CARACOL, Haiti — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday hailed Haitian reconstruction after the devastating 2010 earthquake, drawing parallels between the "American dream" and the "Haitian dream."
Clinton was speaking at the formal opening of an industrial zone meant to help boost economic development and create 37,000 jobs in the impoverished country still reeling from the quake, which killed at least 250,000 people.
"In the United States, we pride ourselves on the promise of the American dream. And we have seen many Haitian Americans achieve that American dream," Clinton said. "Now, Haitians here in Haiti have the very same drive."
The top US diplomat was accompanied by her husband and former US president Bill, whose charitable Clinton Foundation is very active in Haiti.
Others attending the event included Haitian President Michel Martelly, his predecessor Rene Preval, British tycoon Richard Branson and actors Ben Stiller and Sean Penn.
In her remarks, Clinton underscored that while the creation of new jobs was critically important, other sectors were in dire need of development.
"In addition to effective government, Haiti needs a strong justice sector, free and fair elections, housing, energy, schools, health care -- all of which will serve the people of Haiti, but also attract even more investment," she said.
Clinton also urged Haiti to build upon progress achieved with US support, while pledging that the partnership between the two countries would continue once she leaves office.
"Now it is up to the people and leaders of Haiti to sustain and build on this progress. After all, it always comes down to what people will do for themselves," she said.
"But I think we're off to a very good start together, and the United States is committed to the work we are doing here. We believe in Haiti's promise and the dream that every Haitian should be able to feel."
Less than 18 months after taking office, Martelly is facing a wave of opposition focused on the rising cost of living and corruption.
State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, appeared to downplay the situation.
One official described Martelly as a popular president who, like all others in his position, has to work hard to maintain the trust of his people.
Working with the parliament "has proven to be a challenge" for Martelly, the official said -- "a challenge for both parties to be the kind of partner that they can be to each other."
"And so I don't know that this government has different challenges than many governments and certainly not different challenges than governments here in Haiti have had."
Another US official suggested some of the anti-Martelly protests had been bankrolled by opposition parties and "aren't all that spontaneous."