Ottawa Says 'Not At All Happy' With Pace of Relief and Reconstruction in Haiti

By Roger Annis, published on the new, Haiti blog on
A Dec 28, 2011 report in the Montreal daily La Presse says Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, and his government are "not at all happy with the pace and scope of earthquake recovery in Haiti. Baird cites a litany of issues that he thinks are not being adequately addressed by the Haitian government, including uncertainty over land ownership titles, health care, education and 'security.'

The article is reprinted in Le Nouvelliste, Haiti's semi-daily newspaper.

Baird said that the excessively long time it took to form a government after the election of Michel Martelly to the presidency did not help the situation. "He (Martelly) came into power with all kinds of enthusiasm, ready to tackle the problems, and then there was four months without a government. We are pleased that his government was finally approved by (the Parliament) and we can now get to work with it."

Baird also said that Canada also has a 'difference of opinion' concerning President Martelly's project to relaunch a Haitian army. The news article did not specify the exact nature of the disagreement. Past statements by Canadian officials have disagreed with the timing, not the substance, of Martelly's plan. The Haitian army was abolished by then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995 due to its long and bloody history as a human rights violating agency whose sole function was to maintain the status quo for Haiti's economic and political elite and international investors.

Canada, the U.S. and Europe financed the election that brought Martelly to power in March 2011. The electoral exercise faced stiff opposition in Haiti and internationally because of its exclusionary nature and because of poor access to voter registration and voting stations. Political parties were excluded from the election, including the Fanmi Lavalas founded by Aristide in the mid-1990s. Less than 25% of Haitians took part in the vote.

It's an easy exercise for Martelly's international backers to feign disagreement or dissatisfaction with one or another of his policies, all the while maintaining their core support. Baird told the La Presse reporter that the course Haiti is now embarked upon is a "ten year job."

Baird said, "Two months ago, I wasn't seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I wasn't seeing the tunnel. Now we are starting to see progress."

If the President is concerned about foreign criticism of his army plan, it's not showing. At the celebration in the city of Gonaives on January 1 marking Haiti's 1804 Independence Day, Martelly said it's full steam ahead for the relaunch project (see report below).

On Independence Day, Martelly Commits to Relaunch of Haitian Army

Speaking in Gonaives on January 1, 2012 at a ceremony commemorating Haiti's Day of Independence in 1804, President Michel Martelly said the relaunch of a Haitian army is at the center of his plans for the post-earthquake situation in the country.

"This will be an army that will bring the relief to be expected any time there is a natural catastrophe, an army that will work to assure the territorial integrity in a continent where threats to national security, such as drug trafficking and terrorism, are ever-present."

In his speech, the President stated that a panel he formed in November to study the army issue has recommended that he proceed. The panel was created after Martelly seemingly bowed to pressure, including from Canada and the U.S., to slow down the project.

Read the text of the speech by Martelly here in English as posted by the website Haiti Libre (in French here).