Haitian president calls for peace as 4,500 troops patrol the streets
The new president of Haiti called for peace in his inaugural speech Sunday, as thousands of police and UN peacekeepers patrolled the streets and troopsfired tear gas into a nearby penitentiary in an attempt to quell a riot.
"If we don't talk to each other, we are going to fight each other and there will be no peace," RenÃ© PrÃ©val said from the steps of the National Palace. "Peace is what we need. Peace is the key to opening all the doors."
"Please help me, help the country, help yourself," he said as a crowd of 10,000 Haitians cheered.
PrÃ©val, a 63-year-old agronomist, became president of Haiti on Sunday for the second time, takingtheoath of officetwo years after his predecessor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted.
After the swearing-in ceremonyin Parliament in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince,the Senate leader placed the presidential sash on PrÃ©val.
The new president thenstood and waved as about 300 legislators and foreign dignitaries, including Canadian Gov. Gen. MichaÃ«lle Jeanand Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, gave him a standing ovation.
PrÃ©val, a former protegÃ© ofAristide, had previously been president from 1996 to 2001 and is the only one of Haiti's presidents to finish a five-year term.
4,500 troops keep peace
An estimated 4,500 police and United Nations peacekeepers patrolled the streets of Haiti, trying to maintain order in a countryplagued by poverty and violence.
Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a malfunctioning economy, abureaucracy accused of being rife with corruption, a bare-bones judicial system andgangs roaming the streets.
The penitentiary riot issymptomatic of Haiti's problems. Many of the inmates claim to be political prisoners who were locked up without trial after the previous president was ousted in a bloody coup.News reports put the death toll as high as 20 prisoners, but police denied the casualty figures, sayingthat two prisoners had been wounded.
The UN envoy to Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdes, wrote in Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper onSaturday that one of PrÃ©val's main priorities should be fixing the country's broken justice system.
"In Haiti, impunity is almost total for many criminals who roam free while the innocent and those wrongly accused of a crime stagnate in prisons," Valdes wrote.
PrÃ©val takes office two months after the election
PrÃ©val is taking office two months after winning a presidential election, promisingto unite the country's fractured society and restore the peace.
UN troops had increased patrols in Port-au-Prince and blocked streets in thedowntown areain preparation for the swearing-in ceremony. Delegations from about 40 countries were expected to attend.
Jean, who was born in Haiti, said that while she came toattend the inauguration, her four-day trip is also aimed at givingembattled Haitians hope for a better future.
Although Jean has returned to Haiti a number oftimes since her family fled in 1968 to escape a brutal dictatorship, this is her first official tripback since being appointed Governor General in September 2005.
Jean said she hopes to seepositive changes that will help mend the country and its ruinedeconomy â as long as other countries continue to give aid and support.
"Haiti cannot get out [of misery] alone," she told reporters in Port-au-Prince. "Happily, there are countries, including Canada, that are prepared to support Haiti."
Haiti has been so torn by crime, violence and intimidation that the United Nations sent a 9,000-member force â including a Canadian contingent â to try to stabilize the Caribbean country before it heldthe presidential election. The poll was delayed several times before it finally took placeonFeb. 7.
Be patient with Haiti, Jean urges donors
Jean warned the international community to be patient with Haiti's progress.
'"People expected Haiti to change from one day to another. It is not possible," she said. "You cannot come out of decades of dictatorship and expect that things will change from one day to another.
"It takes time and we have to support Haiti with a real will to see things change in this country. This country really deserves it. The people do deserve it."
Jean to visit mother's hometown
Because of security concerns, the Governor General will spend most of her time in Port-au-Prince.
But on Tuesday, she will visit her mother's hometown, Jacmel, on Haiti's southern coast.
Her mother, Luce Depestre, 75, is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease. After Jean moved into the Governor General's official residence in Ottawa, Rideau Hall, Depestre wasmoved to the capital from Montreal to allow for more visits from her daughter.