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Bulletin 18 January 2010


 Haiti: ONU asks Haitians to “be patient”

Aid nti HaitiAmid protests and looting, the General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has asked Haitians to be patiet, while emergency aid arrives at a slow pace and thousands of survivors of last week’s earthquake live in dismal conditions.

The UN says that up to 200,000 may have died as a result of the earthquake. Some people have been rescued from under the rubble after spending almost a week buried and with little food or water.

With gangs of men looting and robbing survivors, concerns about security have been raised. At the same time, many people are trying to leave Port-au-Prince, because the city lacks the minimal conditions for survival.

President Ren? Pr?val has said US troops will help restore order, but correspondents on the ground say that Haiti does not seem to have a functioning government, without even a rudimentary police force to control the situation.

The UN says that it needs to provide food for at least 2 million people in the immediate future and has launched an urgent international appeal for US$562 million.

Open air cabinet meeting

Sitting on plastic chairs and cement stools, the Haitian cabinet met for the first time on Sunday, led by primer minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Many ministers were in tears because they have also lost relatives and, in the middle of a chaotic meeting, it was decided to suspend some constitutional guarantees and to declare a month of mourning.

Despite the Haitian government’s attempt to show some leadership, the UN is, in practice, in charge of the country, while the US control air traffic. Hundreds of planes are attempting to land in the Haitian capital but the airport is still able to receive only four flights an hour and aid is still not reaching those who need it the most.

“We are doing what we can”, said Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Lassegue, while explaining that conditions are extremely challenging because almost all government buildings have collapsed. She said it was difficult for ministers to do their jobs because many of them have lost close relatives, like the Economy Minister, whose two teenage daughters have died, and the Tourism Minister, who has lost both his parents.

Some return to “normality” in the middle of the chaos

Even though the capital that has, in practice, ceased to exist, some people are doing what they can to live some kind of a “normal” life. For instance, some small businesses opened on Sunday on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

Correspondents on the ground say that the earthquake has not only killed many people but also destroyed the noisy and ebullient Caribbean spirit of Haitians. However, in the middle of the tragedy, the slow arrival of aid is making some people believe that they are not alone.

At least seven makeshift hospitals have started to operate, in the grounds of the appropriately named “Good Samaritan” NGO. Neighbouring Dominican Republic has been sending aid to hundreds of people who have been queuing patiently in some parts Port-au-Prince.

Hugo Chávez: The US controls Haiti

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez accused the US of having occupied Haiti militarily. He said that the Americans are using the Haitian tragedy to send in “thousands of soldiers armed for war”. He said that he did not see the need for the US to send in so many armed soldiers. “Obama, send doctors, tents and medicines”, he said.

“Why send 3,000 soldiers who we can’t even see collecting bodies, who are making the problem worse?” asked Chávez.

Talking during his Sunday programme, Aló Presidente, Chávez promised to send Haiti “all the fuel” it needs and announced the departure a naval ship to Port-au-Prince.

Listin Diario (Dominican Republic, Spanish)

El Nacional (Dominican Republic, Spanish)

El Pais (Spanish)

BBC News

Photo credit: US Department of Defence

Chile: Right wins presidential election

altSebastián Piñera, the millionaire right-wing candidate, has become the new president of Chile after the second round of the presidential elections on Sunday. This is the first time a candidate from the right has won the elections since  Chile’s return to democracy in 1989.

Piñera got 51.61% of the votes cast while his rival, former president Eduardo Frei, got 48.38%. Frei has admitted defeat and congratulated Piñera personally for his victory. Thousands of Piñera’s followers applauded Frei for going to their campaign headquarters to congratulate the new president-elect.

The current head of state, Michelle Bachelet, spoke to Piñera to congratulate him. In front of the cameras, the new president asked Bachelet for advice on how to run a good presidency. “I will go to your house tomorrow to talk”, was Bachelet’s reply.

Piñera asked his followers for a “second transition towards development” and said that his government will not waste time while “more than 600,000 people do not have a job”. He said that health and education will be the main priorities of the new government.

Piñera had followers of former dictator Augusto Pinochet as some of his top advisers. However, he opposed Pinochet’s attempts to remain in power in the 1988 referendum, and was once a member of the Christian Democratic Party, a member of the current government coalition, the Concertación. It is evident that he will have to take measures to establish what is his real political image.

La Tercera (Chile, Spanish)

El Pais

Photo credit: public domain

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