WASHINGTON — Signaling a strong U.S. commitment to Haiti, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit the storm-ravaged Caribbean nation next week to meet with President René Preval.
State Department officials have not yet confirmed the visit, but Haitian officials say they've been told that Clinton plans to make a brief visit to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Thursday while en route to Trinidad and Tobago to attend the Fifth Summit of the Americas alongside President Barack Obama.
The Haiti visit would come two days after Clinton leads the U.S. delegation at a critical Haiti donors conference in Washington, and three days before Haitians head to the polls Sunday to choose among 105 candidates for 12 Senate seats.
Those familiar with the bilateral talks said that the U.S. government is expected to announce on Tuesday at least $50 million in additional aid for Haiti, including money for direct budget support. Haiti is seeking at least $2 billion toward a three-year poverty reduction plan, as well as money to close its budget gap.
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Haiti has faced a gloomy future since spiking global food and fuel prices triggered days of deadly riots last April and four storms battered the country in less than a month last summer. The storms killed nearly 800 people and left nearly $1 billion in damage.
The country now faces a $125 million budget shortfall, rising double-digit inflation and a slowdown in remittances.
''The hurricanes and the tropical storms that hammered Haiti last year not only washed away large sections of Haiti but also kind of washed away the pathway that the international community and Haiti were building in terms of social and economic development,'' Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said. He declined to offer details about his boss' travel plans or announcements about assistance to Haiti before the conference.
In February, Preval became the first head of state to meet with Clinton following her confirmation as secretary of state. Then last month, former President Bill Clinton traveled to Haiti along with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. All three are expected to attend Tuesday's meeting, where Bill Clinton will address donors in hopes of encouraging them to give more to Haiti.
For months, Haiti supporters have been calling on the international community to help keep the fragile nation from slipping deeper into misery. Ban has written to donors telling them that the conference is "of fundamental importance for consolidating the fragile stability of Haiti.''
But what other news Hillary Clinton will deliver to Préval remains unclear. Some hope she will announce more aid, while others would like to see the Obama administration allow undocumented Haitians living in the United States to remain until life improves back home under so-called Temporary Protected Status.
On Wednesday, Clinton is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, who will chair the donors meeting alongside President Luis Alberto Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank.