Haiti, El Salvador and several African countries have all come out swinging against US President Donald Trump after he dismissed them as ‘s***hole countries’ – and even the UN has branded his remarks ‘racist’.
Haiti summoned a US diplomat to explain the president’s shocking remarks after news of them broke on Thursday – just before the country was to begin a day of mourning in memory of a massive 2010 earthquake.
El Salvador sent a note of protest to the US, saying that Trump has disrespected its people.
They were joined in their disgust by people from South Africa, Zambia, Senegal and Ethiopia, among other African countries, who expressed horror at the president’s words.
And UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a Geneva news briefing: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘s**holes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
Trump made the remarks while discussing a possible immigration bill with 11 other people in the Oval Office on Thursday, according to Senator Dick Durbin, who was present at the time.
El Salvador demands respect for its brave and dignified people
Official statement from El Salvador’s foreign ministry
He reportedly complained about the US receiving immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, saying “Those s***holes send us the people that they don’t want.”
Many of the angry responses have come directly from the governments of those countries.
President Jovenel Moise’s government issued a strongly worded statement at what it called a “racist” depiction of Haiti.
“The Haitian government condemns in the strongest terms these abhorrent and obnoxious remarks which, if proven, reflect a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States,” it said.
The government statement also pointed to history, noting that Haitian soldiers fought on the American side against the British in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812.
Robin Diallo, the US chargé d’affaires to Haiti, was summoned to meet the Haitian president to discuss the remarks.
Meanwhile, El Salvador said it has sent a diplomatic protest note to the United States expressing the country’s “resounding rejection” of the remarks attributed to Trump.
The Central American nation’s Foreign Ministry says in a statement that “El Salvador demands respect for its brave and dignified people.”
Jessie Duarte, the deputy secretary general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, called a news conference in East London in which she said: “Ours is not a s***hole country and neither is Haiti or any other country in distress.
I will ask Jesus to protect Haiti from the devil, and Trump is the devil
Haitian food vendor Natacha Joseph
“We would not deign to make comments as derogatory as that about any country that has any kind of socio-economic or other difficulties,” Duarte said.
She added that much like their African counterparts, millions of US citizens were affected by problems such as unemployment.
Botswana’s foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador in protest and called the comments “highly irresponsible, reprehensible and racist.”
It said in a statement that it had asked the US government, through its ambassador, to “clarify” if the derogatory remark also applied to Botswana given that there were Botswana nationals living in the United States and others who wished to go there.
Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, said he is “shocked” by the remark. “Africa and the black race merit the respect and consideration of all,” he said.
The African Union (AU), an organisation which promotes cooperation on the continent, said it was alarmed by Trump’s “very racist” comments.
“Given the historical reality of how African Americans arrived in the United States as slaves, and the United States being the biggest example of how a nation has been built by migration – for a statement like that to come is particularly upsetting,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said.
At first the White House did not deny that the remark was made. On Friday the president tweeted that his language was “tough” but insisted he did not say anything derogatory about Haitians aside from noting it’s a poor country. He said the reported remarks on Haiti were made up by his opponents.
Meanwhile, in a feeble recognition of the president’s remarks, US Congress House Speaker Paul Ryan – a Republican – said Trump’s statements were “very unfortunate” and “unhelpful”
It wasn’t just those in charge that were shocked, however; the response from those on the streets was just as vehement.
Trump will not last in office. He attacked the wrong nation
Haitian motorcycle taxi driver Jean-Paul Maxon
Haitians at home and abroad were stunned, and internet message boards and radio stations were flooded with angry and anguished comments.
“It’s shocking he would say it on the anniversary” of the 2010 earthquake, said 28-year-old Natacha Joseph, who was selling rice and beans from a basket near the general hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince. “I will ask Jesus to protect Haiti from the devil, and Trump is the devil.”
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced more than 1 million, was on the minds of many as Haitians prepared for a solemn memorial on Friday to mark the anniversary.
President Moise was expected to lay a wreath at a mass grave in Haiti where many victims were buried.
Haitian Senator Yuri Latortue said the reported remarks were also galling because they came just before the United States marks the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr on Monday.
On behalf of Norway: Thanks, but no thanks
Torbjoern Saetre, Norwegian politician, on Trump’s desire for more “good” immigrants
“Mr Trump spits on the assassination of this black American icon, as well as on a whole generation of young people, black and white, who gave their lives in the civil rights movement,” he said.
Motorcycle taxi driver Jean-Paul Maxon said he was angry that the president seemed to be unaware of Haiti’s proud history as the first independent country founded by freed slaves.
“Trump will not last in office,” Maxon said. “He attacked the wrong nation.”
“Trump has always been a racist, only a racist can use such foul language,” said Nancy Mulenga, a student at the University of Zambia.
But Trump wasn’t just rejected by developing nations. After making his foul-mouthed statement, he reportedly asked why the US couldn’t get more immigrants from countries such as Norway.
The Nordic country, one of the richest in the world by GDP per capita, was last year named the happiest nation on the planet by a UN body, and is known for a cradle-to-grave welfare state.
“On behalf of Norway: Thanks, but no thanks,” tweeted Torbjoern Saetre, a politician representing Norway’s Conservative Party in a municipality near Oslo.
“We are not coming. Cheers from Norway,” one woman wrote.
Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Trump said on Twitter on Friday that he merely used “tough” language when discussing a new immigration bill with a group of US senators.
He said the bill was a step backwards because it would force the United States “to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly”.
The Trump administration has spoken little about how it wants to engage with African countries, focusing its foreign policy instead on issues like North Korea and Islamic State.
In November it ended Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Haiti and Nicaragua, giving 59,000 Haitian immigrants until July 2019 to return home or legalise their presence in the United States.
This article includes information and text from Associated Press, The Guardian and Reuters