Half-Hour for Haiti: Join the Big Push For Debt Relief for Haiti!

October 2, 2007Half-Hour for Haiti: Join the Big Push For Debt Relief for Haiti!

Update: Sorry we missed September’s Half-Hour alerts.  As many of you know, human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was kidnapped on August 12. We held off on alerts because the kidnapping initially appeared to be for economic reasons, and we were advised that action alerts could be counterproductive. But Lovinsky has now been missing for seven weeks, and Lovinsky’s family and his organization, the September 30th Foundation, have been raising the public profile of the case. We are working on an alert for Lovinsky that we will send out towards the end of the week. For more information about Lovinsky, his disappearance, and taking action to save Lovinsky’s life, see our website, www.HaitiJustice.org.

In the meantime, we need to carry on Lovinsky’s work, including the cancellation of Haiti’s multilateral debt, which will divert $57 million this year from Haiti’s elected government to wealthy banks that were established to fight poverty.

Thanks to everyone who fought for debt cancellation this summer by engaging their representatives during the August Congressional recess.

This week is the next big push. The Jubilee USA Network is sponsoring the Cancel Debt Fast from September 6 to October 18. Rev. David Duncombe of White Salmon, Washington, is spending the whole time on Capitol Hill, fasting and persuading members of Congress to pass the Jubilee Act, which would cancel unjust debt for Haiti and 66 other countries. For updates on the fast events, see Jubilee USA’s Blog the Debt.
This week is Haiti Week for the Cancel Debt Fast. On Thursday, Jubilee USA, Partners in Health, TransAfrica Forum, the Center for Economic and Policy Research , Haiti Reborn, and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti are sponsoring a Congressional briefing on H. Res. 241, the Haiti Debt Cancellation Resolution, with the help of Rep. Maxine Waters (Thursday 10/4, 3:30 PM, Rayburn 2105). The panelists will explain the impact of the diversion of resources to pay Haiti’s debt, to the healthcare system and the overall economy. They will also explain why it is important to pass H.Res. 241, as well as the Jubilee Act: the Haiti Debt Relief Act was introduced earlier and is further along in obtaining co-sponsors. Haiti also deserves special treatment because it lags behind other countries, because it was excluded from earlier debt relief efforts for political reasons.

Many of us fasted on September 6, (see Boston Globe article) and will fast again on Thursday. If you would like to join the fast, click here. But fasting and educating members of Congress and their staff about Haiti’s debt is only half the work of getting H.Res. 241 passed. The other half is you telling your Representatives that you care about Haiti’s debt, and that they should make debt cancellation a priority. For more information about Haiti debt cancellation and H.Res. 241, see our Haiti Debt Relief Resource Packet.
This week’s alert from the Haiti Reborn program shows what you can do to help:  call this week, and let your Representative know you support Debt Cancellation for Haiti.

Cancel Debt Fast Days of Action for Haiti

Make a Call to Congress this week! (script/talking points below)
Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121
Not sure who your member of Congress is? Go here

Background: Over half of the loans Haiti continues to pay were granted to corrupt and brutal dictators like Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier. The Haitian people continue to pay interest on these loans of a clearly odious nature.

This is money that could be used to invest in health care or education in a country where almost a quarter of children under five are chronically malnourished and only 35% of students are able to complete primary school. These loans divert over $57 million per year from a country where half the people struggle to survive on $1 a day or less.

While the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank have allowed Haiti to enter their debt cancellation programs they hold Haiti under the onerous framework of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. In the meantime Haiti will pay $110-140 million more in debt service to these institutions. Understanding the immediate need for action, Representatives Waters, Bachus, Delahunt, Lee, Payne, Conyers, Gutierrez and Maloney introduced H.Res 241 on March 13, 2007. HR 241 now has 65 cosponsors and still needs more! The resolution recommends that the Secretary of the Treasury and the U.S. Executive Directors at the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank exercise US influence to completely and immediately cancel Haiti’s debt to these institutions.

Take Action!

October 2-4: National call in days. We urge concerned citizens to take action by contacting their representatives to demand congressional action on HR 241 Haiti Debt Cancellation Act. If your member of Congress has already co-sponsored the resolution give them a call anyway. Thank them for co-sponsoring the resolution and ask him/her when we can expect a vote on the resolution. Then ask her/him to also co-sponsor the Jubilee Act HR 2634.

Also, let your member of Congress know about the briefing on October 4th. Call your representative in both the district and Washington, DC offices. Find script for contacting your Representative below.

October 2-4: Walk the Halls- Meetings with Congressional Members to encourage support for debt cancellation.

October 4th: Haiti Can’t Wait for Debt Cancellation Congressional Briefing on HR 241 3:30-5:00pm Room 2105 Rayburn House Office Building. The panel is co-sponsored by Jubilee USA, TransAfrica Forum, Partners in Health, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and the Quixote Center.

Script to call your Representative:
1. Find out who your Representative is by entering your zip code at www.house.gov (upper left corner)
2. Pick up the phone and call the Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121
3. Ask to be connected to your Representative’s office. The receptionist will answer. Introduce yourself as a constituent from ________ (city), (state)
4. Say some version of the following: “I am calling to urge Representative ______ to co-sponsor the Haiti debt cancellation resolution (H Res 241), if she/he has not already done so. This bill would provide immediate debt cancellation for Haiti. By canceling the debt immediately we can support Haiti in the improvement of healthcare, education, sanitation and other essential services and infrastructure. I urge Representative _______ to co-sponsor this important legislation.  To co-sponsor, your staff should contact Kathleen Sengstock in Representative Maxine Waters’ office at(202)225-2201.”
(You can stop there, or add an additional sentence about why this issue is important to you). Then thank the receptionist and say goodbye.

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For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see www.HaitiJustice.org. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once per week, send an email to HalfHour4Haiti@ijdh.org.