Members of Congress Urge Debt Cancellation for Haiti

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Members of Congress Urge Debt Cancellation for Haiti

Ahead of G-7 Finance Ministers Meeting, 94 Members of Congress Urge Treasury Secretary Geithner to Cancel Haiti’s Debt, Provide Grants instead of Loans for Recovery

WASHINGTON - As Finance Ministers from the Group of Seven prepare to meet tomorrow in Canada, pressure grows for the leaders to commit to definitive cancellation of Haiti's debts to international institutions.

Today, 94 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner, calling for "the complete cancellation of debts owed by Haiti to multilateral financial institutions...and the provision of assistance to Haiti in the form of grants so that the country does not accumulate additional debts."

In the days following the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti, officials at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Inter American Development Bank (IDB), which collectively held $651 million in debt to Haiti, indicated willingness to consider canceling Haiti's debt.

While Haiti will not be forced to service debts to the institutions for two to five years, no definitive moves have yet been made to cancel the country's debt. In fact, last week the IMF Board approved a $102 million loan to Haiti, nearly doubling the country's debt to the institution, with no mention of debt cancellation.

"This weekend the G-7 Finance Ministers must respond to the mounting global consensus to drop Haiti's debt. It's time our leaders announced their commitment to cancel Haiti's debts once and for all, including the new IMF loan. Debt cancellation is a critical step in the long road to Haiti's recovery," said Melinda St. Louis, Deputy Director of the Jubilee USA Network.

In addition to the letter from the 94 Members of Congress sent today, legislative initiatives to cancel Haiti's debt are gaining momentum in the Senate (led by Senators Dodd (D-CT) and Lugar (R-IN) and in the House (led by Representatives Waters (D-CA) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)).

Civil society groups, including Jubilee USA, Oxfam, ONE, and Avaaz, plan to deliver hundreds of thousands of individual signatures from across the globe calling for Haiti's debt cancellation to the Finance Ministers at this weekend's meeting.

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Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 80 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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