French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Today in Latin America

Sarkozy Becomes First French President to Visit Haiti; Promises $400 million in aid

February 18, 2010 By Staff
French President Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Today in Latin America

Top Story — French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Haiti Wednesday, becoming the first French president to visit the country since it gained independence in 1804.

Sarkozy promised $400 million in aid to Haiti to help the country rebuild after last month’s earthquake as he arrived on the island with Haitian President René Préval. The aid package also cancels the $76 million debt Haiti owed to France.

Sarkozy toured a French field hospital, viewed the damage in Port-au-Prince from a helicopter and held a news conference on the grounds of the collapsed Haitian presidential palace.

“I have come to tell the Haitian people and their leaders that France, which was the first on the ground after the catastrophe, will remain firmly at their side to help them pick themselves up again and open a new happy page in their history,” said Mr. Sarkozy, according to the BBC.

Some Haitians protested Sarkozy’s visit on the grounds that the colonial legacy left by the French hindered development in the country. Sarkozy referenced the past and said, “‘I know well the story of our countries on the question of debt,” according to the New York Times.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Authorities in Mexico found five decapitated bodies in front of a primary school Tuesday in the country’s Sinaloa state.
  • Paraguayan soccer star Salvador Cabañas left the Intensive Care Unit and into a private hospital room one month after being shot in the head in a Mexico City bathroom.

Caribbean

  • A U.S. official left for Cuba on Wednesday to discuss immigration. President Obama resumed talks on migration, which the Bush administration had canceled in 2003.

Central America

  • Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom is in the United States for a three-day visit where he will meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others.
  • Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said that he will allow the military leaders behind last year’s coup, that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya from power, to remain at their posts.
  • Panama hopes that the arrival of 200,000 dosages of vaccines from the Pan American Health Organization aimed at preventing the H1N1 virus will arrive soon.

Andes

  • Venezuela is now rethinking the offer made by Colombia to help supply it’s neighboring country with electricity. The Colombian Minister of Mines and Energy, Hernán Martínez, said he would make a formal offer to Venezuela, even though Venezuela said earlier this week that it was not interested in Colombia’s offer.
  • The Bolivian airline, Transportes Aereos Militares, gave free flights until the age of 21 to a baby girl born mid-flight.
  • One of Latin America’s largets gold mines, Peru’s Yanacocha, said the company expects a 25 percent decrease in sales this year from 2009.

Southern Cone

  • The British government protested a recent decision by the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration to require permits for ships passing between Argentina and the Faukland Islands, where the British plan to drill for oil.
  • Chilean President Sebastián Piñera criticized Cuba’s human rights record and said he would work to improve relations with neighboring Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.

Image: Adam Tinworth @ Flickr

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