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Cablegate: Preval Provincial Swing a Mixed Bag

VZCZCXRO5281
PP RUEHQU
DE RUEHPU #0147/01 0301916
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301916Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7580
INFO RUEHZH/HAITI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 1771
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA PRIORITY 1579
RUEHQU/AMCONSUL QUEBEC PRIORITY 1002
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1410

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT AU PRINCE 000147

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/EX AND WHA/CAR
S/CRS
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CAR
INR/IAA
WHA/EX PLEASE PASS USOAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CU ECON HA KDEM PGOV PREL SOCI
SUBJECT: PREVAL PROVINCIAL SWING A MIXED BAG

REF: PORT AU PRINCE 38

PORT AU PR 00000147 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) This message is sensitive but unclassified -- please
protect accordingly.

2. (SBU) Summary: President Preval recently made the first
public tour outside the capital since assuming office. He
spent two days in Haiti's Central Plateau, stopping to
inaugurate a new hospital with U.S. public health luminary
Dr. Paul Farmer, visiting the border, and making speaking
appearances in several towns. Preval dished out lofty
promises of future development in the region, including a
sports/cultural center and a medical testing center.
Repeating a theme of his recent public appearances, Preval
emphasized ''national production'' as the solution to Haiti's
economic woes, and reiterated the preeminence of peace and
security to Haiti's development. He also acknowledged that
inflation is a problem and will take time and effort to rein
in. Preval's 48-hour excursion finally showed him applying
his considerable political skills in public outside the
capital. While these appearances increased his visibility in
the provinces, his grand promises and a number of maladroit
statements generated some pushback from the crowds and a
degree of critical media reaction. End summary.

3. (U) Kicking off his January 21-22 swing through Haiti's
central plateau, President Rene Preval brought his star power
to bear at the opening of a new Partners in Health (PIH)
funded hospital in Lascahobas. (Note: Partners in Health,
AmeriCares, and the Ministry of Public Health and Population
(MSPP) joined forces to erect the Lascahobas hospital in just
six months. Harvard medical professor and PIH founder, Paul
Farmer, spearheaded the project. End note.) Preval entered
the crowded pavilion to cheers of support from locals,
students and visitors. Sporting jeans and a casual plaid
shirt, the President spent five minutes walking around
greeting the attendees and blowing kisses to the crowd. Dr.
Farmer told Emboffs privately that Preval had jumped at the
idea of participating when Farmer merely mentioned the
opening to him offhand.

4. (U) In his keynote address, Preval indicated Lascahobas
would be the site of the first of the sports/cultural centers
he promised in his Independence Day speech (reftel). He also
vowed to build one of several proposed medical diagnostic
centers at the Lascahobas hospital, stocked with scanners,
ultrasound, x-ray and other equipment promised by Cuba.
Preval then put Minister of Public Health Dr. Robert Auguste
on the spot by asking him to confirm to the crowd that this
was truly possible. Pointing to three Haitian doctors
trained in Cuba, Preval stated that he wants to see a medical
school built in Haiti, and beseeched Dr. Farmer's help with
such a project. Preval then invited the American and Cuban
doctors in attendance to join him on the stage, stating that
he was contributing to ''reconciliation.''

5. (U) Preval continued his tour of the Central Plateau --
accompanied by Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis,
Minister of Public Health Dr. Robert Auguste and Minister of
Public Works Frantz Verella -- emphasizing local production
and long-term peace and security. ''We absolutely must
preserve the climate of peace in order to attract investors
and spur development,'' he said. He noted that the high
price of oil on the world market made it difficult to bring
down the cost of essential goods. Only national production,
he said, could lower the cost of living, and he encouraged
Haitians to consume local, not imported, products whenever
possible. Preval made several stops around the Center
Department, including the future home of a cross-border
marketplace in Belladere and an agricultural center in
Mirebalais.

6. (U) The Haitian press singled out several of Preval's
cautionary calls for realism as evidence the President is
shirking responsibility for citizens' wellbeing. His
statement to the effect that Haitians should not have voted
for him if they expected miracles provoked the most negative
commentary. After learning that the majority of one audience
he was addressing was unemployed, Preval said, ''I did not

PORT AU PR 00000147 002.2 OF 002


promise you jobs.'' Answering complaints about the high cost
of living, Preval simply said, ''We've done what we could,''
and said that the remedy for high prices was increased local
production. A clip shown on TNH national news showed Preval
encountering pushback from some in the audience. Citizens
interviewed on one local radio station monitored by Poloff
commented, ''The nation clearly has no chance with Rene
Preval because prices increased during both his mandates,''
and pointed out ''There is no national production.'' OPL
spokesperson Paul Denis said Preval is unrealistic and shows
no true determination to solve the nation's economic
problems. Fusion spokesperson Micha Gaillard told Poloff
that Preval's ideas are ''just blather'' until the Ministries
present specific action plans for how to augment national
production.

7. (SBU) Comment: Preval during his second term has rarely
left the capital, and then only for private events or major
traditional appearances such as the annual Independence Day
speech in Gonaives. Although a campaigner with good
political and crowd skills, Preval since his May 2006
inauguration has been oddly reticent about appearing in
public. Upon hearing of this trip, Deputy SRSG Luiz Da Costa
commented to Poloff ''I've been trying to get him to do that
sort of publicity tour for a year now.'' Preval's
crowd-pleasing efforts -- blowing kisses to the throngs,
riding a motorcycle taxi -- aimed to revive his image as a
man close to the people. While his key themes of security
and national production continue to meet with general
approval, this trip demonstrated that Preval still lacks
answers to rising public impatience over continuing mass
joblessness and the high cost of living. His at times
defensive and insensitive statements about the plight of his
people tarnished some of the good will generated by the
excursion.
SANDERSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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