LEOGANE, Haiti, March 26 (Reuters) – Laborers at Haiti’s
only working sugar mill, the Jean Leopold Dominique de
Darbonne, chew on sugar cane stalks to sustain themselves as
they prepare the factory for another grinding season.
But it is foreign imported sugar and rice, besides
dirt-poor subsistence farming, that sustains Haiti’s nearly 10
million population — an underdevelopment dilemma that has been
highlighted as the Caribbean nation struggles to rebuild after
the devastating earthquake in January.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – At Haiti’s famous Barbancourt rum factory, patches of grass and shrubs around the warehouses are burned black from where the aging golden liquor spilled from oak casks split by the January 12 earthquake.
Hundreds of liters (gallons) of premier rum, some aged up to 15 years, seeped into the parched soil from the toppled casks, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential export revenue for the Caribbean country’s oldest manufacturer evaporated into the humid tropical air.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will seek improved U.S. trade preferences for textile and apparel imports from Haiti to assist its recovery from the catastrophic January earthquake, Clinton said on Monday.
Clinton, named by the United Nations as coordinator of relief efforts for the quake-stricken Caribbean state, made the promise during a visit with Bush to Haiti to check on its long-term rebuilding needs following the January 12 quake.
MIAMI (Reuters) – Wachovia Bank has agreed to pay $160 million to settle U.S. charges that it failed to stop more than $100 million of Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers’ money being laundered through accounts at the bank, U.S. authorities said on Wednesday.
The deferred prosecution agreement announced in Miami, which included a $50 million fine to be paid to the U.S. Treasury, was the largest penalty ever imposed for a violation of the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Jeffrey H. Sloman told reporters.
MIAMI (Reuters) – World No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods, who withdrew from the game late last year after a damaging adultery scandal, announced on Tuesday he would make his comeback to professional golf at the U.S. Masters in early April.
“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta,” Woods said in a statement published on his website.
MIAMI, , March 16 (Reuters) – World No. 1 golfer Tiger
Woods, who withdrew from the game late last year after a
damaging adultery scandal, announced on Tuesday he would make
his comeback to professional golf at the U.S. Masters in early
“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this
tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time
away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at
Augusta,” Woods said in a statement published on his website
, March 15 (Reuters) – U.S. tax authorities
are expected to “very shortly” launch another prosecution
against a foreign bank similar to the tax evasion case they
pressed against Switzerland’s UBS AG <UBSN.VX>, an Internal
Revenue Service (IRS) agent said on Monday.
Linda J. Osuna, IRS Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa
Field Office, told Reuters the expected U.S. case against the
foreign bank, which she declined to name, would be for “the
same behavior that got UBS in trouble.”
HOLLYWOOD, Florida (Reuters) – U.S. tax authorities are expected to “very shortly” launch another prosecution against a foreign bank similar to the tax evasion case they pressed against Switzerland’s UBS AG, an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent said on Monday.
Linda J. Osuna, IRS Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Field Office, told Reuters the expected U.S. case against the foreign bank, which she declined to name, would be for “the same behavior that got UBS in trouble.”
HOLLYWOOD, Florida (Reuters) – Adjusting and even selectively loosening U.S. sanctions against countries like Iran and Cuba can serve foreign policy goals by encouraging democratic change through greater Internet freedom and other means, a U.S. Treasury official said on Monday.
Adam Szubin, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which enforces U.S. sanctions against designated states, companies and people, told a conference such “smart sanctions” would help the U.S. government further its goals of fostering greater freedom and democracy.
MIAMI, March 9 (Reuters) – U.S. government insurer and lender OPIC is supporting U.S. private relief organizations working in quake-hit Haiti and will back U.S. companies that invest in the Caribbean country’s reconstruction, an OPIC official said on Tuesday.
"We see a lot of opportunity in the reconstruction," said Suzanne Etcheverry, manager for insurance at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. government agency that provides project financing and political risk insurance cover for U.S. investors in developing countries.
"We are looking at supporting infrastructure, as well as rebuilding shelter, schools, roads, helping the energy sector, deploying assets to do all this, supporting U.S. companies that are putting their own equity at risk," Etcheverry told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference on Haiti’s reconstruction in Miami.
Following the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake that shattered the capital and other towns in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest state, Haiti’s government and its foreign aid partners are now turning their attention from emergency humanitarian relief to recovery and rebuilding strategies.
Up to 300,000 people may have been killed in the quake, Haiti’s President Rene Preval has said, and some experts have called it the deadliest natural disaster of modern times.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have already poured into Haiti in the form of emergency aid provided by governments, multilateral lenders and nongovernmental organizations, but private companies are now scenting lucrative business opportunities in areas like rubble removal and the rebuilding of housing and infrastructure.
Etcheverry said OPIC could help provide a more secure investment framework for U.S. companies looking to find business in Haiti’s reconstruction.
"We can do a lot, provided that there is U.S. investment that is willing to take the risk and go there," she said.
Etcheverry said OPIC’s existing exposure in Haiti before the quake was small — nearly $23 million in insurance support for three projects — but was expected to rise.
"We are very willing to increase our exposure there for projects that are eligible," she said.
Since the quake, OPIC had opened up a $50 million special line of credit, as well as direct loans and discounted political risk insurance, for U.S. NGOs working on disaster relief in Haiti.
This was intended to support such groups as they deployed assets, vehicles and construction equipment on the ground.
RISK OF POLITICAL INSTABILITY
In addition, the agency was extending a $10 million loan to a Miami Beach, Florida-based company, InnoVida Holdings, LLC, to build fiber composite panels that would be used to construct 32,000 energy-efficient homes in Haiti in the next five years.
"We turned that around very, very quickly, which demonstrates how committed we are to doing work in Haiti," said Etcheverry.
Experts predict rebuilding of housing could account for as much as 60 percent of the overall Haiti reconstruction effort.
Etcheverry said OPIC was ready to support investment in the long-term rebuilding of the country, as well as underwriting more immediate humanitarian operations.
Telecommunications and energy would be other possible areas of investment for U.S. companies, she added.
Under OPIC’s statutes, however, the agency could not back investment projects that might have a negative impact on the U.S. economy and jobs — specifically in the Haitian apparel sector, which benefits from the United States’ Hope II Act that gives such textile exports preferential access to the United States.
Etcheverry was clear, however, that U.S. investors in Haiti’s reconstruction could face risks.
"I think the risks are political instability, unrest that can result from a general breakdown of living structures, basic infrastructure, basic security. I think that’s a real risk in any situation where something as catastrophic (as this) has happened," she said.
But she added: "I hope we can play a role in making investors more comfortable in going into these kinds of situations."
Analysts and aid workers say they fear delays in providing humanitarian aid and longer-term shelter and employment for hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless and jobless by the earthquake could spark unrest in the poor nation which has a history of political instability and conflict. (Editing by Leslie Adler)