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9664: U.S. urged to soften its policy on Haiti (Miami Herald) (fwd)
Published in Miami Herald, Tuesday, November 20, 2001
U.S. urged to soften its policy on Haiti
BY TIM JOHNSON
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government must relax its policy of barring grants and loans to Haiti to avert ``horrendous outcomes for the Western Hemisphere's poorest people,'' legislators of the Congressional Black Caucus have warned the White House in a letter.
``The people of Haiti are suffering,'' the 38-member bloc said in a letter asking for a meeting with President Bush.
The Black Caucus said Washington is holding vital economic aid to Haiti hostage pending resolution of a 16-month-old political standoff between President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his political opposition.
Led by the United States, foreign donors have blocked some $500 million in loans and grants to Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. The move is aimed at resolving a standoff over flawed local and legislative elections last year. Opponents to Aristide say his Lavalas Family movement rigged the vote.
Since then, envoys of the Organization of American States have tried a dozen or more times to defuse the crisis between Lavalas Family and the opposition Convergence alliance.
Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and the senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, questioned why
the U.S. government is taking action that punishes Haiti's mostly impoverished seven million people.
``When you look at some of our allies [like] Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Israel, you begin to wonder what the differences are that account for some countries receiving sizable assistance and others nothing until they quote straighten up and fly right unquote,'' Conyers said in an interview.
The Black Caucus letter said the group ``believes it is wrong to impose an inflexible policy that conditions U.S. relations and aid -- entirely on a country's political process.''
The group noted that HIV and AIDS are rising at alarming levels, and schools and roads are in dire conditions.
``Haiti has very few, if any, decent roads, very little potable water, and the fuel situation is catastrophic,'' the letter said.
``It is imperative that the U.S. remove its blockade of essentially all aid to Haiti, particularly the loans currently held up at the Inter-American Development Bank.''