Despite the devastating earthquake it has suffered, Haiti owes crushing payments for "dictator debt" run up years ago by its corrupt Western-sponsored leaders. Sign the petition to cancel Haiti's debt and campaigners Avaaz and partners like The-Latest will make sure it's sent to the IMF and key finance ministers next week.
It's shocking: even as aid flows in to Haiti's desperate communities, money is flowing out to pay off the country's crushing debt - more than $1 billion in unfair debt racked up years ago by unscrupulous lenders and governments.
The call for full cancelation of Haiti's debt is building up steam across the world, and has won over some leaders - but other rich lender countries are rumoured to be resisting. And time is short: G7 finance ministers could reach a final decision next week at their summit in Canada.
Let's raise a massive global call for justice, mercy and commonsense for the people of Haiti in this hour of tragedy. Avaaz and partners will deliver the call for debt relief directly to the summit - click below to sign the petition, and then pass email it to friends: http://www.avaaz.org/en/haiti_cancel_the_debt_13/?vl
Even before the earthquake, Haiti was one of the world's poorest countries. After Haitian slaves rose up and won their independence in 1804, France demanded billions in reparations - launching a spiral of poverty and unjust debt that has lasted two centuries.
In recent years, the tremendous worldwide campaign for debt relief has awoken the world's conscience. And in the last few days, under mounting public pressure, lenders have begun to say the right things about erasing Haiti's still-devastating debt burden.
But the devil is in the details. After the 2004 tsunami, the IMF announced relief from debt payments for stricken countries - but the underlying debt went right on growing. Once public attention had faded, the debt payments were bigger than ever.
It's time to cancel Haiti's debt fully and without conditions and ensure that earthquake aid is made with grants, not loans. A victory now will change lives in Haiti even after the world's attention has moved on.
As we watch the images on our televisions and computers, it's hard not to be overwhelmed. And the history of rich countries' relations with Haiti is dark indeed.
But, at moments like this, one can bring transformation. Across the world, ordinary people have generously donated money and much-needed materials to save lives in Haiti - indeed, Avaaz members have given more than $1 million in the last 10 days. But we also need to raise our voices as global citizens, to address the man-made tragedies that left our brothers and sisters in Haiti so vulnerable to natural crises.
There is not enough that we can do. But let's all do everything we can.
"West urged to write-off Haiti's $1bn debt", The Telegraph, January 25, 2010:
"Haiti: the land where children eat mud" - history of Haiti's debt from The Sunday Times, May 17 2009
"To Heal Haiti, Look to History, Not Nature" - Mark Danner in the New York Times, January 21 2010
UK and France call for debt cancellation, The Guardian, 19 January 2010
IMF Chief Calls for 'Marshall Plan' for Shattered Haiti January 20, 2010
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