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Mar09192017

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Richard Morse: Lamothe is misleading people about visiting Haiti

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It was interesting to read a recent statement from Haiti's current Prime Minister in reaction to the latest US State Department travel warning: "Haiti is one of the safest destinations; not just in the Caribbean but throughout the world".

I'm in the tourism/hotel business right here in Haiti. I have been since 1986 when I first started working at the Hotel Oloffson. The current Prime Minister got his facts and figures about the safety of traveling to Haiti from CNBC-USA. Personally, I don't go to International news agencies to get my facts and figures on travel to and within Haiti. I have my own eyes and ears.

I believe that the real reason an institution such as the US State Department can have concerns over US citizens visiting Haiti is because Haiti is so volatile. It's not the number of violent crimes or violent deaths or kidnappings that are the real cause of instability in Haiti. It's the unpredictability. Just today, Jan. 9, as I read the statement from Prime Minister Lamothe telling me how safe Haiti is, thousands of people took to the streets to protest judicial hearings against former president Aristide. Traffic was blocked up and some of my employees were hours late coming to work. Some of my band members couldn't get to rehearsal. Sometimes these demonstrations are peaceful and sometimes they explode into rock throwing/window breaking extravaganzas. Sometimes people get hurt, shot, tear gassed, etc.

A couple weeks ago students at the State University were upset and they set up flaming barricades and pummeled passing cars with rocks. The police were unable to do anything.
A few months ago the Industrial class was handing out money to sponsor demonstrators because they were upset at being targeted by the government taxation office *One opposition Senator was putting thousands of people in the street up in Cap Haitian hoping to create enough momentum to topple the government!!!

The whole town of Jacmel took to the streets to protest a high profile kidnapping *Belair and lower Delmas have recently erupted with gang violence.

This isn't how one attracts tourists.

As a hotelier in Haiti, I never do long term advertising in foreign countries. I can't afford to. I never know when things are going to explode or degenerate. I had security issues at my hotel 6 or 8 months back and no one in the government would respond. No one in the government seemed interested enough to respond to my requests for assistance.

The first people to leave tent cities after the earthquake didn't leave because of support from the Haitian government, an NGO, or the European Community...The first people to leave tent cities left because they had jobs and could afford to leave their tent life on their own.

Every time some grass roots organization or group of students tells me they want to take their grievances to the street, I tell them, "You're chasing jobs and tourists away, and we need jobs more than anything!". All this "street justice" hurts us more than helps us. Why is a Haitian senator taking his grievances to the street when he has a parliament to work within? It makes no sense.

The last thing the Prime Minister should want is for an important tourist delegation to come to town and have the VIP cars pummeled with the rocks of angry students. Had a bus full of tourists been coming down Tabarre as the demonstrators were heading up, it could have provoked an international incident...

Don't mislead people. We're not there yet.

We're working to improve Haiti's situation, but we're not there yet. Take these State Department warnings as helpful reminders of what you have yet to get done and stop looking to CNBC for statistics which are a bit out of context. Most of us want things to improve in Haiti, that's right, most of us. Most of us want tourists; but don't try and fool people into coming. Take things step by step..Don't be naive

Richard Morse
Port au Prince, Haiti

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