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a401: President Aristide in the DR (fwd)

From: Robert Benodin <r.benodin@worldnet.att.net>

President Aristide in the DR
The Presidents of Haiti and the DR committed to back the Hispaniola Fund
that proposes to exchange Dominican foreign debt for development projects
along the border with Haiti. The President of Haiti Jean Bertrand Aristide
praised the project and expressed his full support for Dominican lawyer Luis
Heredia Bonetti’s initiative, which has found ample support in the Dominican
government and the business sector here. The Haitian delegation agreed to
meet again with their Dominican counterparts before 15 February to review
progress on the approval of the fund.
During his visit, President Aristide said he is preparing to open 14 free
zones in Haiti where Dominican businessmen can open operations. This makes
good business sense for both countries. In recent years, manufacturing here
has progressed to the assembly of more sophisticated apparel. The higher
cost of Dominican labor has led to some lost contracts for simple jobs that
could be done in Haiti. One of the main obstacles has been political
instability in Haiti, which discourages foreign investments.
The Presidents also agreed during their meeting that both countries would
start issuing ID documents to Haitian citizens prior to 4 March 2002. In
Haiti, most citizens do not have any kind of identity document.
Furthermore, the statesmen agreed to promote binational projects and seek
the support of the international community. Aristide and Mejia committed to
absolute neutrality and to reject any kind of hostility in the two nations.
Both confirmed the legitimate rights of each country to repatriate illegal
During his stay, Aristide visited President Mejia at the National Palace
where he also met Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch. He also visited Jorge
Subero Isa and the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice. In Congress, he
met with the President of the Senate Andres Bautista. He also visited the
offices of the Fundacion Global Democracia y Desarrollo where he met with
former President Leonel Fernandez. Then he went to the home of former
President Joaquin Balaguer. Aristide also visited the tomb of Jose Francisco
Peña Gomez, the former PRD leader of Haitian descent.
Aristide highlighted to the press the very good relations between both
countries and the support the Dominican Republic has given Haiti on
international forums. At the end of his day, Aristide met with Haitian
residents in the DR. Aristide arrived at 8:30 am and left at 8 pm, two hours
after his scheduled departure time.