Obama Renews Promise To Assist With Haiti’s Earthquake Recovery During Preval’s Visit To The White House

“President Barack Obama on Wednesday renewed America’s commitment to the recovery and reconstruction of earthquake-devastated Haiti, telling visiting President Rene Preval he knows the crisis has not passed,” the Associated Press/TIME reports (Feller, 3/10).

According to the New York Times, Obama and Preval “stood side by side in a ceremony in the Rose Garden, after a private meeting in the Oval Office, where Mr. Obama received an update on conditions in Haiti.” Preval said he was grateful for the “massive, spontaneous, generous help” from the U.S. after the earthquake. “He said the tragedy should serve as a warning for the world that the effectiveness of relief efforts ‘must be improved,'” according to the newspaper.

Despite U.S. troop pull outs and the departure of the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort, “[t]he decreasing presence of the military was not a signal, Mr. Obama said, that the commitment of the United States was easing,” the newspaper writes. He said, “America’s commitment to Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction must endure and will endure.” Obama continued, “This pledge is one that I made at the beginning of this crisis, and I intend for America to keep our pledge. America will be your partner in the recovery and reconstruction effort” (Zeleny, 3/10).

“Obama praised the Haitian leadership as well as the work of volunteers and of local, state and federal relief forces,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “The appearance by Obama and Preval was watched by members of Congress and by state and local officials who sent help to Haiti. Also present were officials from the State Department and other federal agencies involved in the humanitarian effort. … Obama did not spell out specifically what the U.S. was willing to do next or what authority it might want to retain over the expenditure of aid funds. He alluded to upcoming talks among members of the international community” (Parsons, 3/10).

According to the Miami Herald, Preval appeared “optimistic that President Barack Obama and lawmakers are receptive to helping the shattered country with direct aid to the government.” After meetings with Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Preval said, “They understand very well the problem and they are ready to help.” The newspaper writes, “Haiti is hoping the U.S. will play a leading role in the donor conference and will resume direct aid to the country’s government. The U.S. and other nations had stopped funding the government directly because of Haiti’s history of corruption and squandered aid” (Clark, 3/11).

The Washington Post, however, reported that Preval “said he got a cool reception from congressional leaders wary of handing over cash.” He “appeared more focused Wednesday on short-term problems – providing shelter for those living in the ruins as Haiti’s rainy season approaches, and getting seed to farmers in time for spring planting,” the newspaper writes. “We are facing some urgency now. We are 1 million people living in the street,” Preval said.

According to the Washington Post, “[t]he U.S. government has pledged more than $700 million in disaster aid, part of a flood of international assistance. … Preval told The Post that U.S. legislators appeared reluctant to release funds to his government. ‘It is not in the habit of the U.S. Congress to give direct financial aid to other countries’ budgets,’ he said. ‘We must find a formula’ to fill the gap, he said, such as U.S. support for a project rather than cash. Obama, he said, ‘understood very well. He’s going to support us'” (Sheridan, 3/11). 

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