Haiti earthquake diary: A small circle of Haitian leaders
We visit the "new" government offices, and there's someone I know around every corner.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Thursday, Jan. 28
For the first time in more than a week, I head down to the former DGP – Direction Generale de Police. It’s where I met Mario Andresol for the first time many years ago. Mario is an articulate, tall, good-looking guy who was the chief of police after then- president Jean-Bertrand Aristide separated the military from the police. There didn’t use to be a difference.
Today, the rank-and-file police are housed in blue-and-white buildings that used to be military mustard yellow. This DGP, just down the road from the airport, now serves as government central. Dozens of four-wheel drives, complete with drivers, fill the parking lot next to a makeshift shelter that houses press conferences for the hundreds of journalists who are here covering the ‘evement’ – the incident, a commonly used euphemism for the quake.
We are not here for the meeting of international aid workers, NGO leaders, and government representatives that’s currently taking place. We’re just trying to do a story about the Haitian government at work, since most of the ministry buildings have been destroyed.
We manage to get our vehicle inside the gate but the police tell us journalists aren’t allowed, that we have to leave. I scoot past them to talk to Marie-Laurence Jocelyn-Lassegue, minister of culture and communication, someone I’ve known long before she was in politics. Her long extensions draped around her neck, she looks tired. I can understand why. Her hands are tied, she says, but gives me her phone number and says to stay in touch. She asks about my son, Kadja, and is startled to learn he’s already in college.
When Patrick Delatour, my former landlord and current minister of tourism, drives up to the DGP, he uses his political muscle to get the rest of the PBS NewsHour crew in, and we follow him like a shadow as he attends his first meeting in a small, unadorned room with just tables and chairs.
Waiting in the dimly lit hall outside Delatour’s meeting, I see Fritz Longchamps. He’s held numerous government positions since I first met him 20 years ago, including Haiti’s ambassador to the UN. He’s now in President René Préval’s private cabinet, as is Raymond Jeanty, another friend from the 1990s whom I worked with when I was a freelancer with NBC. As soon as I turn another corner, there’s Gabriel Verette, former USAID official, who is now a financial advisor in Preval’s private cabinet.
These chance encounters in the space of several minutes just reinforce how small the country is. But these are smart, savvy men whom I’m happy to see are alive and active in helping rebuild their government.
--- For more of the Monitor’s Haiti coverage, click here.