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9934: Haitian Govt Ministers Visit Washington to Press for Change in US Policy (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

Haitian Ministers Visit Washington to Press for Change in U.S. Policy

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Two government Ministers from the 
Republic of Haiti held meetings with Members of the United States Congress 
and senior officials of the Bush Administration to discuss bilateral 
relations in Washington, DC.  Haiti's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph 
Antonio, and Minister of Economy and Finance, Faubert Gustave, came at the 
invitation of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to brief its members about 
recent political and economic developments in Haiti and how the current U.S. 
hold on critical humanitarian and development loans from the Inter-American 
Development Bank (IADB) is impacting their island nation of 8 million people. 
The ministers met with officials at U.S. Departments of Treasury and State, 
who have jurisdictional responsibility over the current embargo of IADB loans 
and grants. 

"We came to Washington at the invitation of the Congressional Black Caucus 
because they have taken a strong interest in what happens to the people of 
Haiti.  They have put a human face on bilateral relations," explained 
Minister Antonio.  "Our goal is to work constructively with the Bush 
Administration, the multilateral developments banks, the European Union and 
our hemispheric neighbors to advance the quality of human life in Haiti." 

In meetings with House and Senate leaders of both parties, Minister Antonio 
described the significant concessions made by the government and Fanmi 
Lavalas to end the political impasse.  "The seven contested senators have 
resigned in June and, therefore, there is no more controversy over the May 
2000 elections," he said.  Nevertheless, all non-contested parliamentarians 
elected in May 2000 have agreed to reduce their terms by two years as another 
measure toward resolving this impasse.  In addition, Organization of American 
States (OAS)-mediated negotiations resulted in agreements between the Haitian 
Government, Fanmi Lavalas and the Democratic Convergence, a platform of 
several opposition parties, that yielded a date for parliamentary election 
for November 2002, and a compromise composition of a new Provisional 
Electoral Council (CEP).  "Even the OAS has admitted that there has been 
significant progress, yet no funds are being released, "said Minister 

The Minister is referring to the text of an OAS resolution passed by its 
General Assembly, and ratified by the United States, committing the OAS to 
work with the IADB to release embargoed funds when "significant progress is 
made in the political negotiations." 

Minister Gustave explained that it would be impossible for the Haitian 
Government to address the myriad of humanitarian and social issues 
confronting Haiti, including HIV/AIDS, without the release of critical loans 
now embargoed at the Inter-American Development Bank.  "We are facing a 
pending humanitarian disaster that could be averted with external assistance. 
 With a fiscal budget of only $400 million, we simply do not have the 
resources to ward off disaster," said Minister Gustave.  The current U.S. 
embargo on loans and grants from the Inter-American Development Bank, 
totaling about $562 million, could increase Haiti's fiscal capabilities by 
nearly 30 percent over the next three years. 

Approximately, $145.9 million of these loans are for basic human services 
such as potable water projects, health care reform including HIV/AIDS 
prevention and treatment, educational improvements and rural road 

"Through our efforts to increase financial accountability and governance, and 
through the IADB's own internal checks and audits, we are assured that these 
funds will go completely to the projects in the most direct and transparent 
way possible," said Minister Gustave.  The loans in question have received 
all appropriate approvals from the Inter-American Development Bank, have been 
ratified by Haiti's parliament and have had contracts for disbursal signed by 
Haitian and IADB officials. 

Haiti has requested that the $145.9 million in loans be disbursed 

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