Bill Clinton Speaks at Second Annual Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress

  • Posted on: 9 August 2009
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
News: 

Trenton Daniel of the Miami Herald describes below the speech given by Bill Clinton at the second annual Haiti Diaspora Unity Congress. During the speech, he encouraged the Diaspora to stay engaged and announced a number of new initiatives.  For example, he noted that the Soros Economic Development Fund has created a Haiti Invest project, through which an initial 25 million dollars will be spent on  promoting investment in agricuture, energy, housing, and tourism.  Clinton is an asset to Haiti, but as one participant emphasized, the Haitian Diaspora must now step up.

<--break->As former U.S. President Bill Clinton prepares to lead a trade mission to Haiti in hopes of spurring much-needed foreign investment, the United Nations' special envoy to the nation called on Haitian Americans to help improve their homeland's future.

 

``The more involved you are, the better the odds get, so do not be deterred,'' Clinton said. ``If you are doing something now, try to do more of it.''  Clinton's remarks on Sunday in Sunny Isles Beach were his first public address on the Haitian diaspora and came at the end of a four-day conference among Haitians and Haitian-American professionals and leaders searching for ways to help their country following last year's food riots, a five-month political crisis and back-to-back hurricanes.

 

Clinton also addressed immigration issues that concern Haitians living in the United States. He urged those fighting for Temporary Protected Status on behalf of an estimated 30,000 undocumented Haitians to keep the pressure on but to do so respectfully.

 

``Do not do it in a hostile way because this is a complicated thing,'' Clinton said, reminding the audience that he has been where President Barack Obama currently is as he weighs requests to halt the deportation of Haitians. ``I'm sorry it's taking so long but I have to defend the White House because I've been there. I know what's happening.''

 

Held at the Trump International Beach Resort, the second annual ``Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress'' brought together former government officials, potential presidential candidates, as well as business leaders and elected officials from outside Haiti. Session topics included restoring forests and luring foreign investors.

 

The event attracted about 300 people from around the United States and Haiti, who packed a meeting room on Sunday to hear Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis. Outside, a small group of Haitians protested.

 

While Pierre-Louis called on Haitians to be more united, Clinton told them now is not the time to become discouraged. There is a momentum in and out of Haiti, he said.``Haiti needs you now, and Haiti can take your help now,'' the former president said, adding that he plans to establish an advisory committee of Haitians in the diaspora. In October, he will head back to Haiti for the third time this year.

 

In other news, Clinton announced the following:

 

• The Soros Economic Development Fund has launched the Haiti Invest Project, which has received an initial commitment of up to $25 million. Investments in agriculture, tourism, energy, and housing are all under consideration.

 

• James Lee Witt, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, has committed $250,000 to provide disaster preparedness training for women in Haiti. He and Clinton traveled to Haiti together in July.

 

• Desh Deshpande, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, has offered to share technical assistance to expand school feeding in Haiti. He, too, traveled with Clinton to Haiti recently.

 

• Rolando Gonzalez Bunster, head of a power company, has offered to install an initial five windmills in Haiti. Unassembled in the neighboring Dominican Republic, the new windmills stand to provide renewable energy at competitive rates.

 

Clinton also reiterated his request that non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, coordinate better in Haiti. With 10,000 NGOs operating in Haiti, the nation has the second highest number per capita of NGOs, with India first, he said.

 

Audience members welcomed Clinton's views, but added that the diaspora must do its own part to help build Haiti.

 

``I think [Clinton's speech] was genuine,'' said Gepsie Metellus, executive director of Sant La, a Haitian community center in Miami. ``But I don't think we should put all our eggs in the Clinton basket. I think it's time we stepped up.''

 

Some people contended that the conference was elitist and excluded everyday Haitians here and at home, partly because of its $250 admission fee. Dark suits were in abundance.

 

Others used the conference as a platform to stress the need for dual nationality, a topic that was debated in sessions and in the hotel hallways. ``Haitians who have become naturalized citizens of other countries encourage elected officials in Haiti to vote an amendment to the constitution to ensure that Haitians have dual citizenship,'' said Lionel Jean-Baptist, a Haitian-American elected official from Chicago.``We should enjoy all of the rights any Haitian has in the country and our children should also wherever they may have been born.''

 

Though Clinton's trip to South Florida came only a few days after he helped free a pair of jailed American journalists in North Korea, he did not speak about the surprise visit, nor did he take questions.


