PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton declared his confidence in Haiti’s post-quake reconstruction effort last week, making a one-day visit amid civil unrest, rampant disease and a seemingly intractable political crisis.
The U.N. special envoy to Haiti traveled to the troubled country a day after the interim reconstruction commission of which he is co-chairman was forced to hold its meeting in the neighboring Dominican Republic after violence broke out following Haiti’s disputed Nov. 28 presidential election.
Clinton visited a cholera clinic run by Doctors Without Borders that has treated some of the more than 100,000 people sickened in the epidemic that broke out in October. He then went to the main U.N. peacekeeping base for meetings with Haitian and international officials.
The meeting a day before approved some $430 million in projects. But it was more notable for anger over the slow pace of reconstruction and a letter from frustrated Haitian members who said they were left out of decision-making and complained approved projects “do not advance the reconstruction of Haiti and long-term development.”
“I share their frustration, but I think they will see a big increase in the pace of movement next year,” Clinton said at a news conference in Port-au-Prince.
He said hundreds of thousands of Haitians would find new permanent housing next year and many more would move out of the tent and tarp camps that have been home to more than 1 million people since the Jan. 12 earthquake.
But such promises have been made before. The house-less believed they would start getting new homes - or at least sturdier temporary shelters - months ago. Only $897 million of the more than $5.7 billion pledged for 2010-11 has been delivered.
Clinton also expressed confidence in Haiti’s much-criticized provisional electoral council to find a solution to the electoral crisis.
Three presidential candidates believe they should advance to the two-person runoff set for January, with competition fiercest between the ostensibly eliminated popular singer Michel Martelly, in third place, and second-place candidate Jude Celestin, who is backed by the unpopular President Rene Preval.
Three days of rioting followed announcement of the preliminary results and it is feared more violence will erupt if a solution is not found.
Clinton endorsed the eight-member electoral council’s plan to re-count tally sheets under international observation and hold a more-transparent January runoff, but then said he did not want to involve himself further in Haitian politics.
“I don’t have a candidate - my candidate is the reconstruction process,” he said. “I want the people to feel good about this and to trust the outcome so that we have peace and order and that encourages the donors to keep investing in Haiti’s future.”
Earlier in the day Clinton went to a cholera clinic off a dirt road in the capital’s Tabarre district, where he and Haiti’s health minister spoke with families under treatment. Speaking through his own cold, he stressed the importance of such clinics, some of which have been opposed by communities afraid they will spread the disease.
More than 2,400 people have died of the disease in Haiti according to official statistics.
Leaving the compound he washed his hands in bleach-treated water and had his orange-trimmed running shoes sprayed.
After leaving Haiti, Clinton headed to his home state of Arkansas.