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Italian official condemns Haiti earthquake relief

Guido Bertolaso, undersecretary of State and the head of Italy’s civil protection service, has commented the presence of US soldiers in Haiti after the earthquake, saying they don’t have a ‘close rapport with the territory’.

The Italian government official who led the country’s response to the L’Aquila earthquake has condemned relief efforts in Haiti as a disorganised parade, ahead of an international conference on rebuilding the devastated country.

Guido Bertolaso said there had been a fundamental lack of leadership thus far in foreign aid missions to Haiti, warning also that the large US military mission in the country was not entirely helpful.

“The Americans are extraordinary, but when you are facing a situation in chaos they tend to confuse military intervention with emergency aid, which cannot be entrusted to the armed forces,” Reuters reported him as telling Italy’s RAI television.

Dozens of nations have sent rescue teams and relief supplies to Haiti. The effort involves government staff, troops and representatives from hundreds of separate charities and NGOs. The process has already been criticised as taking too long to bring desperately needed food, water and shelter.

Later today, the Haitian prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, will join Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and ministers from Canada, France and other nations in Montreal to begin planning his country’s long-term reconstruction.

Bertolaso led Italian relief and reconstruction efforts following the quake in April last year around the city of L’Aquila. The death toll was a relatively low 307 but thousands of buildings, including churches and palaces dating from 15th century, were damaged or destroyed.

Having arrived in Haiti, Bertolaso said he had seen “a terrible situation that could have been managed much better”. “When there is an emergency lots of people go there anxious to show that their country is big and important, showing solidarity,” he said.

He expressed doubt over the efficacy of having so many US military personnel involved.  They don’t have close rapport with the territory, they certainly don’t have a rapport with the international organisations and aid groups.”

Canada’s foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon, said at Montreal meeting was intended to begin mapping out what was needed to get Haiti’s government back up and running for reconstruction.

“It’s not a donor or pledging conference,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s to make sure we have an action plan. We want to co-ordinate better in the short term and make sure we all know who is doing what and how.”

One goal, he said, was to “physically get the Haitian government back on its feet”.

The guardian and Agencies

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