Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump met with a small group of Haitian Americans Friday in Little Haiti, telling them that they share “a lot of common values” and the country deserved better than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, Trump said, failed Haiti when it needed help the most.
“Clinton was responsible for doing things a lot of the Haitian people are not happy with,” Trump said from prepared remarks, referring to the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. “Taxpayer dollars intended for Haiti and the earthquake victims went to a lot of the Clinton cronies.”
Later, Trump told the crowd that he had come to “listen and learn” and to build a new relationship with the community.
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“Whether you vote for me or not I really want to be your biggest champion,” he said.
There was no news from the candidate during the 26-minute discussion, in which attendees questioned him about his position on school choice. They also complained about the Clintons’ two-decade-plus involvement in Haiti.
“I didn’t understand, now I understand it,” Trump said in reference to many Haitians’ feelings about the Clintons.
Outside of his prepared remarks, Trump said very little during the meeting at the Little Haiti Cultural Center’s adjoining marketplace and visitor center before he was ushered out to his next stop. A few protesters held signs saying, “Little Haiti says No to Trump’s racism and hate.”
Trump was introduced by Georges Saati, a controversial blogger in the Haitian community, who told the room that this was the first time that a U.S. presidential candidate had visited the community. The remarks earned Trump applause from attendees, several of whom said they went because they were curious and wanted to hear what Trump had to say. Most of their remarks to the candidate focused on their personal disappointment over the lack of progress in Haiti despite the involvement of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“The fact that he came here is everything for us as Haitians,” said Monique DieuJuste, 41, a Lauderhill residents who works as a registered respiratory therapist.
DieuJuste, who is registered with no party affiliation, said she plans to vote for Trump because the “Clintons haven’t done anything for us.”
As for Trump’s controversial stances on immigration, which many Haitians remain concerned about, DieuJuste said while she too has her concerns, he won her over with his support for possibly sending a Haitian-American as ambassador to Haiti should he be elected.
Attendees included Haitian doctors, lawyers and former Haiti government ministers. Ringo Cayard, a Haitian community activist who help put the event together, said it’s time for the Haitian-American vote to stop being taken for granted.
“I want them to listen to Trump and to listen to Hillary and then decide,” he said.
Leonce Thelusma, a former Haitian finance minister and a registered Republican, said his support for Trump will depend on the candidate’s stance on helping Haiti and Haitians. Clinton, he said, has little to show for her and her husband’s involvement in Haiti, where most recently Bill Clinton served as U.N. special envoy and czar of the recovery effort after the quake.
“No Haitian has benefited from that,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have any institutions in Haiti that can call him and demand that he gives an account of the [earthquake] money.”