Meeting gives Cite Soleil Hope for Future

22 Apr 2004 | Lance Cpl. Mike Escobar

Leaders from all walks of life gathered April 21 in the district of Cite Soleil here to meet with Haiti’s interim prime minister.
Marines of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment worked with Cite Soleil educators, clergy, hospital administrators and informal community leaders to arrange the meeting, as well as provided security during the event.
“We facilitated the discussion by encouraging different representatives to bring up issues to the prime minister,” said Marine Col. David H. Berger, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines’ commander.
Berger said the Marines also told the community leaders that the district needs tighter security in order for non-government organizations to administer aid.
The community presented Prime Minister Gerard Latortue such issues as the need for running water, power, and food supplies.
“We will not allow anybody to steal government money any more,” Latortue said.  “We will take drastic measures even when we leave office.”
Latortue also said that police stations as well as at least one of Cite Soleil’s soccer fields would be rebuilt.
At the conclusion of the prime minister’s remarks, the assembled community clapped and cheered.
Marine Brig. Gen. Ron Coleman, Combined Joint Task Force Haiti commander, who attended the meeting, stated that he thought it important that the prime minister know the concerns of the people.
“It was extremely significant that he would take time off his schedule to visit Cite Soleil,” Coleman said.
He noted that the meeting shows that the prime minister cares about the people.  It was Latortue’s first visit to Cite Soleil, he added.
Coleman also thanked Berger and his Marines for arranging the meeting and providing security.
“I feel it was completely a Marine initiative,” Coleman said.  However, events such as these would not be possible without the support of the entire CJTF, he added.
According to Coleman, Cite Soleil has “been one of the tough spots” for the multinational interim force, but thanks to this Marine initiative and other Marine activities in the community, the district’s condition is improving daily.