Comments

MIAMI, USA (Reuters) -- Former US President Bill Clinton said on Sunday he would lead an international trade mission of private investors to Haiti in October to pursue energy and other development amid signs the nation is stabilizing.
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Former US President Bill Clinton. AFP PHOTO
Clinton burnished his credentials as an elder statesman last week when he visited North Korea to retrieve two American journalists who had been held in the communist-ruled Asian nation and met with its reclusive leader Kim Jong-il. He did not mention North Korea during Sunday's speech to the Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress in Miami.
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In his first major address to the Haitian diaspora since becoming UN special envoy to Haiti, Clinton said stability had improved in the troubled Caribbean nation, providing new opportunity for foreign investment.
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"I think we are really on the verge of being able to make some significant changes," Clinton said.
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Deeply impoverished Haiti was plagued by coups and sporadic unrest for much of the 1980s and 1990s. UN peacekeeping forces have been helping maintain order in the Caribbean nation since the last revolt in 2004.
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But United States, Canada and other nations have recently eased their travel warnings for Haiti in recognition of improving security, while the Haitian government has streamlined the approval process for business ventures, Clinton said. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund granted Haiti $1.2 billion of debt relief in June, helping ease its financial burden.
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Clinton said his investor mission would focus on agriculture, construction, textiles and energy, citing examples that ranged from increasing Haiti's mango exports to developing affordable fuel.
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Electric power is scarce in rural areas and the cutting of trees to make charcoal has led to deforestation in Haiti.
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As an example of projects rife for further investment, Clinton described a recycling program that turns paper and sawdust waste into cooking fuel that sells for one-fifth the cost of charcoal.
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Clinton also said Brazilian investors who he did not identify had expressed interest in expanding sugarcane-to-ethanol production to new areas outside Brazil, and that it was "a real possibility" for Haiti. He also promised to "hector every last dime" out of donor nations that had yet to deliver money they pledged for Haiti.

Investing is the active redirection of resources: from being consumed today, to creating benefits in the future; the use of assets to earn income or profit.

What is the expected or anticipated return on these investments? What are the conditions imposed upon the Haitian Government to accept these foreign investments? Let's consider the following facts:

As of today, the U.S. NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK reports $11,7 trillions (exactly $11,668,383,407,894.79) : The Outstanding Public Debt as of 15 Aug 2009. The estimated population of the United States is 306,737,279 so each U.S. citizen's share of this debt is $38,040.32. The U S National Debt has continued to increase an average of $3.88 billion per day since September 28, 2007! wikipedia reports $12,9 trillions. SOURCE: http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

Why Bill Clinton refuses to tell anything about the nature of these foreign investements? Are the Americans trying to deceive the Haitians to steal its natural ressources to pay off their own national debts. Is Bill Clinton trying to dupe the Haitians with his seductive and empty promises? Should the Haitians trust Bill Clinton? Is he a trustworthy person?

Do the Haitians really need Bill Clinton as an intermediary to attract Brazilian investors?

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Is there any Haitian Professional who is better qualified and more trustworthy than Bill Clinton to negociate with the foreign investors?

There are many entrepeneurs in the Haitian Diaspora such as Dumarsais Simeus who could play a role - but many of them are extremely busy running their own operations. Clinton can do several things for Haiti - first he can help to ensure that donors who pledged at the donors' conference pay up. Second, he can help raise the profile of the economic possibilities in Haiti. But yes, the heavy lifting has be done by Haitians, there is no doubt about that.

By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton reprimanded wealthy nations Wednesday for coughing up just 3 percent so far of the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid they had promised for Haiti.
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In his role as U.N. special envoy to Haiti, Clinton told the Security Council that President Rene Preval, Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis and other government officials are doing as good a job as can be expected of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
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"I think they're doing what they should be doing. They need the rest of us to do more," Clinton said following his address. Clinton, who took on the job, for which he receives $1 a year in salary, in May said that Haiti's 9 million people need outside help to overcome years of misgovernment, abuse and neglect.
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"They've only gotten a pittance of the aid that was pledged to them," he said. "We can't get to January with only $21 million of over $761 million in commitments dispersed down there." Haiti already was suffering from a food crisis and political deadlock when four tropical storms battered it last fall.
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The island nation lost 800 people and suffered $1 billion in damage, deepening the pervasive hunger and poverty and undermining the fragile political stability that had been achieved only five years after a bloody rebellion.

