PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) - Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has disputed claims by the United States and Canada that the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country is not a safe place to visit.
“We would like to reassure the tourists, the Diaspora, people who want to visit, Haiti is one of the safest destinations that they could visit,” Lamothe told reporters, noting that the latest figures from UN Office on Drugs and Crime show that in 2010 Haiti had a recorded murder rate of 6.9 for every 100,000 people.
The rate is close to one-quarter that of Jamaica and less than half of the neighbouring Dominican Republic.
UN officials, however, said that statistics are always subject to “under-reporting and under-recording”.
Lamothe’s statement comes after Washington last week issued a strongly-worded travel warning and Canada modified its advisory.
The travel advisory warned travellers arriving from the US “were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport” and at least two US citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents in 2012.
“US citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age.”
In updating its travel advisory on January 2, Canada told its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution due to high crime rates” especially in certain slum neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince
But the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, said “generally when we look at the whole hemisphere, the security situation in Haiti is far less than in other countries.
“e have to be careful that by taking certain action we are not becoming counterproductive to what we want to achieve. Haiti needs tourists, Haiti needs investors, and anything that can limit or become a deterrent is going to be a negative,” he added.
Ramdin urged the international community to re-evaluate efforts to help Haiti, which also must do its part.
“I have found a lack of willingness on the part of the international community to coordinate better in Haiti because everybody wants to plant their flags. They want to be recognised. Haiti’s government, despite its goodwill, has been distracted by domestic issues and also by financial disaster,” he added.