South American nations agreed to contribute to a US$ 100 million reconstruction fund for earthquake ravaged Haiti at an extraordinary summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Quito, Ecuador, on Tuesday.
Contributions to the fund will depend on the GDP of each member country. The twelve member countries will also ask for a USD200 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on behalf of Haiti, but paid for by UNASUR.
The reconstruction fund will be under the direct control of the Haitian government and will prioritise transport, in particular construction of roads, infrastructure projects and agricultural production including donations of seeds, inputs, fertilisers and a team of specialists.
The accord also seeks to enhance measures already implemented by the South American Health Council, such as sending doctors and specialists to treat the sick and wounded and implement epidemic prevention measures.
The resolution also called for the lifting of trade tariffs on Haitian exports and backed a call for cancellation of Haiti’s foreign debt. However, apart from Venezuela, none of the UNASUR member countries have agreed to cancel Haiti’s debt.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the cancellation of Haiti’s USD 295 million debt to Venezuela on January 25. In addition to thousands of tonnes of food aid Venezuela has also sent 225,000 barrels of diesel fuel and gasoline and Chavez has pledged “all the free fuel that Haiti needs.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicholas Maduro, who attended the summit in place of Chavez who was unable to go, emphasised that the UNASUR accord ratifies the concept of respect for Haitian sovereignty and added, “The repudiation of many governments around the world of the hegemonic, abusive form in which US military has sought to address the issue of Haiti is very clear.”
In contrast to the US role, Maduro highlighted of the role of ALBA, a Venezuelan supported regional fair-trade bloc, which has pledged US$120 million in reconstruction funds, and in addition to food and medical aid, is providing programs where children are cared for, given classes, do sports and recreational activities among other things.
“It’s an experience of direct solidarity, of people to people solidarity, where more than 520 Venezuelans, thousands of Cubans as well as Bolivians, Nicaraguans, Ecuadorians, through ALBA have gone [to Haiti]”, he said.
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This post was written by Kiraz Janicke