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Interview with Haiti President Rene Preval: 'I don't think we could have done better'

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Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

(Read caption) Haitian President Rene Preval speaks on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 10, in Washington.

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Without an appointment, the easiest place to get an official quote from someone in the government – including Haiti President René Préval – is the DCPG, the old police headquarters. But the only police that are there now are the ones protecting the government, which moved in after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

In contrast to the once elegant but now collapsed National Palace of Haiti, the new offices are in an innocuous, one-story blue and white building so small that press conferences are held in the parking lot.

That’s where I was standing when several shiny four-wheel drive vehicles pulled up.

President Préval emerged from one.

He was instantly surrounded by flashing cameras. He flashed a smile back at them, and then at me. We’ve known each other for 20 years.

Just like that, he took my arm and pulled me inside with him.

“Don’t you have some questions for me?” he asked.

As a journalist, how could I say no?

A simple guy

His office was down two halls and in the interior of another room. There was a secretary’s desk, a round board-room type table, a mounted television that wasn’t plugged in, and a coffee maker. Maps of Port-au-Prince and an aerial photo of the city hung on a side wall.

Ti René, as he is called among friends, placed a blue folder and author Claude Moise’s book “The Constitution and Struggle for Power in Haiti" on the table and made sure I had a cup of coffee before asking me if I was ready to write down my answers.

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