Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Preval Inaugurated. A weakened democracy replaces foreign installed dictatorship. Energy accord signed with Venezuela.

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Haiti's 56th President Rene Garcia Preval was sworn into office on May 14, 2006. Surrounded at the inauguration by elites and backers of the 2004 coup, Preval called for peace. Turning his back on the foreign installed President Boniface Alexandre, he refused to be handed the sash by the interim government, having instead an elected official from his Lespwa party place the sash around him. Outside of Haiti's national palace filled with security and foreign dignitaries, masses of Haitians chanted for Preval and the return of Arsitide. "Whether they like it or not, Aristide is returning," the protestors cried. According to the constitution Preval should have taken office 96 days ago.

Haiti Progres writes that after giving his speech and snubbing Florida Governor Bush who sat nearby, Preval "..personally came to Venezuelan vice-president Rangel, who had been sitting one seat away from Jeb Bush, and led him away without even acknowledging Bush. The [Florida] governor, stone-faced, quickly left for the airport."

Preval is off to a quick start. Following the inauguration he immediately signed a Petrocaribe accord with Venezuela. Preval announced, ".. already 100,000 barrels of oil arrived in Port-au-Prince [this morning]. We know what kind of relations there have been between Haiti and Venezuela. In Jacmel, [Francisco de] Miranda created the Venezuelan flag and received aid from Haiti from President [Alexandre] Petion. And the alliance was so strong that today at the foot of the stairs to [Venezuela's] National Palace one finds two busts: one of Petion and the other of [Simon] Bolivar."

Rangel replied, "With this act, Venezuela pays an historic debt to Haiti. An eternal debt, which is also the root of liberty and the root of the Venezuelan nation. It is a debt not only
to President Petion but also to the thousands and thousands of Haitians who fought alongside Miranda for the liberty of not only Venezuela but of all Latin America."

Haiti has a daily fuel consumption of 11,000 barrels of fuel.

Venezuela will sends 7,000 barrels a day to Haiti under the PetroCaribe accord and an additional 4,000 barrels will be sent under the San Jose accord, a separate accord negotiated with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Haiti will receive 100% of its fuel/gasoline from Venezuela.
In a recent talk on his weekly radio show "Hallo Presidente!", President Chavez of Venezuela stated, "We are going to include Haiti in Petrocaribe and send it all the fuel it needs. We are also building storage facilities with a special fund", he said, because many countries do not have places to store crude oil. These storage facilities that Chavez speaks of are just the sort of "tank farm" that Haiti could benefit from.

Thirteen countries in the Caribbean are importing Venezuelan oil and are getting an approximate 40 per cent discount off the international market price of oil. With this program beginning in Haiti, it should overtime allow for the new government to build up an oil reserve, slowing inflation, and eventually creating energy sovereignty.

Petrocaribe requires that Caribbean countries pay a portion of the cost of the oil up front but allows them to finance the remainder through low-interest loans over 25 years. The lack of fuel in Haiti has hammered the aging power grid- so this could provide some long term relief and help in constructing a long term energy plan for the deeply impoverished island-nation.