Real help for Central America


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,   Dec. 26

The co-chair of the Boston-Cambridge Alliance for Democracy, David Lewit, is
working on getting the Central American countries hit by hurricane Mitch
freed from their debt burden. The information below should help any of you
who are keen to add your voice to this effort.

all the best, Jan
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 21:25:09 -0800 (PST)
From: David Lewit <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Cancel the debt and change Central America policy


Here is my letter to my new congress member, Michael Capuano.  It concerns
not only providing for relief in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, but giving up
the US and IMF destructive "structual adjustment" policy favoring agribiz
corporations vs. local development.  

I hope that you will write your own letter to your own congress member and
senators.  Call CPPAX at 617-426-3040 for addresses.  Supporting documents,
including a congressional letter to Bill Clinton, are attached: 

Dear Representative-elect Capuano:

Congratulations on your accession to Congress!  We are hoping for great
things from you, not simply as a liberal, but as a populist concerned with
ordinary people, and with the integrity of local societies and economies.
We hope that you will be a legislator whose considerations will go to the
root of social and economic problems.

Central America is a problem that you will be able to address immediately
upon entering the Congress.  The attached "Dear Colleague" and "Dear
President Clinton" letters explain the situation very well.  

The devastation, as you know, is enormous and beyond the means of any
Central American country to solve without a change in US policy.  I feel
there are good reasons for the US to use this opportunity to work for the
benefit of the local economies of Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and
Guatemala.  We need to recoup our sliding reputation in the world, and we
need to do it honorably by reversing our patronizing and grasping policy
toward the people of this region.

First, for a long time US forces and diplomacy were used to ensure the will
of US agribusiness in the region, driving peasants off fertile land and
supporting corrupt governments.  Heck, our great grandparents were peasants.

Second, under Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt the US initiated the United
Nations and came to stand for human rights, fair labor practices, and

Third, about 1973 the big corporations and their friends in the US,
European, and Japanese governments created the "Washington Consensus" with
the Trilateral Commission declaring that there was "an excess of democracy"
in the UN declarations of rights.

Since then it has been downhill for independence sentiments in Central
America. We promoted the "contra" war against Nicaragua, reversing the
benefits recently gained by ordinary people.  The Violetta Chamorro
government, elected by a war-exhaused people, looked good at first but
resumed the export-oriented measures of the US Fruit Company years, driving
the majority of people onto marginal land and into fragile huts to be
destroyed in Hurricane Mitch by mud from hillsides stripped for firewood.

We owe these people a lot, and others like them throughout the region.  Let
them  raise food crops for their own use--corn and beans and rice, and let
regional economies develop rather than forcing export farming on them.  Let
them reclaim the good land taken over by large Chiquita Banana plantations.
So what if we'll have to pay 50 cents for a banana--what do we pay for an
apple?  And what do we taxpayers pay for the wars?

In short, cancel the debts owed to the US government, the IMF, the Paris
Club of lenders, and the InterAmerican Bank.  And discard forever the
conditions for those loans which simply made interest-slaves of the people
while dictating an economic and political structure and ending any efforts
at local democracy and self-sufficiency.  Let us let the local governments
restore their independence, and let us respect local democracy and sovereignty.

Thank you, Michael Capuano, for siding with the people.  


David Lewit, co-chair
Boston-Cambridge Alliance for Democracy

December 15, 1998


Dear Colleague:

        As the world responds to the reconstruction needs of Central Americans
in the wake of the destructive force of Hurricane Mitch, there is
growing recognition of the need to include deeper debt relief in this

        The destruction of this storm is unimaginable, and the long-term
consequences grave.  With early estimations of over $5-6 billion in
recovery costs it is hard to imagine where adequate resources will be
found to rebuild these countries quickly without including serious debt
relief in the equation.

        The countries hardest hit by the force of Hurricane Mitch - Nicaragua,
Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador - are all burdened by substantial
foreign debt, ranging from $2.8 billion to $6.1 billion.  These debt
load levels had already slowed economic development in these countries
still emerging from long civil conflicts.  In the wake of the hurricane
destruction, it will be impossible for these countries to repay this

        As you may know, at the emergency consultative group meeting of donors
held last week at the Inter-American Development Bank, leading creditor
nations announced a three-year moratorium on debt payments from Honduras
and Nicaragua.  Actual debt cancellation, however, is limited and
conditioned on adherence to economic reform programs that have destroyed
productive capacity and increased poverty and environmental degradation
in virtually all countries in which they have been implemented.

        Please join us in signing the attached letter to President Clinton
which asks the Administration to act to cancel the unpayable debts of
countries affected by Hurricane Mitch and to work with other G-7 nations
to convene an emergency meeting of all international creditors for the
purpose of reaching agreement on bilateral and multilateral debt
cancellation for these countries.

        If you would like further information on this issue or would like to
sign on to the following letter, please contact Scott Paul with Rep.
Bonior at 5-2106 or Al Garesche with Rep. Kelly at 5-5441.


David E. Bonior         Sue W. Kelly                  Xavier Becerra
Member of Congress              Member of Congress            Member of

December xx, 1998

The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500


Dear President Clinton:

        The impact of Hurricane Mitch upon countries in Central America,
notably Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, has been
enormous.  Its devastating human impact is clear:  estimates are that
over 3 million people in the region have lost their homes and
livelihoods.  The impact on the countries' productive capacity has been
equally severe.  All four countries have suffered major damage to
agriculture, a primary generator of the foreign exchange these countries
require to survive in the global economy.

        This massive destruction of productive capacity clearly calls into
question these countries' ability to rebuild and at the same time
service (and ultimately pay off) their international debts.  Even before
the hurricane, their large debt service obligations were discouraging
foreign investment and diverting budgetary allocations away from
essential investments in health and education.  For these reasons, we
welcomed your Administration's initial move to grant Nicaragua and
Honduras a two-year moratorium on debt payments to the US government and
the subsequent agreement reached at the Inter-American Development Bank
last week.

        Yet we must do still more to help Central Americans recover from a
natural disaster that, as many have noted, has set back regional
development prospects by two to five decades.  We are asking you to
exert leadership in persuading the international community to cancel
these countries' debts and thus speed their economic recovery.

        It is the continuance of these tremendous debt loads themselves, not
just the interest payments owed on them, that threatens the entire
region's reconstruction effort.  The debts not only deter new foreign
investment but also yield most economic decision-making to the hands of
international creditors, undermining fragile democratic processes.  The
debt overhang also prevented investments in basic emergency preparedness
that might have reduced the scale of destruction wrought by Hurricane
Mitch.  While a payment moratorium may provide temporary relief, these
countries still will be unable to service their debts after three years,
especially if they expect to make needed investments in emergency
preparedness and sustainable development.

        We therefore urge you to act to cancel the current United States
bilateral debt of the countries most affected by Hurricane Mitch.  In
addition, we urge you to work with other G-7 nations to convene an
emergency meeting of all international creditors, including non-Paris
Club creditors and commercial banks, to agree on bilateral and
multilateral debt cancellation.  This debt cancellation must not be
conditioned on the implementation of economic policies that increase
poverty or environmental damage.  It is imperative that the United
States take a leadership role in developing a long-term recovery
strategy in the region.