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27 July 2004

State Dept. Official Defends Level of U.S. Support for Haiti

Noriega rejects notion that U.S. aid for Haiti is inadequate

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Roger Noriega, the U.S. State Department's top policymaker for the Western Hemisphere, has taken issue with a recent Washington Post editorial charging that the Bush administration has not done enough to help improve the lives of the Haitian people.

In a July 27 letter to the newspaper, Noriega said the administration has been working "tirelessly" with its international partners to help the hemisphere's poorest nation.

Noriega said he agrees with the Washington Post's July 19 editorial statement that Haiti's recovery will demand a "concerted international effort led by the United States." But he disputed the paper's contention that the Bush administration's response to Haiti has been "inadequate," calling such a charge "off the mark."

Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said the United States is Haiti's largest aid donor, and he argued that U.S. troops were critical to ending the chaos that followed the February 29 resignation of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Through the Bush administration's multilateral efforts, said Noriega, the U.N. Security Council passed two resolutions addressing the Haitian crisis, thus helping reduce violence in the Caribbean nation and bringing a sense of order and purpose to Haiti's "beleaguered" government.

Noriega said several thousand international soldiers are serving as members of a U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti that is bolstering the Haitian national police force and keeping order.

The Washington Post said in its editorial, "Haiti's Slim Chance," that "as the Bush administration pours billions into reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, a third nation-building effort [in Haiti] is precariously proceeding on a shoestring 600 miles from Florida" and that the administration "ought to be doing more" to help the Caribbean nation.

"What's clear is that Haiti will have no chance at all unless rich countries, led by the United States, step up" to help the country, the Washington Post editorialized.

Noriega agreed with the newspaper that "much remains to be done" in Haiti. But he pointed out that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently announced that U.S. aid to Haiti would rise to about $230 million for 2004 and 2005.

In addition, Noriega said the United State is working multilaterally to raise contributions and to ensure that "scarce resources are spent wisely" on Haiti, and he noted that international donors have agreed to "share the burden" of helping the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Noriega said that although Haiti's troubles are rooted in that country's history and cannot be addressed solely through an infusion of money, he is "optimistic about the country's future."

Finally, Noriega said he sees in Haiti "a people and a government trying to put an end to a sad legacy of corruption and bad government. With help from our international partners, our goal is to ensure that Haiti's most recent crisis will be its last."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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