Sunday, February 7, 2010

Haitian Protesters Confront Bill Clinton

By Andrew Beatty, Agence France-Presse

Survivors of Haiti's earthquake demand tents in front of the Haitian government's temporary offices before Bill Clinton, now UN special envoy for Haiti, visits in Port-au-Prince on Friday.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was met by angry crowds Friday protesting the slow arrival of aid to Haitians left destitute by a huge earthquake as he sought to unblock distribution bottlenecks.

"Our children are burning in the sun. We have a right to tents. We have a right to shelter," said Mentor Natacha, 30, a mother of two.

The protesters said they hoped to meet Clinton, who was designated Wednesday as co-ordinator of international aid for the impoverished Caribbean nation by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

Clinton said he understood the frustrations, adding he also wanted to understand why more than three weeks after the Jan. 12 quake, aid was still not getting through to desperate Haitians.

"I'm trying to get to what the bottlenecks are. Part of it is just shipping the volume of food in here that is necessary," Clinton told reporters as he visited a clinic in the ruined capital of Port-au-Prince.

The other problem was the distances between the 16 main distribution points, he said.

When Clinton earlier visited the government's de facto headquarters in a police building in the city, about 200 people demonstrated outside to protest the lack of shelter.

There have been persistent problems in getting aid to the more than one million Haitians left homeless after the 7.0-magnitude quake, which levelled much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns.

Asked about his role in the country, Clinton said: "What I don't want to be is the governor of Haiti.

"I want to build the capacity of the country to chart its own course. They can trust me not to be a neocolonialist, I'm too old."

He stressed he was not there to intervene in the case of 10 American Christians detained on child kidnapping charges for trying to smuggle 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic.

The five men and five women were charged with child abduction and criminal conspiracy by Haitian prosecutors on Thursday. The group has denied ill intent.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Photograph by: Kena Betancur, Reuters, Agence France-Presse

Source: Calgary Herald

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