Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Venezuela cancels Haiti debt

With earthquake-ravaged Haiti needing all the help it can get the Venezuelan government cancelled its estimated $167 million foreign debt with that Caribbean nation.

Citing Venezuela’s “historic debt” with Haiti, President Hugo Chavez announced the move after an emergency meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA, in Spanish) bloc. Furthermore, Chavez said that the ALBA group- which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and others- started a $100 million “special fund” for Haitian recovery efforts.

As part of an estimated lengthy reconstruction, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has urged the cancellation of Haiti’s massive debt to entities like the U.S. and Inter-American Development Bank. Yet there has been very little action taken towards debt relief and this has alarmed some aid groups:
Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and groups including Oxfam and The World Council of Churches called on ministers to immediately cancel its full $890 million (£550 million) international debt.

They also asked for delivery on the IMF's previous pledge to turn a $100 million (£62 million) interest-free loan to into a grant.

Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs said: "Expecting Haiti to repay billions of dollars as the country struggles to overcome one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory would be both cruel and unnecessary." Britain has already cancelled all debts owed to it by Haiti and called on all remaining creditors to do the same.
As part of his strong criticism of the U.S. relief efforts in Haiti, Chavez recently advised Barack Obama that “every soldier that you send there should carry a medical kit instead of hand grenades and machine guns." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would later respond to the increased global criticism and said that the Haitian “people (are) glad to see us."

Image- AFP (“A boy carries rubbish in a wheelbarrow at a makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince.”)
Online Sources- Wall Street Journal, LAHT, ITAR-TASS, financial Times, The Telegraph, Reuters, AFP

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