President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa
PORT-AU-PRINCE, January 30, 2010 (AFP) – Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa criticized “imperialism” in aid efforts in Haiti during a visit to the stricken nation Friday, echoing criticism leveled by other leftist Latin American leaders.
“There is a lot of imperialism among the donors. They donate first, but most of it goes back to them,” he said at a joint press conference with Haiti’s President Rene Preval.
Without naming specific programs, he criticized both military relief efforts and those of foreign non-governmental organizations.
Correa is the second foreign leader to visit Haiti since a devastating quake struck the country January 12, killing at least 170,000 people and prompting a massive international relief effort to help the survivors.
Dominican President Leonel Fernandez was the first leader to fly into Haiti after the earthquake, arriving on January 14 to put aside long-running differences between his country and its devastated neighbor.
As he arrived in Haiti’s ravaged capital Port-au-Prince, Correa declared the situation “a humanitarian tragedy.
“Haiti at this moment represents the pain of victims but also hope,” he said.
“In this phase of reconstruction, we are going to need a lot of resources — human, material, financial,” Correa added.
Correa visited Haiti as a representative for the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a regional bloc he currently heads.
Before taking a helicopter flight over the Haitian capital to assess the damage, Correa said he was delivering medical aid and had brought 12 Ecuadoran doctors with him.
UNASUR is “going to be present” to help Haiti rebuild, he pledged.
“We want the little or the lot with which we can help from UNASUR to get to the Haitian people,” he said.
Correa’s criticism of the aid response to the devastating 7.0-quake echoes charges made by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Both leftist leaders have reserved particularly harsh criticism for the US effort in Haiti, which has included the deployment of some 20,000 military personnel in and around Haiti and the earmarking of millions of dollars in aid.
“We have a great debt to Haiti,” Correa said, referring to Haiti’s support for Latin American liberator Simon Bolivar.
For his part, Haiti’s president reiterated the need for better coordination of food distributions and other aid, which have been uneven and irregular despite a rush to help.
Preval also rejected fears expressed by Haitians that aid pouring into the country would end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials.
“It’s necessary for people to know… we just want to coordinate this aid,” he said.