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Report By Sen. Lugar Criticizes Haitian Leadership, Calls For Reforms

Senator Richard Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a paper (.pdf), which “sharply criticized Haiti’s president Thursday, portraying him as an ineffectual leader who is hindering recovery from January’s devastating earthquake,” the Canadian Press reports. Lugar “advised U.S. legislators to reconsider sending money to Haiti if reforms are not made.”

Haitian President Rene Preval has “demonstrated marginal capacity to lead his country’s reconstruction,” the 16-page paper says. In an opening letter, Lugar wrote, “President Preval’s actions do not suggest a departure from the self-destructive political behaviour that has kept Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.”

According to the news service, the “report’s proposals cut to the heart of some of Haiti’s most intractable pre-earthquake conflicts, which it said have left rebuilding ‘almost at a standstill because of a dearth of political will and leadership.’ For one, it calls for modernization of the land-title system, an archaic and anarchic void that plunges anyone trying to build on undeveloped terrain into a morass of competing claims, contradictory deeds and interfamily conflicts.” The paper also recommends the Haitian government make it easier to start and run businesses, noting that sometimes investment proposals have “dragged on for years until investors simply gave up.”

“It is incumbent upon Congress to reassess our government’s investments in Haiti if this partnership is in question,” Lugar said in a statement, the Canadian Press reports. The report is based on information obtained from “meetings with 10 of Haiti’s most powerful businessmen, more than a dozen of their counterparts in the neighbouring Dominican Republic, U.S. diplomats and World Bank staff. The lone Haitian government official listed is Lionel Delatour, who consults for the Haitian committee aimed at increasing garment exports to the U.S.” (Katz, 7/23).

The reconstruction of Haiti’s private sector is a “main concern” of the report, the Wall Street Journal writes.  

“The report warns that current efforts to rebuild Haiti could follow [previous] U.S. attempts to aid the country which it called unsuccessful,” the newspaper reports. “Since 1990, the U.S. has given roughly $4 billion in aid to Haiti, yet the effort has ‘not delivered many improvements,’ the report said” (Casey, 7/22).

In related news, the Miami Herald examines Preval’s role in the Haitian reconstruction effort. “For two months, Haitian President Rene Preval has been quietly laying the foundation for his quake-wrecked nation’s rebuilding. … Often criticized for inaction, Preval has personally dispatched government top loaders and bulldozers to some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, asked international aid agencies to send displaced residents to clean up their own streets, and sat with neighborhood leaders and camp dwellers to determine their needs,” the newspaper writes.

Although “reconstruction remains slow … Preval said he’s working on a three-prong reconstruction plan that includes using government heavy equipment to allow many of the estimated 1.5 million displaced quake victims to return to their neighborhoods, and having the government construct affordable multi-story apartments. At the same time, he’s pushing an innovative plan to redevelop downtown from the waterfront to the Champ de Mars with the help of Central Bank financing, and by using rubble to extend the Port-au-Prince harbor.” The article includes details about Preval’s vision for Haiti’s rebuilding, noting his expectations (Charles, 7/23).