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French President Pledges Funds to Assist Haiti

Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, arrived in Haiti to announce plans to assist in aid for the earthquake devastated country. This is the first Presidential visit in history since France colonized Haiti (then St. Domingue) from 1713 to 1787. Sarkozy pledged 230 million euros (the dollar equivalent of $400 million) to the relief efforts. Haitian President Rene Preval greeted Sarkozy and then the pair flew over Haiti for a bird's eye view of Port Au Prince.

At a news conference on the grounds of Haiti's National Palace where the government's offices once stood, Sarkozy said "I want only to say to the Haitian people, 'You are not alone'"

Sarkozy's welcome was bittersweet. Protesters handed out pamplets reminding Haitian's of
the bitter fight for independence against slavery in 1804 that cost the country nearly a third of its population. Many blame France for "enslaving Haiti" when French rulers demanded Haiti to buy its freedom. In response, Sarkozy mentioned the "wounds of colonization" saying "I know well the story of our countries on the question of debt." Sarkozy offered a huge aid package that included canceling Haiti's 56 million euro debt ($77 million US dollars), as well as emergency aid, reconstruction money, and over a $40 million dollar offer to support Haiti's government budget.

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