US accused of ‘occupying’ Haiti as troops flood in

France accused the US of “occupying” Haiti on Monday as thousands of American troops flooded into the country to take charge of aid efforts and security.

by Aislinn Laing and Tom Leonard in Port-au-Prince
Telegraph [UK]
18 Jan 2010

The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to “clarify” the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering aid efforts.

Alain Joyandet admitted he had been involved in a scuffle with a US commander in the airport’s control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight.

“This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,” Mr Joyandet said.

Geneva-based charity Medecins Sans Frontieres backed his calls saying hundreds of lives were being put at risk as planes carrying vital medical supplies were being turned away by American air traffic controllers.

But US commanders insisted their forces’ focus was on humanitarian work and last night agreed to prioritise aid arrivals to the airport over military flights, after the intervention of the UN.

The diplomatic row came amid heightened frustrations that hundreds of tons of aid was still not getting through. Charities reported violence was also worsening as desperate Haitians took matters into their own hands.

The death toll is now estimated at up to 200,000 lives. Around three million Haitians – a third of the country’s population – have been affected by Tuesday’s earthquake and two million require food assistance.

While food and water was gradually arriving at the makeshift camps which have sprung up around the city, riots have broken out in other areas where supplies have still not materialised.

Haiti was occupied by the US between 1915 and 1935, and historical sensitivities together with friction with other countries over the relief effort has made the Americans cautious about their role in the operation.

The article continues at the Telegraph.

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