In Haiti, president Lula urges pardon for the country’s debt
During a state visit to Haiti today, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva urged the international community to pardon the country’s debt, currently at nearly US$1.3 billion. The President also announced a series of initiatives to assist in the long-term growth and reconstruction of Haiti following the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake.
President Lula, accompanied by Haitian President René Préval for a tour of the Brazilian Battalion in Port-au-Prince, said that “Pardoning the debt won´t fulfill Haiti’s needs, but it will allow Haiti to establish new credit lines in the international finance system.”
About 2,200 Brazilian troops are part of the United Nations Stabilization Forces in Haiti (Minustah).
In addition, the President announced the expansion and implementation of new cooperative agreements to perform infrastructure projects, strengthen family agriculture, construct water cisterns, and establish a center for professional education for the Haitian population. The initiatives are to be coordinated by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), whose project portfolio in Haiti represents a total investment of about US$ 13.5 million.
To address long-term employment, the President announced plans to develop a Center for Professional Education to build a skilled local labor force in target growth segments of Haitian industry, trade and services. This project will be executed in partnership with SENAI (National Service for Industrial Training) with an investment of US$ 4 million.
In the area of family agriculture and nutritional safety, one program will focus on capacity building activities to help Haitian institutions develop public policies aimed at fostering national food production, especially through the procurement of products from local family farmers. The initiative will complement the establishment of an experimental farm in Fond-des-Nègres, 120 kilometers from Port-au-Prince, to transfer new technologies to local agriculturists and agricultural technicians. The project aims to increase the dissemination of techniques and best practices for the production of corn, rice, beans and cassava, staple foods of the Haitian population.
In addition, a national human milk bank will be developed in partnership with the French Development Agency (AFD) and Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) to expand access to breast milk.
The Brazilian and Haitian governments are also currently discussing the construction of a Hydroelectric power plant in the region of Mirebalais, 60 kilometers from Port-au-Prince. The hydroelectric power dam engineering project will be developed by the Brazilian Army, and in addition to producing electric energy, it might also be used for irrigation in the region. The estimated cost for the construction is US$ 150 million, with the financing source yet to be determined.
The medium- and long-term actions announced this Thursday would complement the humanitarian aid initiatives that are already under way by the Brazilian government. Coordinated by the Office of the Presidency for Institutional Security, and supported by several federal agencies, these activities include sending US$ 15 million in relief funds, 343 tons of food, and 170 tons of medicine for the emergency care for earthquake victims.
João Paulo Gomes