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9952: Haiti Seeking Release of Loans (WashPost) (fwd)
Haiti Seeking Release of Loans
By Nora Boustany
Wednesday, December 12, 2001; Page A30
A Haitian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Joseph Philippe Antonio and Finance Minister Faubert Gustave made the rounds here last week seeking the release of loans withheld by the Inter-American Development Bank. The bank has said it wants a political accord, being negotiated by the Organization of American States, in place before the money flows.
The delegation, which was invited by the Congressional Black Caucus and met with House members and administration officials, cautioned that holding up the assistance because of U.S. opposition risked plunging Haiti into humanitarian catastrophe and social upheaval.
Efforts to provide health care, potable water and education are being severely harmed by the holdup, Antonio told Washington Post reporters and editors on Friday.
Gustave said 300,000 people in Haiti have the AIDS virus and warned that there could be disaster if the $1 million approved by the bank is not disbursed. "The sooner, the better. . . . We think it is a dramatic situation," he said, noting that his government is paying interest on the loans.
Luigi R. Einaudi, the OAS assistant secretary general, has been seeking an agreement on future elections and negotiating with members of the Haitian government and opposition. The opposition has contested the outcome of the 2000 legislative elections, alleging they were manipulated by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his followers.
Antonio said there is significant agreement regarding a provisional electoral council and dates for elections in May 2002. He said the link between aid and a final negotiated agreement should be removed.
"The people of Haiti cannot be trapped between aid and the intransigence of the opposition," he said. "The more it drags out the crisis and refuses to sign, the more the chance for social upheaval.
"We are trying to convince people to reconsider the options and to help the poor people of Haiti. If you go to Haiti, you will see the victims in the street, you will see them in Port-au-Prince and in the provinces."
Einaudi was still in Haiti yesterday negotiating with the parties. He is said to be guardedly optimistic that an agreement will be reached.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company