French president to visit Haiti
After a historic visit to Cuba, French President Francois Hollande tours Haiti Tuesday to sign cooperation agreements and support reconstruction efforts that continue since the deadly 2010 earthquake.
The then-president Nicolas Sarkozy visited Haiti after the quake. Hollande is only the second French head of state to tour what was once France's richest colony in the Caribbean.
This time the trip is important because Hollande is traveling with ministers and secretaries of state and a big delegation from the private sector.
Hollande and his Haitian counterpart Michel Martelly will address the nation in Port-au-Prince near the statue of Toussaint Louverture, one of the fathers of Haitian independence.
To boost trade, the presidents will sign several agreements including one that will let the destitute Caribbean country export organically-grown bananas to Europe.
France hopes to develop its relations with Haiti via its departments dealing with overseas territories. George Pau-Langevin, the minister in charge of this portfolio, and the presidents of Martinique and Guadeloupe, will be with Hollande during his visit to Haiti.
In a sign of France's commitment to long-term international cooperation, a major stop on the president's agenda is the site of the reconstruction of the Haitian State University Hospital, wrecked in the quake.
In that disaster more than half of Haiti's biggest hospital was destroyed by the magnitude 7 quake, which killed an estimated 230,000 people.
France and the US committed to rebuilding the hospital after the quake. Both pledged $25 milliion for the project, which is scheduled for completion in 2017.
Hollande arrives as Haiti is entering an electoral period. Because of a political crisis between Martelly and the opposition, elections are more than three years overdue. And the delay has bogged down parliament completely because no new lawmakers have been elected since January.
Critics of Martelly say this logjam is something he wanted, so they hope Hollande will deliver a forceful speech calling for democratic principles to be respected.
© 2015 AFP