Sunday, December 8, 2013
The Associated Press
CARACOL, Haiti — Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in northern Haiti on Monday at the head of a delegation of foreign investors and a crowd of celebrities to showcase the centerpiece of the U.S. effort to help the country recover from the 2010 earthquake.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, right, attend the grand opening ceremony of the new Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti on Monday.
An all-star turnout was expected for the opening of the industrial park more than 100 miles from the slowly recovering quake zone. Sean Penn, who has run his own aid effort in Haiti, was there, along with actor Ben Stiller and fashion designer Donna Karan.
Earlier, thousands of Haitians, many of them standing outside small roadside huts, waved at the secretary of state’s motorcade as it wound its way from the airport. She and other U.S. officials, including Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, toured a housing development for industrial park workers supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Hillary Rodham Clinton told a roomful of investors that she had made Haiti a priority when she became secretary of state.
“We had learned that supporting long-term prosperity in Haiti meant more than providing aid,” she said. “It required investments in infrastructure and the economy that would help the Haitian people achieve their own dreams.
“So we shifted our assistance to investments to address some of the biggest challenges facing this country: creating jobs and sustainable economic growth,” she added.
The secretary of state noted there were three presidents gathered in one room to celebrate the opening: her husband, former American President Bill Clinton, current Haitian President Michel Martelly and his predecessor Rene Preval.
Bill Clinton, now a U.N. special envoy for Haiti, arrived in Caracol separately from his wife.
The Clintons and their allies hope that the $300 million industrial facility will transform the northern part of this impoverished country by providing thousands of desperately needed jobs.
Some Haitians have a sharply different view. They say the Caracol Industrial Park does little more than replicate failed efforts from the past and contend it will benefit outsiders more than Haitians. They also worry it will harm some of the few pieces of undamaged environment that still exist in Haiti.
“It’s really all-in on this project, and there’s a high bar to deliver,” said Laurent Dubois, a historian who teaches at Duke University and is author of ‘‘Haiti: The Aftershocks of History.” “It really needs to deliver in a big way so that people will think, yeah, this was the right thing to do.”