Five months into his administration, Haiti's president, Michel Martelly, is looking to turn his country around. He also wants to reinstitute the country’s army, which was disbanded in 1995. But with an estimated half a million Haitians still living in makeshift tents, following the January 2010 earthquake, and Haiti’s new government just taking root, some Haitians are questioning Martelly’s priorities.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, AC360’s Vladimir Duthiers sat down with President Martelly to discusses his position on Haiti's military, the challenges of protecting and educating children, and why – despite widespread opposition in his country – he wants the United Nations to remain in Haiti for the time being.
Vladimir Duthiers and Hannah Yi
(CNN) - An American school founder who young Haitian men once hailed as a savior was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing them.
Douglas Perlitz, 40, was sentenced in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, to 19 years and 7 months behind bars for abusing the Haitian men when they were boys under his care, said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston.
"We're very pleased with the sentence," he said. "He was brought to justice and I hope it sends a strong message to people who are doing that or who are even thinking about doing that."
Judge Janet Bond Arterton imposed the sentence, which includes 10 years of supervised release.
Perlitz arrived in the northern Haitian city of Cap-Haitien in 1997. There, he opened a charitable school called the Project Pierre Toussaint (PPT). He got homeless boys off the streets and gave them shelter, food and education.
"When I met Mr. Douglas, he appeared to us like Jesus Christ himself come to rescue us," said Francilien Jean-Charles, who was only 12 when he was plucked by Perlitz and brought to the school.
Over the years, PPT grew into a 10-acre compound with dorms, classrooms and a soccer field.
Perlitz frequently flew back to Fairfield, Connecticut, to raise money. According to court documents, from 2002 to 2008, donors gave more than $2 million to help care for the kids. Perlitz's alma mater, Fairfield University, awarded him an honorary degree in 2002 for helping homeless boys in Haiti.
But Perlitz was hardly the man he appeared to be.
AC360° Production Assistant
A massive earthquake struck the island of Haiti on January 12, 2010. Less than 24 hours later, I landed in Port-Au-Prince with Anderson Cooper, AC360° Executive Producer Charlie Moore, cameraman Neil Hallsworth, and several other CNN colleagues.
As we drove out of the airport towards the center of town, I remember thinking, “It doesn’t look so bad.” Many of the buildings near the airport seemed to be in good condition; we only saw a few collapsed homes. Less than a mile later, reality hit. We pulled over to the side of the road and saw a child’s body lying on the median. Only a thin sheet afforded this tiny soul some dignity.
Over the course of the next month, CNN reported the full horror of what had happened in Haiti. We also reported on the millions, soon to be billons of dollars in aid that came from people and NGO’s all over the world.
Six months later, we landed in Port-Au-Prince to see how these funds were being used to rebuild Haiti. It soon became clear very little had changed. The streets looked exactly the same – as if the earthquake had struck just hours earlier. Even the Presidential Palace lay in the same crumbled condition.
I let my FlipCam roll as the AC360° team began following the money and reconnecting with survivors we had met back in January. Here’s the backstory of our time there.
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