Mérida, 26th July 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolas Maduro has returned from Haiti, where he met with the Caribbean nation's president on Tuesday.
In a press conference in Port-au-Prince yesterday afternoon, Haitian president Michel Martelly acknowledged Venezuela's support under the PetroCaribe program, stating that all of “Latin America has a debt with Venezuela.”
“Most of what is done today in Haiti is achieved with Petrocaribe funds,” Martelly said. He continued by stating that 94% of ongoing education, infrastructure and agriculture projects being undertaken in Haiti are supported by PetroCaribe.
Earlier in the day, Maduro and Martelly held a private meeting at the site of the National Palace, which collapsed during the 2010 earthquake.
Haitian prime minister Laurent Lamothe also welcomed Maduro's visit, describing it as a “historical” event.
“Haiti is honoured because of his attention,” Lamothe told local media.
The trip was the first visit of a Venezuelan head of state to Haiti since former president Hugo Chavez travelled to Port-au-Prince in 2007. Meeting with former Haitian president Rene Preval, Chavez established a development fund for Haiti worth US$1 billion, according to a Venezuelan embassy in the U.S. publication in January. Chavez also agreed to provide financial support to a joint Haitian-Cuban medical programme.
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the Venezuelan government increased its aid commitment to Haiti, and forgave the country of US$400 million in PetroCaribe debt.
“President Chavez wanted to come here but he didn’t get a chance to come back,” Maduro stated.
Both Lamothe and Martelly travelled to Caracas earlier this year for Chavez's funeral. Martelly also attended Maduro's inauguration ceremony. Maduro had previously planned to visit Haiti in April, but cancelled.
Prior to meeting with Martelly, Maduro tweeted, “We are heading to Haiti to reaffirm our brotherhood in [Simon] Bolivar, the paths of our people are together forever. Long live Haiti.”
One of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, Haiti is yet to recover from the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake, which claimed as many as 316,000 lives, and left 1.6 million homeless. According to the Associated Press, the number of Haitians facing hunger continues to rise; 6.7 million now don't have enough to eat.
Since coming to office Martelly has launched the Aba Grangou initiative, intended to end hunger. The programme is backed by US$30 million of PetroCaribe funding.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has also recently provided almost US$20 million to help curb hunger in Haiti. However, USAID's efforts in Haiti have been criticised by some observers, including the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), as lacking transparency in how the funds are actually used on the ground.
Maduro's visit came as the two governments are looking to renew a number of PetroCaribe deals in Haiti.
PetroCaribe is a Venezuelan initiative to provide Caribbean states with oil at preferential terms. Last year, the programme provided approximately over 100,00 barrels a day of heavily discounted Venezuelan oil to participating nations.
PetroCaribe's current member states include Antigua & Barbuda, Cuba, Belize, Guatemala, Bahamas, Jamaica, Honduras, Guyana, Grenada, Haití, Suriname, Dominica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Venezuela.