Yesterday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issued a condemnatory broadside against the Obama administration’s efforts to help Haiti recover from the recent devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake:
I read that 3,000 soldiers are arriving, Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals, that’s what the United States should send,” Chavez said on his weekly television show. “They are occupying Haiti undercover.”
“On top of that, you don’t see them in the streets. Are they picking up bodies? … Are they looking for the injured? You don’t see them. I haven’t seen them. Where are they?”
Chavez’s claims are wholly uninformed. While there are nearly 6,000 U.S. military personnel assisting in Haiti (with another 7,500 on the way), they are enabling the recovery effort to proceed. Thanks to efforts by the U.S. military to secure the airport, the pace of the air traffic into Port-au-Prince carrying food and supplies for victims “has increased from 60 flights to about a 100 a day.” U.S. forces are providing security at the request of the Haitian government.
Moreover, more than 250 personnel from the Department of Health and Human Services “are in the process of deploying to Haiti and over 12,000 personnel could possibly assist in the coming days.” Additionally, “2 planeloads of medicine, medical equipment and supplies from HHS have arrived in Haiti with a third” on the way. The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort “has left its home port of Baltimore to support relief efforts in Haiti.”
Lastly, there are 26 international search and rescue teams in Haiti, including teams from Fairfax County Virginia, Los Angeles, Virginia Beach, two from Miami, and one from New York. U.S. teams have rescued at least 26 individuals already.
As for the U.S.’s intentions in Haiti, we are not there to occupy but rather “to save lives.” As President Obama said last week, “this is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share. With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home. So we have to be there for them in their hour of need.” Denis McDonough, chief of staff for the National Security Council, added, “The one thing I don’t think any of us will apologize for is the hard work in support of relieving the suffering of the Haitian people.”