Venezuelan Humanitarian Team Arrives in Haiti after Earthquake

Venezuela sent its first aid airplane to Haiti, a Bolivarian National Armed Force's Hercules C-130, with a fifty-strong advance humanitarian aid team on board.

Caracas January 13, 2009 ( – Venezuela sent its first aid airplane to Haiti, a Bolivarian National Armed Force’s Hercules C-130, with a fifty-strong advance humanitarian aid team on board, on Wednesday morning, after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake leveled the country’s capital Port-au-Prince, late Tuesday.

The quake, which produced at least 30 aftershocks, including one of 5.9 and one of 5.5 on the Richter scale, may have affected up to 3 million people according to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Federation. The death toll is unknown, but Haiti President René Préval said thousands of people had died, while many thousands are injured and many Haitian’s lie trapped under rubble.  Haitian Prime Minister, Jean Max Bellerive estimated the death toll at more than one hundred thousand.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the immediate deployment of the aid team on Tuesday comprised of doctors, engineers, search and rescue specialists, and civil protection officers, as well as urgently needed food, water, medical supplies, and rescue equipment. Chavez said Venezuela would send further aid and supplies.

Aid is also beginning to flow from other countries, with Latin American countries being among the first to react. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sent a team of electricians to help with the repair of power lines as much of the country’s electricity and telecommunications systems were destroyed in the quake. Cuba is sending medical supplies and doctors, while Mexico is sending a team of doctors and rescue workers.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon released $10 million from the UN’s emergency relief fund to assist aid efforts and called for member countries to do likewise.

Spain has pledged $4.3 million (3 million Euros) and 150 tonnes of humanitarian aid. France is also sending aid and rescue workers. Germany has pledged $2.18 million (1.5 million Euros), the Netherlands $2.9 million (2 million Euros) and Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg are offering water purification equipment, tents, medical help, and search-and-rescue teams. The United States said it would send a team of 61 rescue workers.

Brazil, which heads the United Nations mission in Haiti has also announced its intention to assist those affected. In a statement issued Wednesday, Brazil’s defence minister, Nelson Jobim, urged his country’s military stationed in Haiti to “make every possible effort” to reduce the suffering of the population.

The UN mission in Haiti is comprised of 7,000 troops and 2,000 police officers, as well as 2,000 civilian employees from 17 countries.

The UN mission was established in 2004 by the UN Security Council after the kidnapping and deportation of the democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide by the United States.

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Canada, the USA, Spain, France, Italy and Jordan are among the countries contributing military or police forces to the mission.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and is still recovering from the devastating effects of a hurricane that destroyed thousands of homes killed more than 700 people in 2008. Seventy percent of Haitians lives on less than two dollars per day, and half of the country’s 8.5 million people are unemployed.

The youth wing of Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has set up a collection point in central Caracas, for donations of food, medicine, clothing and shoes to send to the people of Haiti.

Heryck Rangel from the PSUV youth said, “We young people want to deepen the internationalist character of the Bolivarian Revolution and highlight solidarity as a socialist value. The Venezuelans have to understand that Haiti is a country that has suffered much and now needs our urgent support.”