PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton launched a new business loan program in Haiti on Tuesday aimed at helping bolster an economy that was devastated by the January 2010 earthquake.
Clinton said the first loan in the $20 million program is being made to Caribbean Craft, which produces colorful goods such as carnival masks, sculptures and paintings for export and lost its workshop in the earthquake.
The company is receiving a loan of $415,000, with interest to be paid back to the program to help make additional loans in the future, Clinton told reporters as he toured Caribbean Craft’s workshop near the airport in Port-au-Prince. He said the money will help the operation hire 200 more workers. He didn’t say how many employees it has now.
Clinton, who has been active in Haiti reconstruction through his foundation and as co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, said he had been “surprised and disturbed” to learn of the difficult loan terms available for even Haitian businesses with solid credit.
“One of the biggest problems in growing the Haitian economy is that there is really no facility that grants small business loans on reasonable terms,” he said.
By JACOB KUSHNER and JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “BabyDoc” Duvalier ensconced himself Monday in a high-end hotel following his surprise return to a country deep in crisis, leaving many to wonder if the once-feared strongman will prompt renewed conflict in the midst of a political stalemate.
Duvalier met with allies inside the hotel in the hills above downtown Port-au-Prince and spoke publicly only through emissaries, who gave vague explanations for his sudden and mysterious appearance — nearly 25 years after he was forced into exile by a popular uprising against his brutal regime.
Henry Robert Sterlin, a former ambassador who said he was speaking on behalf of Duvalier, portrayed the 59-year-old former “president for life,” as merely a concerned elder statesmen who wanted to see the effects of the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake on his homeland.
“He was deeply hurt in his soul after the earthquake,” Sterlin said. “He wanted to come back to see how is the actual Haitian situation of the people and the country.”
Duvalier — who assumed power in 1971 at age 19 following the death of his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier — still has some support in Haiti and millions are too young to remember life under his dictatorship. But his abrupt return Sunday still sent shock waves through the country, with some fearing that his presence will bring back the extreme polarization, and political violence, of the past.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)- Frustrated presidential candidates led a march through Haiti’s capital Thursday to demand officials annul an election they say was tainted by fraud.
At least four of 19 candidates on Sunday’s ballot walked with hundreds of supporters to an electoral council office. They denounced electoral officials, President Rene Preval and the ruling Unity party’s candidate, state construction company chief Jude Celestin, chanting: “Prison for Preval, liberty for Haiti!”
“These were not elections. People were not allowed to vote and there was stuffing of the election boxes … We need democratic elections,” candidate Charles Henri-Baker, a factory owner, told The Associated Press.
The presidential hopefuls were part of a group of 12 candidates who called for voting to be canceled while polls were open, alleging the election was rigged in favor of Celestin.
LEOGANE, Haiti – Hurricane Tomas flooded the earthquake-shattered remains of a Haitian town on Friday, forcing families who had already lost their homes in one disaster to flee another. In the country’s capital, quake refugees resisted calls to abandon flimsy tarp and tent camps.
Driving winds and storm surge battered Leogane, a seaside town west of Port-au-Prince that was near the epicenter of the Jan. 12 earthquake and was 90 percent destroyed. Dozens of families in one earthquake-refuge camp carried their belongings through thigh-high water to a taxi post on high ground, waiting out the rest of the storm under blankets and a sign that read “Welcome to Leogane.”
“We got flooded out and we’re just waiting for the storm to pass. There’s nothing we can do,” said Johnny Joseph, a 20-year-old resident.
The growing hurricane with 75 mph (120 kph) winds battered the western tip of Haiti’s southern peninsula and the cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes.
At least three people died trying to cross swollen rivers, Haiti civil protection officials said. The hurricane had earlier killed at least 14 people in the eastern Caribbean.