Haitian ambassador: ‘Haiti has to go green’

By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff
A month after Haiti was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, Raymond Joseph returned to his native country to see the widespread destruction.

“I am not very emotional,” said Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States. “But when I saw what happened, I cried.”

Through his tears, Joseph found a reason to smile when he noticed that traffic lights in the Haiti capital of Port-au-Prince were still working because they were solar powered.

“Right then and there, I said ‘Haiti has to go green,'” Joseph said. “We’re going to harness the sun and harness the wind to energize Haiti.”

Meanwhile, a “phenomenal” outpouring of international support has Joseph confident it’s possible to rebuild Haiti into a better country than it was before the Jan. 12 earthquake.

“I think that is the silver lining for Haiti,” he said.

Joseph, who graduated from Wheaton College in 1960, is in town for a 50th class reunion. On Friday, he talked to reporters and former classmates about the reconstruction effort in Haiti.

He said he’s thankful for the international community pledging $5.3 billion in aid to Haiti over the next two years.

“It took an earthquake to finally put Haiti on the map and for people to learn about this little country that we all keep calling the poorest in the Western Hemisphere,” he said.

Joseph, a former journalist who co-founded a Haitian language newspaper in New York City, said he’s pleased the American people haven’t forgotten that Haiti remains a nation trying to rebuild.

“I have been surprised by how many invitations I’ve received from throughout this country to come and speak about Haiti – even now,” Joseph said. “I have been crisscrossing this land because people are interested to find out about Haiti.”

What he tells audiences is the same message he told President Barack Obama when they met in late January: It’s going to take a long time – possibly five to 20 years – to rebuild Haiti to the point where it can stand on its own.

He stressed that promoting economic development and improving tourism is the key to achieving that goal.

“For the long haul, we are not looking for a handout,” Joseph said. “We are opening Haiti to investment.”


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