CARACOL, Haiti -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton encouraged foreigners to invest in Haiti as she and her husband Bill led a star-studded delegation yesterday to inaugurate an industrial park, part of U.S. efforts to help the country rebuild after the 2010 earthquake.
Actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller, fashion designer Donna Karan and British business magnate Richard Branson were among the luminaries at the opening of the new Caracol Industrial Park, which is projected to create thousands of jobs more than 100 miles from the quake-ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince.
Hillary Clinton told a roomful of investors gathered for a luncheon that she had made Haiti a priority when she became secretary of state.
Earlier, thousands of Haitians lined the roadway to wave at her motorcade as it wound its way from the airport. Clinton and other U.S. officials, including Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, toured a housing development for industrial park workers supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The secretary of state noted there were three presidents gathered in one room to celebrate the opening: her husband, current Haitian President Michel Martelly and his predecessor, René Préval. Bill Clinton, now a UN special envoy for Haiti, arrived in Caracol separately from his wife.
The Clintons and their allies hope that the $300 million industrial facility will transform the northern part of the impoverished country by providing thousands of desperately needed jobs.
But some Haitians say the industrial park does little more than replicate failed efforts from the past and will benefit outsiders more than Haitians.
The $124 million put in by the United States makes the park Washington's biggest single investment in the aftermath of the quake and it is certain to shape the legacy of the Clintons, who last visited Haiti together in 1975 on a wedding gift following their honeymoon in Mexico.