Haitians want U.S. to ‘take over’

I have been wondering how long it would take before the US press began to report that the Haitian population wanted the Americans to take over. A new poll released late last week quoted 65% of Haitians in the Diaspora wanting the United States or some other nation or body, such as the United Nations, to take over the country, at least until it is stabilized (see our earlier post). Given the widespread suspicion throughout Haiti of United States’ designs on the nation and the memory of historically-recent debacles associated with the US like the extermination of the creole pigs in 1981-2, it is hard to believe that this sentiment is as prevalent as reports claim. It is echoed, however in an article today in the Washington Post. Here are some excerpts, with a link to the full article below.

International relief organizations backed by American soldiers delivered hundreds of tons of rice to homeless residents of the Haitian capital on Sunday, laboring to ease a food shortage that has left countless thousands struggling to find enough to eat. But even as food-aid workers enjoyed their most successful day since the Jan. 12 earthquake, the increasingly prominent role of U.S. troops and civilians in the capital is creating high expectations that the Obama administration is struggling to contain.

The needs are extraordinary and the common refrain is that the Americans will provide. “I want the Americans to take over the country. The Haitian government can’t do anything for us,” said Jean-Louis Geffrard, a laborer who lives under a tarp in the crowded square. “When we tell the government we’re hungry, the government says, ‘We’re hungry, too.’ ”

“The American government should take care of us,” added Canga Matthieu, a medical student whose school was destroyed. “They’re well organized. The United States is the richest country in the world, and they can help.” But help has its limits, U.S. officials emphasize in their public statements and in their interactions with Haitians. “You will have a friend and partner in the United States of America today and going forward,” President Obama said the day after the earthquake. But U.S. officials here make clear that the American government is not responsible for rebuilding the ravaged country. The military forces . . . are not here to do any reconstruction. That is not our mission,” said Col. Rick Kaiser, a U.S. Army engineer overseeing emergency repairs to the Port-au-Prince docks, the electrical and water systems, and other battered infrastructure in the hemisphere’s poorest country.

Administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, describe virtually every activity here as “Haiti-led,” although the government is barely functioning and its record was checkered even before the earthquake killed more than 110,000 people and leveled an array of government ministries. Louis Lucke, the senior U.S. Agency for International Development official in Haiti, stood in an American-run medical complex on Saturday with President René Préval and told reporters that “the Haitians are leading the process in all the areas that are necessary” — including food distribution, despite strong evidence to the contrary.

U.S. officials are doing what they can to bolster the stature of Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, and to promote international assistance efforts for the more daunting work that lies ahead. In the meantime, they are deploying personnel to support projects from food delivery to the erection of a temporary hospital near Port-au-Prince.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Jacot, an Army engineer, drove to a critical power station in the Delmas neighborhood on Sunday morning to assess repairs made by Haitian and Dominican workers.

Markestre Theolien, a supervisor with Haiti Electricity, the national utility, lamented the condition of the 27-year-old transformers and asked for new ones. Asked where the help should come from, he smiled and said, “U.S.A.”

“So they’re expecting us to take over?” Jacot asked a translator. “No, no, no. How can we assist without completely rebuilding? We’re not here to rebuild.”

The discussion went back and forth cordially. Jacot said he would be talking with the utility’s director to learn what was needed. Theolien defined his bottom line: “What we really want is the United States to rebuild it, to modernize.”

For the full article go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/31/AR2010013102725.html

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