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6659: Jubilee 2000 Haiti holds National Day against External Debt (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

Jubilee 2000 Haiti holds National Day against External Debt   

On 22 January, Jubilee 2000 Haiti held a National Day against External Debt. 
The principal activities centred on a Telethon at the studios of the National 
Television of Haiti (TNH) in Port-au-Prince during all day. A series of 
lively debates were held looking at the impact of external debt on diverse 
social sectors, including labour, farming, health and education. 

Outside the studios more than 8,000 people gathered to voice their support 
for debt cancellation chanting `Yes to life! No to debt!' This slogan was 
echoed throughout Port-au-Prince where a variety of other activities were 
organised by Jubilee 2000 to boost enthusiasm and increase awareness of the 
external debt burden. Throughout the day the list of people putting their 
names to the Jubilee 2000  petition grew, adding to the thousands (90,000) 
already signed up in Haiti. 

With limited resources, the Jubilee 2000 Haiti coalition has begun to 
increase awareness of external debt and its effect on people's daily lives. 
In addition to boosting the activities of the campaign nationally local 
co-ordinators have also sought to ensure that their activities have had an 
international. As a result, they have forged strong links with other national 
campaigns, particularly in the Caribbean and Latin America. 

Haiti's debt burden stems largely from the dictatorship - 78% of the debt was 
built up the notorious Duvalier family (Papa Doc and Baby Doc). In addition 
to the wave of human rights atrocities committed, the Duvaliers robbed Haiti 
of precious resources, whilst claiming to embark on programmes of economic 
modernisation. Loans from multilateral and bilateral creditors were siphoned 
off and the family is believed to have embezzled a massive US$900 million 
from the public treasury. 

By September 1999, Haiti's external debt was estimated to be US$1.197 
billion, more than 30% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While the dynasty of 
the Duvalier family may be over, its legacy continues to weigh heavily on a 
place where over half the population is illiterate and where life expectancy 
is just 54 years. 

Jubilee 2000 is campaigning for very poor, heavily indebted countries like 
Haiti to be included in the HIPC debt initiative. At present the creditors 
maintain that they do not qualify for HIPC relief. 

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