NOTE: In the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp residents that partner with Pax Christi Port-au-Prince are taking shelter at the Pax Christi SAKALA community center in Cite Soleil. Furthermore, many homes have collapsed due to the wind in Cite Soleil leaving many families and individuals seeking shelter. Amy Watts and Manuel Padilla, the co-coordinators of the Pax Christi USA-Pax Christi Port-au-Prince collaboration, left for Cite Soleil today to help with support and relief assistance over the next 3 weeks. During their time in Haiti, we’ll be posting several recent stories on the ongoing situation in Haiti.
By Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives, The Nation
When René Préval took the oath of Haiti’s presidential office in a ceremony at Haiti’s National Palace on May 14, 2006, he was anxious to allay fears in Washington that he would not be a reliable partner. “He wants to bury once and for all the suspicion in Haiti that the United States is wary of him,” said US Ambassador Janet Sanderson in a March 26, 2006, cable. “He is seeking to enhance his status domestically and internationally with a successful visit to the United States.”
This was so important that Préval “declined invitations to visit France, Cuba, and Venezuela in order to visit Washington first,” Sanderson noted. “Preval has close personal ties to Cuba, having received prostate cancer treatment there, but has stressed to the Embassy that he will manage relations with Cuba and Venezuela solely for the benefit of the Haitian people, and not based on any ideological affinity toward those governments.”
Soon, however, it became clear that managing relations with those US adversaries “solely for the benefit to the Haitian people” would be enough to put Préval in Washington’s bad graces—especially when it came to the sensitive matter of oil.
Immediately after his inauguration ceremony, Préval summoned the press to a room in the National Palace, where he inked a deal with Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe. Under the terms of the deal, Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest.
As the press conference rolled on, just a mile away from the National Palace, in the bay of Port-au-Prince, sat a tanker from Venezuela carrying 100,000 barrels of PetroCaribe diesel and unleaded fuel.
Préval’s dramatic inauguration day oil deal won high marks from many Haitians, who had demonstrated against high oil prices and the lack of electricity. But it ushered in a multiyear geopolitical battle among Caracas, Havana and Washington over how oil would be delivered to Haiti and who would benefit…