World Service, May 10, 2004
We welcome to the show James R. Morrell, who took part in an assessment mission of the Haiti Democracy Project to Haiti during April 12-16, 2004.
Q. Mr. Morrell, What was the situation you found in Haiti?
A. We found Haiti to be devastated. The mass poverty, the throngs of unemployed, were there as usual. The capital had electricity for only an hour a day. Trash was piling up on the street corners. It was as though the country had gone through a war.
Q. How much support was there for Aristide?
A. We saw little evidence of it. Previously, such pro-Aristide mobilizations as occurred were typically paid. With the funding apparently cut off, these have subsided.
Q. What about the new government?
A. The situation facing the new regime is virtually impossible. The prime minister told us of the central bank having been looted by the outgoing regime. The health minister told us of hospitals that had been stripped of their equipment and invaded by gangs. We met the agriculture minister in the office of a foreign NGO. The ministry had been burnt down by the outgoing regime.
We found the qualifications of the ministers to be high, and considered them to be conscientious and dedicated. This is not unusual for the Haitians. Once the patina of bad characters who always seem to end up on top is stripped away, the Haitians are exceptionally decent and earnest. This is true both of the professionals and the masses.
Q. How much is the Bush administration doing in the way of aid?
A. The prime minister has just finished a fundraising visit to Washington, and met with President Bush. Some $40 million in new aid was pledged, in addition to $55 million already committed. Furthermore, a supplemental appopriations bill has been submitted to which $50 to $90 million may be added.
In addition to bilateral U.S. aid, there are the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and International Monetary Fund. Haiti also has twenty other bilateral donors, including the European Union, which has been generous with its aid in the past. The prime minister is now in Europe to renew this flow.
Q. What is the outlook?
A. The new regime in Haiti sits atop a mountain of problems. No one of them at the present moment is at crisis stage, but a number of them have that potential. There is furthermore a problem of public support in the United States. There is defection of important elements of the Left who should be Haiti’s strongest backers.
Nevertheless, with adequate resources, the government team in place has the ability to begin stitching this country back together.