Haitian President Michel Martelly (L) with Venezuelan President Maduro
By Joseph Guyler C. Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haitian President Michel Martelly said on Tuesday that funds generated by the PetroCaribe agreement account for 94 percent of Haiti's public investment funds as he praised the commitment of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who visited the Caribbean country to check progress made in projects funded with Venezuelan Petro dollars.
As a member of the PetroCaribe agreement, which allows some 20 Latin America and Caribbean countries to pay upfront only part of the oil bill owed to Venezuela among other benefits, Haiti has been able to save money to invest in ambitious social assistance programs, the building of social housing, schools, airports and other infrastructure projects.
"I would like to say very loudly that PetroCaribe funds represent 94% of our investment funds, which means that the majority of what is being done in Haiti has been realized with PetroCaribe funds," Martelly told reporters during a joint news briefing with Maduro, at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday.
"Government buildings are being rebuilt, social housing is being built and we are talking about increasing national production, about continuing with the free tuition education program and alphabetization," Martelly said.
The PetroCaribe agreement allows member-countries to pay upfront 60% of the fuel bill while the remaining 40% is financed at an interest rate of 1%, over 25 years. Besides projects financed by PetroCaribe funds, Venezuela also provides resources to fund several additional projects.
The two leaders also talked about increasing cooperation in tourism, energy, infrastructure works and housing in a country devastated in 2010 by a 7.0-magintude earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and left hundreds of thousand others homeless.
"In terms of future projects, we (Haitians) were talking about building 10,000 homes, but, themselves, they are talking about building hundreds of thousands of homes," Martelly explained.
"Fortunately, our ancestors had helped a Latin America that is grateful," he added.
The new Venezuelan leader, who is walking in his predecessor's footsteps, promised Haiti the unwavering solidarity of the Venezuelan government and people, praising the Caribbean country's founding fathers for the support they had provided to Simon Bolivar and other liberators to free Latin America.
"We are going to take new steps forward with increased cooperation and success for the Haitian and the Venezuelan people," Maduro said.
"We have to progress through the path of cooperation, shared development, solidarity and we should not expect anything in return from the other," he stated.
Maduro said Venezuela is open to receive more Haitian students to study medicine, engineering, and to train professionals for Haiti's future. He said Haiti has the potential for a great future, "but it has to work with a lot of persistence, much union, much solidarity and faith in the future."
The Venezuelan leader, who visited the national museum, arrived in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday and left late evening on the same day. Maduro was cheered by crowds of admirers as he walked, near the Presidential Palace, alongside his counterpart Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and First Lady Sophia Martelly.
"The country is under construction today thanks to Venezuela," said Lamothe who played an active role in the discussions with Maduro.
Martelly and Lamothe will attend, during the weekend, a PetroCaribe summit that will be held in Managua, Nicaragua, to discuss the establishment of a PetroCaribe Economic Zone, among other things.