News / Americas

US Seeks Debt Relief for Haiti

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the United States will work with its international partners to relieve Haiti of its debts to global financial institutions.

Geithner said in a statement Friday that last month's earthquake in Haiti was a catastrophic setback to its people, who are now facing tremendous emergency humanitarian and reconstruction needs.  

Geithner said Haiti deserves and needs multilateral debt relief, and he called for grants to support its reconstruction and recovery from the quake.

Separately, the World Bank has praised efforts by the Swiss government to return assets linked to former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to his homeland.

The bank issued a statement Friday saying it welcomes the continued efforts to hand over "millions of stolen assets" held by the Duvalier family in Switzerland.  The bank said the money could be used for development purposes following the devastating quake.

Earlier this week, Switzerland's government said it would maintain a freeze on assets of the ex-dictator, after the country's Supreme Court ruled against returning about $4.6 million in funds to Haitian authorities.

Switzerland also said it would try to change the law to help Haiti recover the money.  Authorities say the amount of money in Swiss bank accounts totals $5.7 million.  The money has been frozen since Duvalier's ouster in 1986.

Switzerland has long been known as a country where money can easily be hidden because of the nation's banking secrecy rules.  Recent banking reforms, however, have made it harder to hide money there.

Duvalier succeeded his father as Haitian leader in 1971.  He is accused of stealing government funds. He lives in exile in France.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.

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