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South America helps Haiti

February 25, 2010

South American countries are showing their solidarity with Haiti – and are doing some important things to ensure Haiti receives concrete aid and assistance with re-building that is locally led. The Union of South American Nations has also asked its members to support and help Haitian migrants in their countries. Furthermore, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas has agreed to cancel any debt Haiti has with their countries. Check out the complete details in this report from the International Action Center:

“South American countries give concrete aid to Haiti”
By Berta Joubert-Ceci

The Union of South American Nations — UNASUR — held an emergency meeting on Feb. 9 in Quito, Ecuador, to examine the situation in Haiti after the earthquake and make plans for short- and long-term assistance to the destroyed nation. Exterior ministers and special envoys from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guyana, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela and the presidents of Colombia, Paraguay and Peru joined current UNASUR President Rafael Correa from Ecuador and Haitian President René Préval.

This meeting took place 11 days after Correa visited Haiti to personally assess the situation. He was accompanied by the Health and the Risk Commission Secretaries (both women) and a delegation of physicians, rescue workers, experts in clinical and intensive therapy and in the management of natural disasters, and specialists in plastic, vascular and emergency surgeries.

UNASUR’s integral plan

These countries, many of them rich in natural resources but impoverished by centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism by the countries of the North, particularly the United States, unanimously agreed to help in the reconstruction of Haiti in the three main areas proposed by Préval: infrastructure and energy, agriculture and health. Their work will be fully coordinated and approved by the government and the people of Haiti. “They will tell us about the progress that we make and the needs that they have,” stated Correa. (Telesurtv.com, Feb. 9)

Some of the concrete actions will include providing materials, machinery and engineers to work on infrastructure, particularly in the construction of roads and electrical networks, plus studying the impact of gas as an alternative source of energy. The countries will provide specialists, seeds, fertilizers and other resources for the reconstruction of the agricultural sector. They will supplement the actions already implemented by the South American Health Council and help in joint actions to funnel humanitarian aid and reconstruction coordinated by the Haitian government.

These measures are in addition to providing other necessities such as tents and the construction of emergency shelters as well as the development of a reforestation program.

UNASUR is also encouraging its member states that have not yet done so to apply special processes to regulate the migratory status of Haitians in their countries, assist in the educational sector, temporarily eliminate any tariffs to Haitian export products, stimulate investments by South American enterprises that use local Haitian labor, and cancel any Haitian external debt.

In what Correa described as “South-to-South cooperation,” UNASUR approved $100 million for aid, and will request an additional $200 million in a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, to be paid, not by Haiti, but by the UNASUR countries in a 15-to-20-year repayment plan with minimum interest.

In another show of solidarity from the South, the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) countries, of which Ecuador is also a member, recently decided to cancel any debt that Haiti held with their countries.

Migratory amnesty signed by Ecuador

To ease the lives of undocumented Haitians living in Ecuador, President Correa signed a decree on Feb. 9 legalizing their migratory status. In addition, those Haitians who arrived in Ecuador before Jan. 31 will receive their immigrant visa completely free. These measures will legalize the status of 15,000 immigrants from Haiti. This will also help to open the doors to their families who are still in the Caribbean nation.

Via International Action Center, 22 Feb 2010

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