Main | Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Death Toll Hits 200,000, Charges Arise Of American "Occupation"

New estimates put the death toll in Haiti at over 200,000. That number approaches the estimated 230,000 killed by 2004's Indian Ocean tsunami.
With thousands of bodies being shoveled into mass graves, there is no accurate tally of the casualty count. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said Tuesday that 72,000 bodies had been recovered by the government. The European Commission, citing Haitian government figures, estimated the death toll could reach 200,000. Amid the rising chorus of criticism about the lack of coordination, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten told The Miami Herald that obstructed roads and collapsed buildings made aid delivery a logistical nightmare. "Would we like for there to be the possibility of getting more aid out to people faster? Of course,'' he said. "If people were to realize the challenges we were dealing with here, they would be completely understanding and realize this is an extraordinary operation.'' With hundreds of thousands left homeless and many more who have yet to see aid, Haitian first lady Elisabeth Delatour Préval acknowledged time is running out. "I am not worried today,'' she said. ``But if the relief is not provided soon enough to a population in despair, that might open the door to some violence.''
As the international relief effort escalates, American conservatives are screaming that the Obama administration has achieved a defacto occupation of Haiti. That charge is being echoed by the French government.
United Nations officials must investigate and clarify the dominant US role in the earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Bernard Kouchnet, the French minister said. US forces last week turned back a French aid plane carrying a field hospital from the damaged, congested airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince, prompting a complaint from the French co-operation minister, Alain Joyandet. The plane landed safely the following day. Mr Kouchner warned governments and aid groups not to squabble as they try to get their aid into Haiti. "People always want it to be their plane ... that lands," Mr Kouchner said on Monday. "(But) what's important is the fate of the Haitians." Mr Joyandet persisted: "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti."
Secretary of State Clinton responded that American forces will only ever be there to help and have "no intention of supplanting" the Haitian government. What Haitian government? Another strong quake rocked Port Au Prince this morning, a 6.0 temblor that sent rescue workers scrambling.

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