|By Wadner PierrePORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Haiti was the final stop in Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper’s tour of Latin American. Haiti is now Canada’s largest recipient of aid after Afghanistan. A large delegation of Canadian journalists traveled with Harper and his party throughout the trip.|
Harper was received by his Haitian counterpart, Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, on the lawn of Haiti’s National Palace. Prior to the meeting , Harper, along with a heavily armed UN troop column, visited Cite Soleil, one of Haiti’s largest shantytowns.
Harper and Haiti’s President Rene Garcia Pr�val had a 15-minute meeting, followed by a 20-minute press conference.
Preval joked that Harper’s visit was like a brief “doctor’s visit.”� Preval added, “As you can see, doctor, the patient is doing very well. You just visited a district few would dare to visit months ago, but Haiti is in convalescence still and needs the assistance of your country.”
Much of Haiti’s government budget is dependent on foreign aid. Along with the United States and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF, Canada took part in an aid embargo on Haiti between 2001 and 2004 that devastated the country’s economy and civil sector.
Following the violent overthrow of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a 2004 coup d’etat, the Canadian government re-engaged Haiti.
Pr�val praised Canada’s contribution to the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Preval said that, thanks to MINUSTAH, “safety returned” but noted that much remained to be done in order to rebuild the economy.
Harper thanked Pr�val and claimed that the objective of his visit was to promote peace and stability in Haiti.
He had a similar message during his visit to Colombia, Chile and Barbados. Canadian political essayist, Justin Podur, in a commentary for Znet, argued that Harper was merely trying to “sell the unpalatable” on behalf of the US � in particular in Colombia, as President Uribe’s government is a key US ally. Colombia is hobbled by scandals involving top government connections to paramilitaries that have murdered thousands.
Preval stressed that Canada’s assistance to Haiti is given with considerable and respectful consultation with the Haitian government. In 2004, Canadian troops secured the air port as US troops flew Haiti’s former President Aristide to the Central African Republic � against his will, insists Aristide. The US and Canada have blocked all formal attempts to investigate the circumstances surrounding his departure..
A Haitian journalist asked Preval about the recent raid on the home of Guy Philippe by Haitian and US authorities. Philippe was one of the armed rebels who helped topple Jean Bertrand Aristide’s elected government on February 29, 2004.
Preval stressed that the drug trade is a destructive force in Haiti. Haitian prosecutor Claudy Gassant will be in the United States to interrogate people arrested in the recent raids. Preval said joint efforts were appropriate given the international nature of the crimes.