Venezuelan President Says 'We Owe A Lot to Haiti'
By Joseph Guyler Delva
Special to The Haitian Times - 24 Januery 2007
PORT-AU-PRINCE – In the last couple of months, the news out of Haiti has been one of chaos and more chaos. While that has not changed entirely too much, some good news came to the impoverished nation as the Venezuelan government pledged a grant of $100 million to help the country get out of its economic morass.
Jean Max Bellerive, Haiti’s planning and cooperation minister, said Jan. 23 the Venezuelan government will grant $100 million to help the Caribbean country implement health, education, social and economic programs.
Bellerive said part of the money will be used to finance works aimed at extending the country’s main international airport in Port-au-Prince and the second largest airport in the northern town of Cap-Haitien.
“Fifty-five million dollars will be used to extend the country’s two most important airports,” said Bellerive. “And (Venezuelan) President (Hugo) Chavez has decided to engage $20 million in a special fund to support health, education and social programs and projects involving Cuban experts in Haiti,” he said.
Rodolfo Sanz, the Venezuelan deputy foreign affairs minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, who visited Haiti on Jan. 22, said Venezuela has a historical debt toward Haiti, which helped Venezuelan founder, Simon Bolivar, to free his country from Spanish rule.
“We owe a lot to Haiti, and President Chavez is committed to help this country cope with the hard reality it is facing,” Sanz told Haitian reporters at the Venezuelan embassy in Port-au-Prince.
The aid, which is believed to be the largest ever from a Latin American country, comes at a time when Préval has begun to openly and aggressively court his Latin neighbors with whom he feels much closer than the United States and Canada, some experts say.
During his first tenure, Préval opened diplomatic relations with Cuba, opening an embassy there.