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Haitian President starts anti-corruption campaign

Rene Preval, Haitian President, declared a "war without end" against corruption Friday, appealing to state officials traitors who rob the deeply impoverished nation of vital investment and jobs.

"The fight for equality requires the government to have money without having to ask for it. For the government to have money, people have to stop stealing from the state," Preval said during a Haitian Flag Day speech on the lawns of the National Palace.

Laying out a major initiative of his year-old government, Preval vowed to root out corrupt police, customs agents, judges and legislators, whom he accused of enriching themselves at the expense of the aid-dependent Caribbean nation, which is struggling to return to stability following a crippling 2004 revolt.

"This war without end against corruption will be long and hard, but we will win because it's a fight for life," Preval said during the address attended by diplomats from Haiti's biggest donor-nations, including the United States, Canada and France.

The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti is also considered among the most corrupt. Haiti ranked last among 163 countries last year in Transparency International's annual corruption survey, scoring slightly worse than Iraq, Guinea and Myanmar.

Preval, a left-leaning champion of the poor, also warned local companies not to smuggle in contraband and evade taxes, which he said discouraged legitimate businesses from investing in the country.

"Everyone involved in corruption is a traitor in the fight for equality," he said. "If there's corruption, there will be no investment. Without investment, there will be no jobs."

The corruption theme has dominated Haitian politics this year, with several influence-peddling scandals rocking the country's Parliament and government agencies.

During a visit to the United States earlier this month, Preval met with business leaders and vowed to tighten anti-corruption controls in a bid to lure investors. The country is also trying to purge hundreds of corrupt police officers.

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