Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
January 17, 2010


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thanks. We’ve been out on the streets for four days. We’ve seen desperate people, people begging us for help – for food, for water, for medical aid. One man said to us the U.S. doesn’t care. He said they’re not here, they’re not helping us. What do you say?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m sorry that you’ve encountered anyone who feels that because, of course, we are here, along with our UN and international partners. This was a very difficult mission to stand up because of the obvious destruction, because of the limitations of the airport, the fact that the port is not operational, that roads have been destroyed or are impassible. But every day that goes by, we get more aid out there, we get more help out there. And I’m very proud of the effort that we’ve undertaken on behalf of the American people for the people of Haiti.

QUESTION: Do you feel like it could have been done more quickly, though? Any frustration?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. No. I think that – the government was devastated, Kate. There was no central authority. Everybody coming in pretty much had to wing it, trying to figure out where they could go and how they could get there. We’re beginning to see some coordination being imposed on the situation. The UN, which was the natural body to look toward, was devastated. They lost their leadership. So I think if you add up all of the challenges that we were confronted when that earthquake hit Tuesday, the fact we’re sitting here on Saturday, we’ve got the operation going the way we do, I think is remarkable.

QUESTION: We’re also hearing frustration, though, that Americans are being rescued. There’s an impression that Americans are being rescued and not Haitians.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That is just so untrue, and I’m happy to have a chance to answer that. We have six search-and-rescue teams. They have rescued by far – the majority of the people are Haitians. They just brought in a man who had been rescued after a very long, painstaking search-and-rescue mission. There are nearly 30 – I think there are 30 teams here internationally, from Iceland to China to Israel, Argentina, all places in between. They’re all working as hard as they can. They go where they’re told there are the maximum potential lives to be saved. And I think that these men and women deserve our thanks, and the people they’re saving are predominantly Haitians.

QUESTION: Are you worried that the if aid, if the food and the water doesn’t get out there quickly, the situation could turn more tense? We’re not seeing that yet –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. Well, of course, we worry because you and I would be desperate if we were in that position. But as General Keen, our commanding general on the ground here, said, today was better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today.

QUESTION: And as far as rebuilding, the Haitians are saying one million people homeless. That’s half the population of the city. How does this country ever come back from this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there have been devastations elsewhere. I remember the tsunami in 2004 that just wiped out whole communities, and the international community stayed with the job. And new roads were built, new housing was built. That’s what’s going to happen here in Haiti.

QUESTION: You see that happening –

SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. Well –

QUESTION: How quickly.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean –

QUESTION: Years.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s – it takes years. This is not something that can be done quickly. You have to get a plan, because you don’t want to just be running around like headless chickens. You want to plan it and execute on that plan. But I had a very good, long discussion with President Preval, with the prime minister and others, and we are prepared to work with them to achieve the goals they have for themselves. We’re here at the invitation of the Haitian Government, and we have lot of ideas but they’re the ones at the end of the day who have to bear responsibility.

QUESTION: And it is a functioning government, as far as the U.S. is concerned.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s doing the best it can. I mean, if you’re parliament, then you’re executive branch – I mean, it would be like the White House was damaged, the Congress was damaged, a lot of ministers haven’t been accounted for. We don’t really know where a lot of them are, but we have a president, we have a prime minister, and they’re working as hard as they can. And we’re going to give them all the support they need.

QUESTION: Just finally, I know you have such a personal connection here. Does it sadden you that you weren’t able to anywhere but the airport today, that you weren’t able to go see it and touch and feel it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Not today, and I’ll tell you why. Because I have really not wanted to disrupt anything going on. Unfortunately, when I move, there’s a big caravan.

QUESTION: They do have to shut down the airspace here for you –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Yeah. Well, they shouldn’t have. They – that was – we were circling. In fact, no airspace was shut down, no roads were shut down because of my visit, and I made that very clear. So that’s why we’re not getting off of the airport on this visit. But certainly, I feel like I’ve been well briefed and my team is going to continue to follow up and people will be coming back and seeing for themselves and evaluating our efforts as we go forward.

QUESTION: Thanks, Madame Secretary. Take care.



PRN: 2010/T19-3