visited an adjacent vaccine clinic where four Haitian women and their infant children were waiting to be administered polio vaccine, with the Canadian prime minister overseeing the administration of the medicine.
Not known for showing emotion, the prime minister, dressed in a open-neck shirt and jacket, at times looked uncomfortable as he approached Haitian infants haphazardly waving tiny Canadian flags. They come here in huge numbers every day,” said Andree Houle, a Montreal woman who is project co-ordinator of the clinic run by Medicins du Monde. And many pregnant women muster the courage to come seeking medicine that will keep them from passing on their HIV to the unborn babies. “They are living with a disease in a place where they cannot talk about this disease,” she explained. “There are people here who have said they would kill those with AIDS, so it’s traumatizing for them.” Houle, who comes to the clinic four times a year, said there have been some improvements in security in Cite Soleil in the last year, but the need is almost unquenchable. It’s much easier now, staff is less stressed,” she said. “Access to the hospital is more available, so now it has more and more patients.”

Posted in: Canada, Haiti