Bill Clinton to theGrio in Haiti: ‘Hope outweighs frustration’

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – One day before the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that destroyed Haiti’s capital city, former U.S. President Bill Clinton returned to witness government officials from the struggling nation sign a business deal with a South Korean garment manufacturer that would bring an industrial park — and 20,000 jobs — to the region.

Clinton spoke with theGrio’s Mara Schiavocampo about the progress he has charted since the days after the disaster, when he and former President George W. Bush created the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund with the aim to rebuild the nation by delivering economic opportunities to its people.

In the last year, 60 percent of financial pledges made to the former presidents’ organization have been distributed, Clinton reported to theGrio.

“I think we’ve got a lot of things going,” he told Schiavocampo. “I think now we need to resolve the presidential election, let the parliament take their seats and then go back to what I was doing before the earthquake.”

Clinton spoke about the need for change in Haitian laws that would allow for aid to flow more freely among its citizens, and he pushed for more infrastructure that will keep economic development growing in the country.

“The biggest problems we have here are the problems we find in all profoundly poor countries,” he told Schiavocampo. ”[Haitians] don’t have the systems that you and I take for granted. But they are extremely able.”

Clinton noted progress made in the effort to move displaced Haitians out of tent camps — but was insistent that those camps should not serve as a long term solution to the nation’s housing crisis.

“If they’re here in five years, I’ll be really disappointed,” Clinton said. “But I didn’t think we’d get a third of the people out in a year … There are more people out of those camps than I thought there would be [one year later].”

Clinton said donors to his organization have remained vigilant in the last year, and that he continues to be encouraged by the spirit of the Haitian people.

“In the end, we outsiders can’t do this for the Haitians. We have to empower them … so that when this is done, they can do this for themselves,” Clinton told theGrio. “Every day, there is hope and there is frustration, but I’d say the hope still outweighs the frustration.”

Video edited by Morgan Whitaker