Half-Hour for Haiti: Ask Congress to Break Haiti's Chains of Debt

March 15, 2007

Update on Last Week's Haiti Action Alert: Thanks to everyone who wrote last week in support of the Kolektif Fanmi Prizonye Politik (Political Prisoners' Families' Collective). For photos and a report-back on the Kolektif's March 8 Press Conference, as well as other International Women's Day events for Haiti including an interview with So Anne, click here. If you have not written there's still time, see last week's alert.

Update on Legislative Initiatives: Good news on debt relief: Rep. Maxine Waters filed the Haiti Debt Relief Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. The bill calls for the complete and immediate cancellation of Haiti's multilateral debt (more on that below). As the bill notes, Haiti sends $56 million in debt service payments each year to International Financial Institutions that were founded to fight poverty, money that could be better spent on providing clean water, education and healthcare to Haiti's poor. Over half of the loans were given to the Duvaliers or other dictatorships, much of it never reached the poor.

Progress has been slow on the two other Congressional initiatives we have been following: the Haitian Protection Act of 2007, H.R.522 (granting Haitians in the US Temporary Protective Status) has 23 co-sponsors (see alert). The Haiti Truth Act, H.R.351, has only one (see alert). We'll work on generating more support for both of those bills in upcoming alerts.

Coming Attractions: Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph and IJDH's Brian Concannon will speak next week in Minneapolis on March 22, and in Milwaukee on March 24. Also on March 24 in Milwaukee, Mario and Brian will join Loune Viaud of Partners In Health (PIH), Monika Kalra of the RFK Memorial Human Rights Center and Margaret Satterthwaite of NYU School of Law on a workshop at Amnesty International USA's Annual General Meeting, titled: "Poverty, Human Rights, and Haiti: Affecting Change through Grassroots Advocacy."

This Week's Action: The Haiti Debt Relief Bill, H.RES.241, is the latest in a long line of initiatives by Rep. Waters to bring justice to Haiti's poor. Rep. Waters and Haiti's poor need us to help them out. Please call your Representative, preferably in the Washington office (call the House Switchboard, 202-224-3121, and ask for your Rep.'s office), but the District offices will work too. You need only tell whoever answers the phone "my name is ___, I live in ____ and I support debt cancellation to release resources to fight poverty in Haiti. I am calling to urge Rep. ____ to co-sponsor House Resolution 241, which would immediately cancel Haiti's debt." That should take less than 60 seconds, including dialing. If you want to do more, ask for the staff member who covers debt relief or foreign policy issues, and ask what the Representative's position is. To help, Jubilee has a sample phone script; for tips on lobbying by phone, click here. Cosponsors can sign up with Kathleen Sengstock at Rep. Waters' office.

Right now H.Res. 241 has 7 cosponsors. Last year's Haiti Debt Relief Act had over sixty (click here for list). Let's give this bill some momentum now: if enough of us call, we can reach 30 by this time next week. To learn more about Haiti's debt, see the Debt Relief for Haiti section of our website or Break the Chains of Haiti's Debt on Jubilee USA's website.

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