Sunday, April 21, 2024

GUEST BLOGGER SERIES: Arturo Valenzuela "Helping Haiti: A Moral Obligation"

Latinovations would like to thank Arturo A. Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary, Western Hemisphere Affairs, of the Department of State for his contribution to La Plaza

Throughout the past two weeks, Americans, and the whole world indeed, have been following closely the rescue and relief efforts underway in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Last week I travelled to the island with Secretary Hillary Clinton to get a firsthand look at these efforts and to convey very directly and personally to the Haitian people our long-term unwavering support, solidarity and sympathies.

The United States is committed to playing a leading role in the relief and reconstruction efforts alongside our international partners and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground. The ongoing contributions and support from countries across the Americas and the world, including the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Bolivia, France, Israel, Russia and many other countries are vital to Haiti’s recovery. The challenges are great, but the United States is working with the Haitian government and partners from around the world to collectively bring relief to the Haitian people at this time of crisis.

Rescue and relief in Haiti is a broad international effort. The Haitian Government is driving relief and recovery efforts as much as possible despite operating under the most difficult circumstances imaginable – circumstances of physical and institutional collapse rarely seen. The United States is consulting and coordinating closely with Haitian authorities, the United Nations, and the international community, as a partner in this process. We are operating 24/7 alongside our international partners and NGOs on the ground.

The response of the United States and the international community has been swift, massive, and is growing by the hour. Food, water, medical supplies, and other forms of essential aid are flowing into the country and relief workers are working around the clock to distribute it to the people who need it most. United States and international urban search and rescue teams are also working around the clock in a massive effort, rescuing 122 people to date. U.S. teams have rescued 43 and remain active on the ground, including at the Hotel Montana and will continue efforts until the Government of Haiti decides these operations should cease. As Vice President Biden said, “We are not just searching for Americans…We are searching for human beings. We are searching for anyone we can hear a cry from.”

Haiti continues to face significant challenges – devastated infrastructure, severely limited transportation options, and security concerns – but together we are overcoming obstacles and doing more each day.

Over the coming months and years, when international attention to the disaster in Haiti diminishes, the U.N. and partners such as the United States must and will remain to help the Haitian people rebuild and do the painstaking incremental work that comes after the rubble is cleared and the immediate danger is past.

This is a long-term commitment and a moral obligation and if we are to realize the meaning of community, we must all prepare to do what is necessary to help Haiti recover and rebuild.

Alongside these international efforts, you can also make a difference. People around the world have already contributed more than $26 million through mobile donations. There are many ways that you can help right now:

* Contribute online at or text “QUAKE” to 20222 to charge a $10 donation to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (the donation will be added to your cell phone bill).

* Text “HAITI” to “90999” and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, and charged to your cell phone bill.

* For those who have a significant in-kind contribution to make – such as a plane, a cargo ship, a team of doctors, portable generators, or large-scale water purification equipment – please log onto the website of the Center for International Disaster Information at

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela assumed responsibilities as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs on November 10, 2009. Dr. Valenzuela was previously Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is a specialist on the origins and consolidation of democracy, the institutional dimensions of democratic governance, Latin American politics, and U.S.-Latin American relations. Prior to joining the Georgetown faculty he was Professor of Political Science and Director of the Council on Latin American Studies at Duke University. He has been a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University, the University of Sussex, the University of Florence (Italy) and the Catholic University of Chile.

During the Clinton administration, Dr. Valenzuela served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, where his primary responsibility was United States foreign policy towards Mexico. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he has been listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Higher Education and has served on the editorial boards of leading academic journals. For his diplomatic contributions he has been honored with the National Order of the Southern Cross by the government of Brazil and the Order of Boyacá by the government of Colombia.

Dr. Valenzuela has served on the board of directors of Drew University, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the advisory boards of America’s Watch and the Institut des Amériques in Paris. He holds a Doctorate and a Master’s degree in Political Science from Columbia University, and a B.A. summa cum laude in Political Science and Religion from Drew University.