Haiti hired a public relations firm two months after President Donald Trump’s “shithole” racist comment and other disparaging remarks that the President made about the hemisphere’s poorest nation that continues to struggle to achieve economic development.
Before his vulgar statement in January, Trump falsely claimed in a June immigration policy meeting that Haiti has sent 15,000 people with AIDS to the United States. As usual, Trump is uninformed. Haiti, like many other countries, struggled to contain the HIV/AIDS outbreak that spread rapidly in the 1980s. However, since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 25 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 24 percent, according to UNAIDS. In fact, Haiti is one of the success stories in the developing world.
But this and other demeaning remark by Trump makes it more challenging for the nation, which is still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake, to attract possible investors.
“For them, this is image survival more than anything else during the Trump administration,” Fulton Armstrong, a senior faculty fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, told The Hill.
Haiti hired the global public relations firm Mercury, which will manage the country’s media image and craft its new narrative.
Unlike Trump, leaders of other nations acknowledge Haiti’s problems but are supportive. The United Nations brought its Haiti peacekeeping operations to an end in October after nearly 14 years. The mission began during the public unrest that led to the toppling of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and continued amid as other challenges arose. Sandra Honoré, the Trinidadian diplomat who guided Haiti through several crises including a 2016 hurricane, told the Miami Herald that the nation has made significant progress. However, some of those improvements have not reached poor urban communities.
A well-designed PR campaign could improve a country’s image, Armstrong added. Positive information can change how people view the island and improve chances for more financial investment but also tourism.