S. Florida migrants give U.S. input on aid to Haiti
A U.S. official met with South Florida Haitian Americans to ask their advice about how to use the latest infusion of aid to their homeland.
BY MICHAEL A.W. OTTEY
The United States has pumped millions of dollars into Haiti over the years, seldom pausing to ask the successful Haitian community in the United States where and how best to spend those dollars.
That changed on Friday when more than 100 of the best and brightest in South Florida's Haitian community assembled in Miami to share their thoughts on aid to Haiti with a top U.S. official.
Adolfo A. Franco, assistant administrator of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, a division of the U.S. Agency for International Development, requested the meeting.
Following the five-hour session with people from the public and private sectors, he told reporters that over the past six or seven years, the United States has sent more than $850 million to Haiti.
Franco said that, as the United States prepares to send millions more, he wanted to try something different: consult Haitians in the know.
''I've come to Miami to meet with the Haitian diaspora to do one principal task,'' Franco said. ``To collect suggestions and recommendations on the reconstruction of Haiti.''
He said the previously donated $850 million in aid to Haiti, ``didn't work because we didn't consult the people of Haiti who know Haiti.''
Franco said what he learned from Friday's exchange he will share with donor nations during their meeting in Canada in June.
He said the donor community previously agreed to come up with a comprehensive plan to help Haiti, which has been left in shambles since an armed revolt forced the resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide is currently in Jamaica with plans to seek asylum in South Africa.
Franco said just about all participants told him that it's not really about money, but rather creating the right climate to spur investment. Still, he acknowledged that interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has been telling the international community that Haiti needs an immediate injection of foreign aid to get the impoverished nation on its feet.
Haitians who attended the meeting said they were encouraged.
''For a first it was very good,'' said Claudine Sada, who hosts a television show on the Haitian Television Network in Miami. ``We had a very good exchange of ideas. It's a first step. The country is in a state of devastation and everything is urgent.''
Marc A. Roger of Plantation said he was very hopeful.
''We need to do more of these conversations,'' he said.
Marie Bell of Miami said she also is encouraged, especially with the leadership of the interim government.
'I personally would like to see Haiti become the `Pearl of the Antilles', which we once were,'' she said. ``We have a beautiful country. We just haven't had the right leadership to get things done.''