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Haiti relief lacks leadership - Italian expert

By BBC


A senior Italian official has strongly criticized the Haiti earthquake relief operation, saying it could have been managed much better.

Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's civil protection service, said there was a lack of leadership in the international aid operation.

He also criticised US forces in Haiti, saying troops had no training in running a civilian relief operation.

It is believed the quake on 12 January killed as many as 200,000 people.

An estimated 1.5 million people have been left homeless.

Mr Bertolaso, who arrived in Haiti on Friday, described it as "a terrible situation that could have been managed much better".

"When there is an emergency, it triggers a vanity parade. Lots of people go there anxious to show that their country is big and important, showing solidarity," he said.

He told Italian TV channel RAI he hoped it was "the last time the world acts in this way".
Mr Bertolaso, a government minister, said it was logical and "commendable" for the US to lead the relief efforts, but "too many officers" meant they had not been able to find a capable leader.

"We're missing a leader, a co-ordination capacity that goes beyond military discipline," he said.

"It's a truly powerful show of force, but it's completely out of touch with reality.

"They don't have close rapport with the territory, they certainly don't have a rapport with the international organisations and aid groups."

The US effort in Haiti has also drawn criticism from some Latin American leaders.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticised the US for sending too many soldiers but not enough medical supplies.

John Caulfield, a US diplomat in Caracas, Venezuela, dismissed the allegations, saying Washington wanted to provide aid to the Haitian people "and not be distracted by those political criticisms".

Meanwhile, Haiti's main creditors are due to meet on Monday in the Canadian city of Montreal to map out a plan for its reconstruction.

UK-based charity Oxfam has urged donor countries to have Haiti's foreign debts cancelled.

It said about $900m (£557m) owed to the UN, the World Bank and countries including the US, France, Canada and Brazil should be written off.

As the relief operation continues, aid workers have criticised Haitian government plans to relocate hundreds of thousands of people from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to large camps outside the city.

They will be moved while rebuilding work is carried out.

Caroline Gluck, from Oxfam, told the BBC the move could be dangerous for the survivors.

"In the past, experience has told us establishing some huge camps can cause all kinds of security problems, for example, robberies, rapes and kind of gang activities if the camps are kept too big," she said.

Oxfam was pressing for the camps to be smaller, she added.

Earlier, Haitian communications minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said authorities were still far from knowing the total number of those killed.

She said the confirmed death toll had risen above 150,000 in the Port-au-Prince area alone.

Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean, who set up the charity foundation Yele Haiti, arrived in the capital on Sunday.

He was among a number of high-profile artists to take part in a "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon in the US on Friday which raised more than $57m (£35m) for the aid effort.

The search for survivors officially ended on Saturday and the focus has shifted to aid.

But hours after officials declared a formal end to the search, a 24-year-old man was pulled alive from the remains of a hotel after 11 days under the rubble.

Rescuers described his survival as "a miracle".