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TRIBUTE TO PRESIDENT RENE PREVAL

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It is with shock and disbelief that I received the news of the passing of President René Garcia Préval. When I last saw my dear friend and brother as we met in Santiago, Cuba, to bid a final farewell to the incomparable Fidel Castro, he appeared to be enjoying good health, full of energy and buoyant as ever. Suddenly, he has been taken from his beloved family and the people he so long and faithfully served to join the martyrs who have gone before.

René Préval served as Prime Minister for a short period under President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was elected and served The Republic of Haiti, as President from 1996 to 2001 and again from 2006 to 2011.

It was during his first period of Presidential tenure and my incumbency as Chairman of the Caribbean Community that the first decisive steps were taken to bring Haiti into the fold of Caribbean Nations and thereby end its hemispheric isolation.

As the Community's Special Representative after the devastating earthquake of January 2010 and in response to his invitation to serve as his Presidential Emissary, we became engaged in the struggle to deliver and rebuild from the ruins of that disaster.

From those rare vantage points and in the extraordinary circumstances, I saw at first hand Preval's deep and abiding love for his country and the Haitian people. He was determined to maintain the sovereignty of the oldest black Independent country in this Western Hemisphere, to work assiduously to protect its Constitution and to promote a democratic tradition for the orderly transition of political power in a nation previously shackled by despotic rule.

These were not easy objectives especially in the closing years, as the internal and external pressures were severe. René Préval persevered and succeeded. History will accord him that special place deserved by the only Haitian Head of State democratically elected to have served two full terms of office and pass the baton twice to a successor duly chosen by its people.

The Republic of Haiti and, indeed, the Caribbean owe him a tremendous debt.

I convey my sincere condolence to his dear widow, Elisabeth, his family and the Government and people of Haiti.

 

P. J. Patterson, ON, OCC

March 7. 2017