Tuesday, November 8, 2011


(Omaha World Herald) - By Erin Grace

LÉOGÂNE — Haitian President Michel Martelly's controversial decision to restart the Haitian Army is a "distant" project, former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday.

Carter, who is in Léogâne to lead a weeklong house-building blitz, met with Martelly on Tuesday at the Habitat for Humanity building site. Martelly, a huge draw for the Haitians working and volunteering here, toured the project and shook hands with another famous pair of volunteers: country singer Garth Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood.

Then he, Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, went inside the sole air-conditioned house on-site and spoke privately. Martelly then addressed a throng of Haitian journalists, telling them in Creole that he was grateful for the houses. He joined Carter in a tent for a VIP lunch with several dozen people, including Omahan John Bunch. More than 500 people, including 400 U.S. and Canadian volunteers, are at the building site.

Bunch is a TD Ameritrade executive who is raising money for Habitat.

Carter, at a press conference later Tuesday, said he "expressed concern" to Martelly about the Haitian president's plans to start up an army.

"He told me that was in the distant future," Carter said.

Carter said Martelly envisioned an army that would help rebuild the country "like the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers."

"He doesn't want the rest of the world to believe that one of his early priorities is to build an army," Carter said.

Carter said he would also remind the world's major governments and former President Bill Clinton, who is serving a dual role as the U.N.'s Special Envoy to Haiti and heading up a commission to green-light reconstruction projects, that donors need to make good on their promises to Haiti.

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