International representatives who gathered in New York Wednesday for a conference on Haitian reconstruction pledged some $5.3 billion in aid to the country over the next three years. As the Washington Post leads this morning, the pledges mark the beginning of “an ambitious effort not just to rebuild the hemisphere's poorest nation but also to transform it into a modern state.” In total, governments, international organizations, and NGOs promised almost $10 billion for Haiti in the years to come. The figure of $5.3 billion exceeded (by over $1 billion) the goal set by Haiti’s President Rene Preval before Wednesday’s meetings, but now comes the most difficult part: getting donor countries to actually fulfill their commitments. The New York Times, for example, expresses a feeling of skepticism among some on this point. “…The very size of the outpouring raised questions about whether the commitments would be met and how fast the financial support could help salve the needs of the Haitian people,” the paper’s UN correspondent Neil MacFarquhar writes today. In the Wall Street Journal, others second this feeling of hesitant optimism. “You can have all the pledges in the world, but you must be able to implement,” remarked IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno.
Donation pledges to Haiti came from almost 50 countries from around the world. That’s double the number of countries who contributed to rebuilding efforts in tsunami-devastated South Asia in 2004. And, says IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, if pledges are fulfilled, the Haitian economy could grow at an average of 8 percent in coming years – approx. 50 percent faster than under prior IMF forecasts.
For its part, the US committed itself to providing an additional $1.15 billion for what the Post calls “nation building efforts” in the country. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton also urged donors to follow through on their commitments in a timely fashion, “evoking the possibilities of a stream of boat people, increased drug trafficking and the spread of drug-resistant diseases” if they did not [also, you can find a transcript of a press conference with Clinton’s Haiti point woman, Cheryl Mills here]. Very interestingly, the Post also makes note of the very “prominent” role both Ms. Clinton and her husband played at Wednesday’s talks. Here’s the scene the paper sets:
“The donor conference, held in a wood-paneled hall at the United Nations, thrust the Clintons into perhaps their most prominent international role since Bill Clinton's presidency. They both sat on the dais, flanking Ban and Haitian President René Préval.”
Bill Clinton is the focus of the Miami Herald’s Haiti coverage today. On Tuesday the former president said he had accepted an 18-month gig to help lead Haiti’s reconstruction efforts as “co-czar,” in the Herald’s words, of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. (PM Jean-Max Bellerive is the other commission co-chair). According to Clinton, “[The] establishment of a Haitian government authority to oversee the future development process is an important step towards expediting projects, ensuring transparency, and coordinating the efforts of donors, [nongovernmental organizations] and the Haitian diaspora.”
To other stories:
· In Mexico, the AP reports that gunmen launched a set of “rare,” coordinated attacks on two military outposts in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León Wednesday. In a total of 7 simultaneous attacks, gunmen tried to barricade soldiers into the two garrisons near Reynosa and Matamoros. In the process, at least 18 of the attackers were killed. Only one Mexican soldier was injured. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has more on new information related to the murder of 3 individuals with links to the US consulate in Juarez. The report seconds others from yesterday saying the Barrio Azteca gang appears to be behind the attack. Indications from other stories on the matter say the husband of US consular official Lesley Enriquez—a prison guard in El Paso—may have been the target.
· From Just the Facts, a break-down of new counternarcotics legislation introduced earlier this week by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and John Kerry (D-MA). “The “Counternarcotics and Citizen Security for the Americas Act of 2010” (S.3172) differs widely from H.R.2134, the “Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2009,” notes Abigail Poe of the Center for International Policy, attempting to establish a “comprehensive and coordinated” strategy for the existing U.S. counternarcotics programs in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean “to thwart the balloon effect.” Following new rhetoric of Merida 2.0, the legislation would seek to decrease military involvement in counternarcotics operations, strengthen civilian institutions, and improve judicial effectiveness, among other points.
· Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a visit to Venezuela Friday, meeting with both Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales of Bolivia. Oil, arms, and agriculture are said to be top on the agenda. According to the AP, ahead of the meeting, the two countries have already agreed to form a new mixed Russian-Venezuelan enterprise to increase oil development in the Orinoco Belt. It’s believed some 50,000 barrels of oil will be produced daily from the new extraction efforts. At the daily US State Dept. briefing yesterday, State spokesperson Mark Toner said the US has voiced concerns about arms sales to Venezuela but added “any country is entitled to pursue its own bilateral relationship with any other country, clearly.”
· In Bolivia, the AP reports on this weekend’s regional elections. New governors will be selected as will provincial legislatures. The newswire says “polls show allies of Morales could win seven of Bolivia's nine statehouses, a gain of two governorships - both in the eastern lowlands.”
· On the possibility of an arms race in Latin America, Peruvian officials said they would be putting the issue atop the OAS General Assembly’s agenda when it meets in June in Lima.
· IPS previews the upcoming alternative climate change summit in Cochabamba, sponsored by Evo Morales. IPS writes, “The main aims of the conference are to organise a world people's referendum on global warming, draw up an action plan to create an international climate justice tribunal, and agree new commitments to be negotiated within United Nations scenarios.” It goes on to say agenda priorities will include “climate debt, climate change migrants and refugees, greenhouse gas emission cuts, adaptation, technology transfer, financing, forests and climate change, shared visions and indigenous peoples.” The conference begins April 20.
· Argentine President Cristina Kirchner appears to have won her battle with the Central Bank. Earlier this week, Argentine courts backed the president’s right to use central bank reserves to service the country’s debt.
· From Latin American News Dispatch, a fascinating piece by Mari Hayman about one woman’s struggle to “to bring the Mexican government to trial for the clandestine war that disappeared over 1,000 people, including her parents, her uncle and their two friends, 35 years ago.” The piece focuses on Aleida Gallangos, a Mexican woman who has petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights saying her government is “not only responsible for mass kidnappings, torture, and disappearances during the country’s ‘dirty war,’ but also for its failure to address the mounting evidence of these crimes in a court.”
· A note of great interest to historians in today’s New York Times. Julia Gaffield, PhD candidate in the History Dept. at Duke University, has found the first known, government issued version of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence in the British National Archives.
· Finally, some opinions. Yesterday, on the anniversary of United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez’s birth, Miriam Pawel argues in the LA Times that the day should be an occasion to educate new generations about Chavez's remarkable accomplishments. In the CS Monitor, meanwhile, Prof. Jeffrey Rubin, compares Chavez with the other Chavez more frequently in the news these days—Hugo. Rubin argues the two may have more in common than not, both bringing a sense of “dignity,” as well as “food and a say in politics” to their respective followers. It is important, however, Rubin continues, to “see both social movements and democracy as deeply and inevitably flawed, each in need of the other to survive and produce workable policies and more just societies.” And, with two takes on upcoming Colombian elections, Adam Isacson has a new piece up at Open Democracy on the “post Uribe” era. Andres Oppenheimer has one eye on the subject of Colombia in the Herald, with another eye looking toward the aforementioned Hugo Chavez.