NYC Mayor Heeds Advice, Postpones Trip to Haiti
From Haitian Times

Citing warnings from the American Mission in Haiti, Mayor Michael Bloomberg postponed his trip to Haiti. He was planning to take part in the country's bicentennial celebrations.

"The American Mission in Haiti has asked that we postpone our visit," Bloomberg said on Jan. 9, two days before he was expected in Port-au-Prince as part of a one-day trip to both Haiti and Jamaica. "It's a very complex time right now."

Because a massive protest was planned in Port-au-Prince for Jan 11 -- the day of his visit -- and because of recent violence at street demonstrations, Bloomberg said he would postpone his stop to Haiti to later on this year.

"Nobody ever pays attention to the small countries, and I think that [visiting them] shows appreciation," Bloomberg said.
An invitation-only reception to celebrate Haiti's 200th anniversary of independence from France will continue on for Jan. 14 at Gracie Mansion as planned, the mayor said.

Frequent protests, often violent, have tainted Haiti's bicentennial celebration. The U.S. State Department said the Haitian government has failed to maintain order "and in some instances has assisted in violently repressing the demonstrations."
Students and groups opposed to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas government have been protesting throughout the country.

Some international organizations have evacuated their staff from Haiti, the U.S. embassy said.

"What [Bloomberg] got was advice that now is not a good time to travel there," State Department spokesman Stuart Patt said. "It's a warning of potential danger."

The mayor's aides said the trip was not political, but a symbol that Bloomberg respected and recognized the Haitian community's contributions to New York.

The decision to postpone the trip to Haiti disappointed Haitians such as Rev. Philius Nicolas, who looked forward to accompanying the mayor on the hours-long stop to Haiti. But Nicolas said he understood.

"There is trouble in Haiti now," said the reverend, a pastor of Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men Church in Flatbush.

"It is too dangerous now to go. It's more like we're fighting independence now, instead of celebrating 200 years. We should have been further than that."

Nicolas accompanied the mayor on his trip to Jamaica, but as a native of Haiti, he said he felt sad that tourists are not safe in the country of nearly 8 million people.

The State Department issued an announcement Jan. 9 for Americans to be aware of "ongoing civil unrest and political demonstrations in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince.

"If at all possible, U.S. citizens should delay travel to Haiti until calm is restored. Due to severe limitations on travel and communication inside the country, the embassy's ability to assist U.S. citizens in Haiti is very limited at this time," officials said in the statement.

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