[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#4368: Cuba Helping Haiti Revamp Sugar Factory in Darbone (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>


Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Sugar Boom
Cuban Experts are Helping Haiti Restore its Sugar Industry

By Anna Wardenburg-Ferdinand
Haitian Times Staff

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Haiti was once considered
"the pearl of the Antilles" for the riches it brought to the
French through its sugar production. This Caribbean
country is now known to the world as "the poorest country
in the Western Hemisphere." It was also once one of the
largest sugar producers in the world, but now Haiti imports
almost all of its sugar.

But the sugar industry is undergoing a comeback as more
500 Cuban experts have come to Haiti in order to, as the
Haitian proverb goes, "teach the fishers how to fish".

A primary example of the cooperation between the two
countries can be found in Darbone, thirty miles south of the
capital, where a sugar factory, abandoned for the last 15 years,
is being revamped by some 34 Cuban technicians.

 "Last year they made an evaluation of the factory and
 saw the possibility of getting the factory going," said
 Roberto Armenteros Acosta, the head engineer on the
 Cuban team. "Sugar is our main force of production in
 Cuba and so we have brought our expertise to help the

 Cuba, which has about 160 sugar factories that produce
 sugar for both national production and export, is well
 equipped to help the Haitians begin to produce their own
 sugar. There are no other functioning sugar factories
 currently in Haiti.

 The factory was built in the early 80?s with the help of
 Italians, but was closed under after two years of
 mismanagement. It was never reopened when political
 instability followed the departure of Jean Claude
 Duvalier, son of former dictator Francois Duvalier.

 "The Italians didn?t prepare the people to work in the
 factory," said Acosta who spoke to the Haitian Times
 from the floor of the factory where Haitians and Cubans
  were busy working. "There were no benefits and after the
 political problems of 1986 no one paid any attention to it."

 After the factory shut down, thieves slowly dismantled it
 and remaining parts were left to decay.

 "We arrived at a point where there was a lot of investment
 needed," said Michel Présumé, head of the Haitian
 Government?s modernization program. "You had to irrigate
 the plain, build roads, the electrical system was gone
 entirely. These were repairs the government had to make.
 We decided it would be very difficult to find a private investor
 to put up all that money, so the president looked for some
 technical assistance that wouldn?t cost a lot of money."

 The Haitian government has invested $2 million dollars to
 get the factory going. Officials say the Cubans have made
 the investment worthwhile because they would have had to
 spend much more on experts from wealthier countries.

 "They have a very high level of expertise that doesn?t cost
 the Haitian government a lot of money. We make sure that
 they have a place to stay, food to eat and some pocket money.
 Some of those experts from the north cost $10,000 U.S. a
 month to come to the country. They are people that
 need luxuries such as beautiful houses and air-conditioning
 and need time to acclimate in the country. The Cubans come
 in one day, the next they are working," said Anthony Dessources,
 Haiti?s Minister of Planning.

 The Cubans, who signed an accord in 1986 with Haiti to begin
 cooperation between the two countries, said they needed
 water and electricity in order to work and they would provide
 the expertise.

 "We will be here before, during and after the factory opens to
 make sure there will be no problems," said Acosta.

 Planters from the area, who produce mostly sugar cane, have
 suffered since the factory closed in 1986.

 "Right now we can?t harvest anything. The cane ends up
 dried in the ground because we have no where to sell it.
 All the cane is wasting away," said Pierre Jackson, a planter
 in the area. "We look at this factory and it is like a beautiful
 flower. It just sits there."

 Jackson says planters continue to plant the cane because
it would cost too much money to plant a new crop.

 "Planters in the area were suffering a lot. They make a little
 syrup, and a little clerin, but they could do so much more,"
 said Présumé.

 The rehabilitation in the last year has planters in the area
 organizing to make sure that there will be enough cane to
 process when the plant opens in January.

 "We see all the activity going on now and we pray that
 it actually starts to function. Planters in the area are
 mobilizing and those that stopped planting the cane are
 going to plant again," said Jackson.

 According to Acosta, the factory, which is supposed to
 open on the first of January, will have a capacity of 2006 tons
 of sugar daily once it is fully rehabilitated.

 While the factory will bring about a much needed boost
 to the area, Haiti is still far from reaching the point of
 exporting sugar.

 "When you look at the international price of sugar it won?t
 be competitive. The advantage will be a certain autonomy
 with the rehabilitation of the factory, as well as becoming
 less dependent on sugar imports. We will also increase
 production of clerin and rum, create new jobs and exploit the
 various uses of the extracts from the production," said

 The factory is just one of various projects the Cubans
 are involved in around the country to help Haiti boost its
 national production.

 Cuba has been forced to fend for itself under the 40 year
 U.S. embargo put in place when Fidel Castro brought about
 the Cuban revolution in 1959 and opened relations with the
 former Soviet Union.

 During that time the country virtually eliminated illiteracy and
 created a medical industry that officials from the Cuban
 embassy say equals health care in the United States.
 The Cubans said that since the collapse of the Soviet Union
 the country has struggled, but has been able to rely on its
 own means with the sugar and tourism industries.

 Relations between Haiti and Cuba suffered under Duvalier
 who played the communist card with the United States in
 order to secure aid. Diplomatic relations ended in 19?. During
 that time there was no commercial traffic between the two

 "We know that relations between the U.S. and Cuba are
 not friendly," said Dessources, the planning minister.
 "Because Cuba is an enemy of the United States, if the U.S.
 sees Haiti cooperating with Cuba, they could say Haiti is
 the enemy too. Because of that, relations with Cuba were
 non- existent for a long time. Now the cold war is over."

 Dessources said that Haiti made a sovereign decision to
 open up cooperation with its neighbor and that it has been
 is beneficial for the Haitian government and the Haitian people.

 Despite the continuing embargo on Cuba by the United States
 government and the threat of sanctions for countries who
 trade with Cuba under the Helms-Burton law, the U.S.
 government says they are in favor any bilateral support to
 help Haiti, including that of the Cubans.

 Currently there are 500 Cuban doctors all over the
 countryside working in various hospitals to service the
 population in need of doctors.

 "There are not enough Haitian doctors, and those that
 are trained here don?t go to the countryside. They finish
 their residency where they are required to do a year or two
 in the country and then go abroad. The amount of doctors
 we have cannot cover all of the territory," said

 Up to 500 students from all nine departments will go to
 Cuba to receive training as a part of the agreement.
 Those students will then be required to serve at least five
 years in towns where they come from, according to

 The Cubans have also loaned the Haitian government four
 fishing boats as well as experts in order to exploit the fish
 market which up until now has been ignored because Haitian
 fisherman lack the equipment and the know how to go into
 deeper waters.

 Other projects include the development of fish hatcheries
 as well as technicians to teach Haitians how to repair
 equipment such as tractors and boats.

 "There are countries that give gifts of tractors and rototillers,
 but they don?t give expertise," Dessources said. "When the
 Cubans give aid there is no hidden agenda in the help. But
 other countries that come, with more means than Cuba,
 they always have something behind what they are doing,"

 Dessources said that the cooperation has opened up doors
 to exchanges with other Latin American countries to create
 an economic force that can compete with the multi-national
 corporations and large industrialized nations.

 "The way the world is going with globalization, the small have
 an interest to come together, because the big guys are already
 united and they can eat you up easily," said Dessources.

 The Haitian Times
 610 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn New York, 11238 718-230-8700
 Send Questions and Comments to info@haitiantimes.com