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IN THE PRESS

An overview of the stories making the French and international newspaper headlines. From Monday to Friday live at 7.20 am and 9.20 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2010-01-18

Haitians demonstrate their humanity in the midst of chaos

FRENCH PRESS REVIEW: The French papers are largely leading with the race against time to save the last survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.

In the midst of chaos, Le Figaro focuses on America “imposing its leadership in Haiti.” Obama has spoken of his responsibilities in the wake of the earthquake. At the risk being criticized by some, the American military has taken control of Port-au-Prince’s airport in order to coordinate the arrival of aid and to identify priorities.

However, a Médecins Sans Frontières plane carrying an inflatable field hospital was turned away from landing and diverted on Saturday night to the Dominican Republic and the material had to be delivered by road to the Haitian capital.

This gave rise to some diplomatic tensions but they’ve been played down by Paris which has said this was simply an error in judgement on the part of the American military.

According to the paper, Obama sees the earthquake as a chance to promote closer ties between nations and also to rally the US behind a common cause.

However, the status of the American military, seeing as its unclear, could cause problems.
There is considerable looting as people struggle to find the materials to survive.
What is the role of the US military in ensuring security? Do they have that prerogative?

Also in Le Figaro, there is coverage of miraculous stories in the midst of all the horror. A Haitian woman who survived the earthquake went into labour on a US army helicopter as she was being evacuated. She gave birth on board the air carrier the USS Carl Vinson.

France Soir leads with this angle. A photos shows a baby being returned to his father by a Bolivian soldier.

Inside, the paper tells the story of Wislande, a 29-year-old mother. She was saved by a French rescue team yesterday having been trapped under a collapsed four-story building since Tuesday. She spoke to a French news channel from a stretcher with a bouquet of flowers in her hands. She said, “I did not think I’d be alive today.” Wislande learnt her son had also survived the quake. “I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I wanted to see him grow up,” she said in tears.

Le Parisien says that in the absence of a functioning state, Haitians are forced to take the law into their own hands and those robbing and pillaged are being treated without pity by some members of the public.

A photo shows two young men who tried to rob a motorbike tied up and lying on the street.

Libération’s editorial is entitled, “Humanity”. We must be careful not to be condescending, says the paper. Expressions such as “the poorest country in the world”, “pillaging” and “rioting” are becoming all too common.

Yet, the Haitian people were thrown into this situation of chaos and have reacted with an uncommon dignity.

In such circumstances, the paper notes, “pillaging” is essential to survival.

“For five days now Haitians have been going through hell. In so many cases they have demonstrated their humanity, a noble image… They have nothing but they have courage.”

Libération refers to an earthquake in Lisbon in 1775 that “”shook up European philosophy.” Voltaire pitted himself against theologians, saying the earthquake demonstrated the absence of God and the arbitrary nature of evil. The paper concludes, “The Haitian earthquake doesn’t tell us much about God. It does allow us to not despair too much though for mankind.”
 

By James CREEDON

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