Today in Latin America
Top Story — Haitian President-elect Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly met Wednesday with senior U.S. officials in Washington, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to discuss continued reconstruction of the earthquake-battered nation and reestablishing an army in the country.
Martelly said a top priority of his administration was to relocate the hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims living in tents.
“It’s been 14, almost 15 months since the earthquake, and little effort has been made” to help the displaced, he said, according to The Washington Post. More than 600,000 people still live in camps after last year’s earthquake.
After his inauguration on May 14, Martelly plans to impose a a five-cent tax on phone calls into Haiti to raise money for reconstruction and will also be able to use the $260 million in debt payments forgiven by foreign lenders.
Martelly also stated his hopes to reestablish the army, which was disbanded by former-President Jean-Betrand Aristide. He said the new, “modern army” would guard the borders, help in natural disasters and fight drug-trafficking.
Also on Martelly’s list was combating the cholera epidemic, which began last October, and boosting agricultural production.
However Martelly said that the pace of reconstruction in Haiti is “desperately slow” and that he is counting on the U.S. to ensure international aid would be used effectively.
Clinton admitted that the rebuilding of Haiti is a daunting task and revitalizing the country “takes leadership.” She added, however, that the U.S. was excited about Martelly’s presidency.
“Now he has a chance to lead and we are behind him,” said Clinton, according to The Associated Press. “He is committed to results. He wants to deliver for the Haitian people. And we are committed to helping him do so.”
Martelly also met earlier in the week with leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to discuss food prices, job creation, education and the improvement of the business environment in Haiti.
“My new vision for my country is to begin all the useful and necessary reforms,” Martelly said, according to AFP.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- While the Honduran government and former U.S. President Bill Clinton claim that the Central American nation is protecting human rights and combating drug-trafficking, Honduras is actually killing opposition members and using U.S. money to fund corrupt police officials, according to a leader in the Honduran resistance movement. Read the story here.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican police say they rescued 68 people, including 12 Central American migrants, allegedly kidnapped by a drug cartel in northern Mexico.
- A trustee of a village in New Mexico was denied bail on charges that he and the town’s mayor and police chief ran guns to drug cartels in Mexico.
- A 53-year-old Canadian man sought by Interpol on pedophilia charges has been arrested at an airport in the Dominican Republic.
- The wife of U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced in Cuba to 15 years in prison for subversion, sent a Passover message to Cuban President Raúl Castro asking him to free her husband as a gesture toward all Jews.
- Former President Manuel Zelaya plans to return to Honduras in May, in the wake of efforts started this month with the mediation of Venezuela, Deputy Coordinator of the National People’s Resistance Front (FNRP), Juan Barahona announced.
- The Guatemalan government on Tuesday declared a nationwide “nutritional risk alert” to avoid a food crisis in the country’s poorest areas where thousands of people don’t have enough food to survive.
- U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Wednesday he is confident Congress will approve free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia but they are likely to be submitted in separate bills.
- OPEC sees oil prices between $80 to $90 as “adequate” and has no plans for an emergency meeting because the market is well supplied despite unrest in Libya, Ecuador’s oil minister said on Wednesday.
- Bolivia’s plans to nationalize mines owned by Pan American Silver Corp. and Swiss commodities trader Glencore International AG appear to have hit a snag, with local workers’ unions at the two companies rejecting the move.
- Seven members of the rock band Callejeros were convicted on Wednesday in the deaths of 194 people in a nightclub fire in 2004.
- President Fernando Lugo is about to realize Paraguay’s long-held dream of receiving millions of dollars more from Brazil for energy from their shared hydroelectric dam, money he promised would finance land reform and transform his impoverished, agrarian nation.
- Chile inaugurated the first quick-charging station for electric cars in Latin America on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by the country’s president and other senior officials.
Image: MediaHacker @ Flickr.