Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent six productive hours on the ground in Port-au-Prince yesterday (Thursday, April 16). Upon her arrival, the Secretary met with President Rene Preval at the Presidential Palace. In a joint news conference afterwards she pledged that the Obama Administration would support the President, the Prime Minister, and the Government of Haiti in its efforts to help the people of Haiti, because “our commitment is to the people of Haiti.” Several times during her visit, the Secretary mentioned her long-standing ties to Haiti, which she first visited with her husband as newlyweds and “spent a wonderful time exploring the country and meeting many Haitians who shared their homes and their experiences with us.”
After the Palace, Secretary Clinton visited a medical clinic operated by doctors and other medical personal from the U.S. Navy hospital ship COMFORT in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. The COMFORT is on a ten-day visit to Haiti during which it is providing free medical care (including surgery) to thousands of Haitians who seldom have an opportunity to see a doctor. The Secretary toured the clinic, greeted patients, and thanked the U.S. Navy doctors and the many civilian volunteers for their outstanding work.
After the clinic visit, she was off to the Inter-American Woven Garment factory, beneficiary of the U.S. Congress’s “Haitian Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement” (HOPE) II Act of 2008. HOPE II aims at promoting a market-based economy in Haiti, increasing employment, enhancing the rule of law, eliminating barriers to U.S. trade, combating corruption, and protecting internationally recognized human and worker rights. The garment factory that the Secretary visited is among the early success stories of HOPE I and II legislation, which facilitates public-private sector partnerships and has already resulted in the creation of approximately 11,000 jobs in Haiti.
There was the inevitable press scrum and real sense of excitement at the factory. It took us a few minutes to organize the reporters and happy onlookers as the Secretary toured the factory and before she gave remarks. The above photo depicts one of the garment workers, listening carefully to the Secretary’s remarks. I think it’s important – amid all the urgent travel and high-level dialogue – to keep before us the faces of the people, both in Haiti and the United States, for whom we make these efforts. It was an inspirational day all around.