News, L’Agence Haitienne de Presse: Sarkozy’s aid package-protesters call for Aristide return-Parliament members insist reconstruction must be developed by Haitians

Posted on February 19, 2010

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AHP News Bulletin – Feb. 17, 2010 – Unofficial English Translation

President Sarkozy’s aid package – Demonstrators supporting the return of Pres. Aristide to Haiti call for restitution – Human rights group affirms the validity of the call for restitution and fears Haiti’s voice will be lost in the reconstruction talks – Members of Parliament insist reconstruction plans be developed by the Haitians

Port-au-Prince, February 17, 2010 – (AHP) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Wednesday 326 million euros in earthquake related aid to Haiti, including cancelation of 56 million euros of debt. He acknowledged that not all of what France has left behind in Haiti has been positive and that the shared history of relations between the two countries has been complex and painful.  He also said insisted that France has no intention of placing Haiti under international stewardship and will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Haitian people over the long term.  Meanwhile,  hundreds of demonstrators called for restitution of Haiti’s debt payments to France and for the return of Mr. Aristide.

“The links between our two countries are strong and familial, but there have been, as in any family, some very painful moments that we are facing without  denial”, said Mr. Sarkozy, no doubt referring to the colonization of Haiti, the brutal regime of slavery and perhaps also the embarrassing matter of the debt of independence.

The French president’s remark came at the conclusion of his four hour solidarity visit to Haiti.

You should, he said to Haitian President René Préval, define the conditions for a national consensus to arrive at the basis of a national program that will ensure that Haiti belongs to the Haitians.

The international community can assist you, but the program itself will be yours, Mr. Sarkozy added. He encouraged decentralization along with the creation of conditions for an endogenous economic development and a de-concentration of the country’s resources in order that they be of benefit to everyone.

Mr. Sarkozy promised to provide tents and tarps for 200,000 people as the rainy season approaches and to rebuild the Hospital of the State University of Haiti (the General Hospital). He went on to warn against condemning Haiti to a destiny of aid dependence. The best aid, he said, promotes investment and does not destroy the private sector.  Additional plans include sending seeds and fertilizers, renovating a number of works of art, accepting hundreds of students for study in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana, as well as receiving orphans, but not children taken away from their families, an apparent reference to the American missionaries arrested at the Dominican border and subsequently investigated on allegations of abduction of children.

Meanwhile, several hundred people, for the most part supporters of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, marched outside the badly damaged National Palace, calling as they did in 2003 for restitution of some $21 billion, or the equivalent of 90 million gold francs paid by Haiti between 1825 and 1950 as demanded by France in return for recognition of the country’s independence.

Accusing France of having initiated the events that culminated in the forced departure of President Aristide as a means of crushing the campaign for restitution,  they called on the French president to take steps together with President Préval to allow the former president, who has been in exile in South Africa since 2004, to return to his country.

The demonstrators said they feel that in order to be able to return to Haiti, Mr. Aristide should receive transit visas from a number of countries including France.

Le secrétaire exécutif du CARLI estime opportun que les Haïtiens agitent le dossier de la dette de l’Indépendance à l’occasion de la visite du président Sarkozy

Port-au-Prince, February 17, 2010 – (AHP) – Human rights: The Executive Secretary of CARLI (the Committee of Lawyers for the Respect of Individual Freedoms), Renan Hédouville, believes it is appropriate for Haitians to take advantage of the first visit of a French head of state to Haiti since its independence in 1804 by raising the question of the debt of independence.

Hundreds of activists, supporters and sympathizers of the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization protested outside the National Palace Wednesday as Haitian President René Préval was meeting with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy. The demonstrators called for the restitution of the 90 million gold francs Haiti was compelled to pay to France (despite having defeated Napoleon’s army) in exchange for recognition of its independence. That sum was valued in 2003 at slightly over $21 billion.

The issue of the restitution of the debt had poisoned relations between the Chirac and Aristide governments, and according to many was at the root of the violent political  actions culminating in the forced departure of the elected Haitian president on February 29, 2004.

Renan Hédouville asserted that Haitians have the right to utilize every available occasion to make their voices heard by the international community.

With regard to the series of visits to Haiti by heads of state and government since the devastating earthquake of January 12, Mr. Hédouville said that these visits should not be designed to be crowd pleasers but rather should serve the interests of the country.

The future of Haiti and in particular the question of its reconstruction in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake should be at the center of all discussions, said the CARLI director. He voiced doubts however as to the capacity of the Haitian government to steer these discussions to the extent required.

In addition, he pointed out, more than a month after the earthquake,  there are still some not insignificant problems that have yet to be addressed, including the thousands of survivors who have no food or even potable water in the temporary shelters.

As to the various demonstrations that are regularly organized on the occasion of these visits by senior government officials, Mr. Hédouville finds it appropriate for the people to express how much they are fed up with living in filth and in the streets for more than a month without tents and shelters with the hurricane season fast approaching.

The CARLI official recalled that Haiti was already at the center of debate at the international level long before the catastrophic January 12th earthquake.

Port-au-Prince, February 17, 2010 – (AHP) – Several members of the Haitian Parliament welcomed the outpouring of solidarity toward Haiti from the international community in response to the January 12th earthquake but point out that it is up to the Haitians to come together to develop their country themselves.

Three heads of state and several heads of government have already visited Haiti since the earthquake to contribute solidarity and aid for reconstruction, including French  President  Nicolas Sarkozy’s four hour visit to the country this Wednesday, and the Canadian prime minister’s stay in Haiti on Monday and Tuesday.

Senator Rudy Hériveau said he thought that President Sarkozy’s  additional $100 million in new funds for Haiti over the next two years was interesting, and that France owes a debt to Haiti, both literally and figuratively.

This is an opportunity to be seized, he said, but it is up to the Haitians to unite for the development of the country and should take advantage of every opportunity available across the country.

We have, he said, treasures such as the island of la Gonâve (in the West Department) the island Ile à Vâches (in the South)and Tortuga island (in the North-West Department) that can aid in promoting tourism in Haiti.

In his view, the promotion of agro-industry and tourism is vital for the country’s development.

Deputy Guy Gérard Georges said he also believes that it is up to the haitians to bring their country back to life.

We have every interest in enhancing national solidarity to stimulate the leadership that is supposed to  be at the service of the common interest in the country’s development, he said.