Coro, May 15th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com)– Sunday, Hector Rodriguez, Vice-president of the “Social Area Council of Venezuela”, confirmed the Venezuelan government’s commitment to maintaining its reconstruction efforts in Haiti and sent a message of solidarity to the Haitian people on behalf of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
In an interview with Latin American news channel TeleSUR, following the inauguration ceremony of the newly elected Haitian president, Michel Martelly, Rodriguez said that they would “continue working for the dignity, the life, of this brother nation,” so that Haiti would “keep moving forward”.
“We have a historical debt to pay to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, because they helped us liberate our Latin America,” said Rodriguez, in reference to the support offered to Venezuela by the newly independent Haitian nation, which provided Simon Bolivar with financial aid, political asylum and Haitian soldiers during the Wars of Independence.
“Writing Off the Debt”
The Venezuelan government–as well as the Cuban–was amongst the first to react when the earthquake struck in Haiti in January 2010 and led the relief effort by sending hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, as well as pledging to work with the Haitian government in order to build sustainable development missions. Since then, the Venezuelan government has sent more than 10,000 tonnes of food items, medicines and other aid to the devastated Caribbean nation.
Venezuela’s ability to respond quickly was facilitated by the fact that the Bolivarian government was already considerably involved in providing development packages to the island prior to the earthquake. Most notably Chávez signed a series of significant agreements between Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela via the ALBA initiative in 2007.
These agreements included US$80 million for an oil refinery, a US$56 million electricity plant, a US$4 million liquid gas plant, US$3 million for waste collection, and resources for a Cuban health care programme in Haiti staffed by 2,000 doctors. In June 2010, the Bolivarian government also cancelled all of Haiti’s debt with Petrocaribe – amounting to almost US$400 million.
Venezuela currently maintains its humanitarian missions in Haiti from its Francisco de Miranda Camp, promoting sustainability and managing projects in agriculture, energy, transport and health.
Chávez has also become a prominent political voice in Haiti, refusing to recognise the interim government when democratically elected Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted via a US-sponsored coup in 2004, as well as openly criticising the unpopular MINUSTAH UN stabilisation mission in Haiti and condemning the U.S. response to the earthquake as a “military occupation.”
When Chávez visited Haiti in 2007, he was greeted by thousands of Haitians waving Venezuelan flags and shouting ‘Long live Chávez! Down with Bush!’
During the inauguration Martelly, who was elected after the recent controversial elections in Haiti with 16.7% of the vote, promised a “new era” for Haiti and vowed to provide free health and education services. He also added that “foreign investment will be present in the new Haiti,” following a recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and IMF and World Bank officials.