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