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Action Alert: Cancel Haiti's Debt

Both before and after Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, Jubilee USA Network worked with the office of Congresswoman Maxine Waters - a longtime champion of debt relief - to lead the call for cancellation of Haiti’s debt. On Feb. 2, Congresswomen Waters introduced a bill calling for Haiti’s debt cancellation.

A collaborative partner of the United Methodist Women’s Division, Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

With the Latin America Working Group, another United Methodist Women partner and one of the nation's longest standing coalitions dedicated to foreign policy, Jubilee USA has now issued a global call to seek not only a reconstruction of roads, buildings, and institutions, but to “break the cycle of fragility and poverty” that has prevented Haiti’s sustained national development.

Hayley Hathaway, a Jubilee USA Network spokesperson, noted:

“In the wake of Haiti's unimaginable tragedy, one obvious and simple step toward a just recovery is for the international community to cancel Haiti's $1 billion debt.

Even before the earthquake, Haiti suffered from an extreme poverty exacerbated by the combined effects of the food, fuel and economic crises, a series of natural disasters, and legacy of unjust debt. For decades the country was forced to divert tens of millions of dollars in debt payments from investments in hospitals, schools, or other infrastructure--resources that could have helped in the aftermath of the earthquake.

This cycle begins with Haiti's independence and continues through their history. Shortly after Haiti won independence from France and abolished slavery, France threatened to reinvade and re-establish slavery unless Haiti paid "reparations" for the loss of the "property", including slaves, forcing Haiti to pay the equivalent of $21 billion today. More recently their debts increased under the brutal dictatorships of the Duvaliers, who spent aid money on lavish parties and brutal militias.

Jubilee USA Network has worked for the cancellation of Haiti's unjust debt for many years. We celebrated last June, when Haiti finally received cancellation of $1.2 billion of its debts owed to the IMF, World Bank, and the US and other governments.

Now, we must continue our work and ensure that Haiti's $1 billion remaining debt is cancelled swiftly and without conditions.

We must also work to make sure that Haiti doesn't get back into the chains of debt--aid should be in the form of grants, not loans. Yesterday, however, the International Monetary Fund approved an additional $102 million loan to Haiti. While the IMF Managing Director has stated his intention to work for Haiti's debt to be cancelled, we clearly must keep up the pressure.”

A petition drafted by The Jubilee USA Network urges Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “to announce [his] full support for Haiti's debt cancellation and work with [his] counterparts so Haiti can begin its recovery without the burden of debt.” “Haiti needs all of its resources for recovery and reconstruction, not debt repayments.” Haiti’s lenders - the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank - made presentations at a recent conference on Haiti held in Montreal. Haiti owes an estimated $1 billion in debt: $214 million to the Paris Club. Nearly $300 million owed to Haiti’s top lender, Venezuela, expects to be forgiven as announced by President Hugo Chavez. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has voiced support for forgiving Haiti’s debt saying, “It is just unrealistic to think that Haiti would ever, in the far foreseeable future, be able to repay.”

“Going forward, we’re going to need your voice to make sure that our government and the international community take the necessary steps to support Haiti as it begins the long road to recovery.” 


Break the Cycle of Poverty! Drop Haiti’s Debt Now!

  • Sign The Jubilee USA petition "Drop Haiti's Debt Now and No More Debt for Disaster."
  • Contact the office of Congresswoman Maxine Waters to follow the Haiti Debt Cancellation legislation as it moves through Congress. [The bill has not yet been assigned a number] Call 202-225-2201 or visit http://waters.house.gov/ for details. Call your representative at 202-224-3121, and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. Let them know you are a United Methodist Woman.
  • For more information, visit the Jubilee USA website: www.jubileeusa.org or call 202-783-3566.
  • Visit Latin American Working Group’s website: www.lawg.org or call 202-546-7010.
  • Read the Book of Resolutions (BOR 2008 ¶4054, Pathways to Economic Justice) which states, “Support Jubilee USA and Jubilee Debt Campaign through living out their spirit and principles in the life of the community.” (See BOR 2008 ¶4054, page 580).
Last Updated: 04/16/2010

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