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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Biden in Miami: Haiti effort will be 'long slog'



Pool report by Beth Reinhard, Miami Herald

MIAMI - Vice President Joe Biden, surrounded by 30 elected officials and Haitian-American leaders at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, said the administration was committed to rebuilding Haiti -- for the long haul. He asked the Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary of Notre Dame d'Haiti to lead a prayer to honor the dead at the very beginning of the 35-minute meeting.

"On behalf of the administration, our hearts ache for you,'' he said. "The president does not view this as a humanitarian mission with a life cycle of a month..This will still be on our radar screen long after it's off the crawler at CNN. This is going to be a long slog.

"In my experience, there is no pain like the pain of the unknown,'' Biden said.  "The silence on the end of a cell phone is deafening when you are trying to reach someone. ... This is not just another massive operation,'' he added. "This is personal . This is personal for some of the folks on our team as well.''

Patrick Gaspard, a Haitian-American senior administration official, sat to his right. Biden touched his arm during the "personal" remark. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sat to Biden's left.

"Let me be clear. We are not just searching for Americans,'' he added. "We are searching for human beings. We are searching for anyone we can hear a cry from...The most important thing for people in need to know is that help is coming.

"The president has already committed $100 million of assistance, but that's not just the president's commitment,'' Biden said. "The president has committed the United States of America. He's committed the United States of America to do whatever needs to be done.''

Biden sat at the head of a table during his remarks. Also at the table was U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Kendrick Meek, D-Miami and Sen. Bill Nelson and MIami Mayor Tomas Regalado and state Reps. Ronald Brise and Yolly Roberson and Marleine Bastien of the Haitian Women of Miami.

Meek and Nelson thanks Biden for coming.

Before leaving Little Haiti, Biden stopped at the community's spiritual center: Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church, where he and wife Jill Biden shook hands with clergy and church employees.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:14pm]


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