U.S. senator: If Preval does Not reform, no help for Haiti

Antonioj - July 26 2010, 7:22 AM


GOP's Richard Lugar says corruption shouldn't be funded
Jonathan M. Katz / Associated Press

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti -- A key U.S. senator has sharply criticized Haiti's president, portraying him as an ineffectual leader who is hindering recovery from January's devastating earthquake.

Sen. Richard Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, advised U.S. legislators recently to reconsider sending money to Haiti if reforms are not made. The paper is another slap in what has become a protracted fight between the Senate committee and Haitian President Rene Preval.

After earlier critical reports from the panel, including one issued by its chairman, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, Preval called a news conference last month to flat-out reject proposals aimed at stamping out alleged corruption ahead of the Nov. 28 presidential election.

He accused the committee of overreach and called the proposals "inadmissible."

The 16-page paper says Preval has "demonstrated marginal capacity to lead his country's reconstruction." A section on the last two decades of U.S. aid and investment in Haiti is titled "Observations: A lot of money but few results."

"President Preval's actions do not suggest a departure from the self-destructive political behavior that has kept Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere," Lugar wrote in an opening letter.

The Senate is considering a bill that includes $1.15 billion in U.S. aid pledged for Haiti's reconstruction at a March donors conference.

Less than 10 percent of the total $5.3 billion in international donations pledged for the first two years of rebuilding has been delivered.

Committee staff declined to comment further on what measures it would take if Preval again rejected their advice.

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 aid group Oxfam studied land-title reform for six months after the quake before deciding the problem is too thorny to be tackled in the short term.

The Senate report also advises Haiti's leaders to make it easier to start and operate businesses and urges them to set up a six-month term to evaluate investment proposals.

In the past, it said, "some dragged on for years until investors simply gave up."

Dominican entrepreneurs are quoted as complaining that corruption, crime, kidnapping, political instability and poor infrastructure threaten to make their involvement in reconstruction "a waste of time."

Preval has been president for nearly 10 of the last 15 years.

In that time Haiti has suffered upheaval including the bloody ouster President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the tumultuous reign of a U.S.-backed interim government, numerous hurricanes and floods and the Jan. 12 earthquake.

From The Detroit News: detnews.com/article/20100726/NATIO...

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