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#4368: Cuba Helping Haiti Revamp Sugar Factory in Darbone (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
FROM THE HAITIAN TIMES
Wednesday, June 21, 2000
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
"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,"
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
"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
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
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
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