On Saturday, October 23rd, Mirlande Manigat visited Boston as part of a tour of the Haitian Diaspora. The Haitian presidential candidate spoke for over an hour and answered several questions from a crowded room of 200 at Centre Belleville in Dorchester. Manigat turned 70 on November 3rd, holds a doctorate from the Sorbonne in France and is the co-founder of political party: RDNP (Rassemblement Des Democrates Nationaux Progressistes). She is currently a professor at Quisqueya University in Haiti.
One of the first questions she answered was why she is running to become the next president of Haiti.
“I am running to bring Democracy back to Haiti,” she said. “My husband and I have been blessed to live and serve in Haitian politics for decades. We are concerned educators and we love Haiti. As president, I will bring all parties to the table. There are capable people in all the different parties who also care for Haiti just like we do. We need their contribution to rebuild Haiti. I don’t believe RDNP is the all and all.”
The next president of Haiti will inherit many extreme challenges. He/she will have to draw upon all available resources to address these challenges. If she were to become president, Manigat promised to unify qualified and experienced professionals such as architects, engineers, and land developers to form a broad coalition to manage the rebuilding process of Haiti. She plans to develop a group that will oversee new modern infrastructure by building roads and bridges to facilitate travel around the country. Since Haiti is surrounded by water and has many rivers throughout, she wants to protect the people in towns like the valley of Artbonite and others who are handicapped by the frequent floods.
Manigat also promised that she would involve the Diaspora in rebuilding Haiti.
“I want to bring dual citizenship to Haiti,” said Manigat. “We need you the Diaspora to have a say so in the affairs of Haiti. You live in a country where democracy is real and alive, your expertise and professional experience are important to us. I want you to facilitate your re-entry to Haiti to help rebuild your country. I want to welcome you home.”
Under her plan, someone from the Diaspora could become a state official after 5 years of residency in Haiti. She argued that countries like Taiwan and Israel have reaped great benefits from dual citizenship.
“The work of rebuilding Haiti is not for one president. As president I will do my part, I will install regulations that will rebuild in phases, step by step by step. And the next president can continue because it’s going to take not just 2 years nor 5 or 10 years to rebuild Haiti. Our problems are huge and will take a long time and we must come together in the name of theirs room democracy”.
The candidate also addressed the country’s budget. She stated that she did not have any data to back up a financial budget. According to Manigat, the current government has not provided the public with a budget and without such data and no numbers on income, government and community taxes or international donors.
On her top priorities, Manigat vowed to dedicate her first two years in office to Education and Health. There are over 800,000 children who don’t attend primary schools in Haiti; she wants to change that and re-vive the Haitian educational system.
As for healthcare, “There are not enough hospitals in Haiti, most children are delivered via a femmes sage (mid-wives). I was delivered via a femme sage. Yes I believe there is a way to combine natural medicine and modern medicine, which is necessity in rural areas of Haiti. I will deliver a plan to fix the health crisis in Haiti.”
When asked about the outbreak of cholera, the candidate explained that she heard from doctors in Canada, during a visit last week. Haiti’s cholera outbreak is spread via water. People are dying from severe fever and dehydration. “I have advised RDNP staff on the ground of Artibonite region to put political preference aside and care for the people no matter what their political preferences are.”
In the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake, she said, “I believe the solution is to fix the tent issues once and for all. I will put together a plan to re-count the survivors and bring the families back together and provide a plan that will include homes and stability for them. Not moving them from tent to tent, prepping a place for those who want to come back to Port au Prince.”
Manigat was forced to respond to an allegation regarding her receiving an $8 million armored vehicle from President Preval. She refuted this allegation. She explained that after a pleasant meeting with Preval, the president expressed his concern for former president Leslie Manigat’s safety, so he offered the former president an official car.
“It’s funny because my husband almost never leaves the house, and according to Haitian security experts the vehicle cannot travel through the narrow unstable streets of Haiti. The next day a government official was sent and a used car was provided because a new one was not available for which I requested a regular license plate, no money was discussed nor have I seen any. My campaign would have the benefit [of] this imaginary $8 million.”