Originally: Frustrations await Bush, Clinton visit to Haiti
Bush is acutely remembered by many Haitians – especially the thousands in Port-au-Prince’s teeming slums – as the U.S. leader whose administration chartered the plane that flew Aristide back into exile during a 2004 rebellion, then backed an interim government that carried out reprisals against his supporters.
“We don’t have a very good ‘souvenir’ of President Bush, as you might suppose,” said Patrick Elie, who served as a defense official under both Aristide and Preval. “I hope that this crisis is not another opportunity to weaken the Haitian state even more.”
Business leaders and others in positions of power are excited for the presidents’ visit.
“The fact that two presidents of the United States are coming to visit is proof that the subject of the reconstruction of Haiti is not a partisan issue,” said Patrick Delatour, Haiti’s tourism minister and part-owner of a construction company who was tasked by Preval with leading reconstruction efforts.
The nonprofit Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has raised $37 million from 220,000 individuals including Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave $1 million, and Obama, who among other donations gave $200,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize. About $4 million has gone to such organizations as Habitat for Humanity, the University of Miami/Project Medishare mobile hospital in Port-au-Prince and the U.S. branch of the Irish charity Concern Worldwide.
The rest has yet to be allocated. There is heated discussion, inside Haiti and out, about where future funds should go.
James Morrell, director of the Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project, said he welcomes the ex-presidents’ efforts but that government corruption will block any serious effort to develop the country.
“They need to go back to Obama and say, ‘Let’s not put all our eggs in one basket,'” he said.
Others want nothing to do with the visit at all.
“Those people have a lot of money. They could do something for Haiti, but they haven’t done it,” said So An, a powerful leader of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party. “I don’t want any words from now on, I want action.”
On a street corner in the Bel Air slum this weekend the debate over the presidents’ visit was already under way.
Neighbors crowded into a narrow alley behind partially collapsed buildings to shout their opinions: Bush is bad, Preval ineffective and Clinton disappointing as U.N. envoy.
But all agreed – they’ll take any help they can get.