Foreign Relations minister Carlos Morales concluded yesterday an official visit to Russia, where he said he totally supports ex president Bill Clinton’s statement that rich countries have broken their promise to help Haiti. “Enough of so many promises already, the hour has come to comply and Haiti needs a new beginning.”
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The official also met with Russian lawmakers to analyze ways to bolster relations between the two countries.Morales said he agrees with Clinton’s stance that rich nations haven’t provided the aid promised to Haiti to pull it from the economic and social morass and reorient its political system towards a functional democracy. “Clinton’s position ratifies the one we’ve held as a country in all international forums, not only when the Foreign Ministry attends but also when president Leonel Fernandez himself attends.”
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He said Haiti needs concrete, sincere and open aid to mitigate its nagging problems of the last decades. “We share the idea of creating jobs, a policy which I’m sure Dominican businesses agree with, which knows how to contribute its own quota to this process. Our most convincing proof is the free zone at Juana Mendes (Ouanaminthe), Haiti, where more than 3,500 direct jobs have been created.”
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Morales noted that when it held the Rio Group’s interim presidency, Dominican Republic nominated Haiti to join that organization as a full-rights member, “and we’re supporting it to join the countries which form the Latin American Summit.”

Who this fool is trying to convince? After all these invesment and exploitation, how they are going to clean up our environment, our beaches, our lands and protect our people from imported diseases, gangs and sexual abusers? Who will be in the interest of our 85% of real haitian against unforseen disasters and negligences? They do not show respect for their own people and their own country, how should I trust them. (Look at Louisiana, Idaho, South Carolina, Dakota... etc.and some inner cities). Brazil, Argentina and Chile have bigger lands and they are more structured. With little patient their, they will see their investment grow. As I understand, please ship your beautiful ideas to those country.

Associated Press
By JONATHAN M. KATZ
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Former President Bill Clinton said desperately needed U.S. aid is coming to Haiti despite delays after listening on Wednesday to refugees in a sprawling homeless camp complain of a lack of food, jobs and housing nine months after a devastating earthquake. Clinton, the co-chair of the commission overseeing Haiti's reconstruction, expressed frustration with the slow delivery of promised funds by donors who have delivered about $732 million of a promised $5.3 billion in funds for 2010-11, along with debt relief. Most notably absent is the United States, which has yet to deliver any of its promised $1.15 billion.
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"First of all, in the next day or so it will become obvious that the United States is making a huge down payment on that," the former U.S. president and husband of the current secretary of state told reporters without providing details. "Secondly I'm not too concerned—although I'm frustrated—because the Congress have approved the money that the Secretary of State and the White House asked for." The stakes were made clear in a morning visit to a storm-battered hillside former golf-course in Port-au-Prince now home to 55,000 increasingly desperate Haitians, who told Clinton amid mosquito swarms and fraying tarps that they need money, jobs, houses and education to get out of the dangerous and inhospitable camp where they are stuck.
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Hours later Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive stood in the sweltering heat before the former U.S. Embassy that is now Bellerive's office to announce $777 million in projects for education, business, rubble removal and other areas freshly approved by the commission they jointly lead. Clinton singled out, without naming, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn for holding up an authorization bill that could have eased the flow of money. Coburn's secret hold on the bill—used because he objected to a $5 million provision to create the office of a senior Haiti coordinator of U.S. policy—was revealed by an Associated Press investigation last week. Citing "a rather bizarre system of rules in the United States Senate," Clinton said that "barely over one-half of 1 percent of the money that's been approved is holding up all the rest." "Since I believe that we are still essentially a sane as well as a humane country I believe the money will be released, and when that happens that will also give a lot of other donors encouragement to raise their money," Clinton said.
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This week the U.S. funds were prepared for release with the approval of a State Department spending plan. But in part because of a lack of detail it will take at least weeks and perhaps more for the funds to start being delivered on contracts such as rubble removal, a congressional staffer said. At Tuesday's meeting the U.S. government also pledged a $120 million contribution to a World Bank-managed reconstruction fund with money for rubble removal, housing, education, business credit and budgetary support. It is not clear if that money is coming from the supplemental request funding its donors-conference pledge, or when it will be delivered.
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The State Department has also gone ahead and created a nearly identical office to the one Coburn objected to last week, naming department veteran Thomas C. Adams to the post of special Haiti coordinator But the Oklahoma Republican will not release his hold, because he does not believe he is preventing money from being spent on Haiti's reconstruction. "Dr. Coburn wants to approve additional funds without increasing the deficit and without creating duplicative roles," said Coburn staffer John Hart. "What we've seen is the typical Washington game of demonizing one senator to distract the public from the incompetence in Congress and the State Department." During his visit to the camp, Clinton donated $500,000 to the J/P Haitian Relief Organization co-founded by actor Sean Penn, which provides services there.
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Camp residents, some up to their ankles in mud, hooted and cheered as the former president walked deeper into the camp, exclaiming, "We are hungry!" and "We can't take this anymore!" Some called for the ouster of President Rene Preval and the return of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Edwin Auguste, a 26-year-old unemployed man who lost both parents and his home in the quake, said he was glad that Clinton came, but that he has lost what little faith he had in Haitian leaders and the international community. "When the leaders tell the Haitian people I will do something for you, after that they do nothing," he said.

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