In Miami, Haitian-American Voters Grapple with Mixed Feelings About Clinton

The Clintons have loomed large in Haiti for decades.

As Bill and Hillary Clinton ascended in the political world, their interest in Haiti — sparked by their 1975 honeymoon there — kept pace. They played key behind-the-scenes roles in Haiti presidential elections and publicly championed the Caribbean nation after the 2010 earthquake.

But that deep involvement in the politics of a foreign country wasn’t always welcomed by Haitians or the diaspora. And now some Haitian-American voters are threatening to turn their backs on Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential bid because they say the Clintons — and the Clinton Foundation — have not always done what’s best for Haiti.

In sought-after Florida, where the race between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump has remained tight, Clinton is finding that the Haitian-American vote is far from locked up.

“They know that the Haitian community has a beef with them,” said Dr. Laurinus “Larry” Pierre, head of the Democratic Haitian American Caucus of Florida and a prominent Democratic party fundraiser. “Mistakes were clearly made in Haiti. But at least with Hillary, we have some access.”

Haitian voters point out that Clinton hasn’t visited Little Haiti, while Trump has. And though Clinton did meet with a handful of Haitian Americans before a Coral Springs rally Sept. 30 — five days before Hurricane Matthew hammered Haiti’s southwestern peninsula — Pierre, who attended the meeting, said that wasn’t enough: “I still asked Hillary if she could make a stop in the Haitian community.”

Pierre, who has been campaigning for Clinton as part of an effort by the political action committee Haitian Americans for Progress, says his message is simple: “If you don’t vote, it’s like you vote for Trump and if Trump is elected, we have no access.”

Still, it’s a hard sell for some.

The traditionally Democratic-leaning community isn’t necessarily flocking to Trump, who has tried to make Haiti a symbol of what he calls Hillary Clinton’s “crooked” behavior in hopes of diluting the black vote, particularly in Florida. But Haitian-American voters also aren’t giving Clinton the kind of support other Democratic candidates are accustomed to in an election where every vote is critical.

Click here to continue reading…

Miami Herald