March 9th, 2010
01:38 PM ET

Haitian President warns of "historical mistake"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/09/t1.clintonpreval.jpg caption="US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes remarks with Haitian President Rene Preval at the State Department in Washington DC. Preval visits Washington to lobby for support following January's massive earthquake." width=300 height=169]

Charley Keyes
CNN Sr. Producer

Haiti must restore its political system, and hold elections, as well as repair the vast physical damage from the January earthquake, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Haitian President Rene Preval said Tuesday.

"President Preval made the very important point that we must work toward elections to ensure the security and legitimacy of the Haitian government," Clinton said. Parliamentary elections set for February were postponed and it is unclear whether the presidential election scheduled for the fall can proceed.

"I assured President Preval that the United States would work with the international community to hold elections as soon as appropriate," Clinton said during a question and answer session at the State Department.

President Preval said he welcomed outside help with elections.

"We have to find a way and we expect the experts will indeed help us find a way to ensure that, by the time of my departure, we will find right way to organize elections," Mr Preval said. "We must find the right way … what we must absolutely avoid is that we have temporary provisional government that dees not enjoy legitimacy."

Clinton said the U.S., which already has provided $700-million of aid to Haiti, is preparing for a donors conference in New York at the end of March. Clinton said more than half of U.S. households had made private contributions for Haitian relief.

"Progress has been made but not nearly enough and therefore we are holding these meetings with President Preval today, tomorrow and the next day to discuss in depth what we need to do still to alleviate suffering and what we will do together to build back Haiti -better," Clinton said.

Preval said it would be a mistake to focus exclusively on the capitol of Port au Prince and not rebuild and invest in the provinces.

"Of course the recovery of Haiti will take a long time and everybody must be aware of that," Mr. Preval said. "To rebuild Port au Prince as it was before would be a major historical mistake and that is the message I am trying to convey not only to Haitians but to my international partners," he said

"Let us take the necessary time to think about this process of how we should rebuild Haiti," the Haitian President said.

He said in the past people had been drawn to the capitol in what he called "an illusory quest" for jobs that did not exist.

"In the past everything had been concentrated and focused on the capitol where the political and economic elites of the country and the rest of the country was neglected," Preval said, adding the the earthquake aftermath presented the opportunity for change as well as rebuilding.

Filed under: Haiti • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Olivier Nadal

    The Language of Diplomacy has spoken.

    When Preval says : " Let's take the necessary time to think about this process of how we should rebuild Haiti", in Preval words it means "I am going to stay a little longer in power to oversee the reconstruction of Haiti"

    March 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm |