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Carter vows to back Grenada debt relief
by Michael Bascombe
The Associated Press Translate This Article
St. George's, Grenada
15 October 2004
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada (AP) - Former President Jimmy Carter urged the United States and other international lenders Friday to forgive part of Grenada's debt, saying the Caribbean country needs the money to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Ivan.
Carter, wrapping up a two-day visit, said he would lobby the United States, Britain, Kuwait, Taiwan, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other lenders to grant debt relief to Grenada.
''One of the wonderful things that could be done to help Grenada is to get some relief from your international debt,'' Carter told a news conference. ''And of course my voice and others can make appeals to those who hold these mortgages on you.''
The island's debt of $450 million was amassed partly through the recent construction of roads, a pier, a stadium and a hospital - some of which were heavily damaged when Hurricane Ivan struck Sept. 7.
Carter also met Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, whose home was ruined by Ivan along with 90 percent of Grenada's houses and buildings. Thirty-nine people were killed, and half the population was left homeless.
Many people still live in shelters or makeshift homes made of tarpaulins and sheets of galvanized zinc. Others live at home under tarpaulin roofs and get wet when it rains.
Carter cautioned that countries offering aid to Grenada would need assurances that there would be ''no corruption and money is not wasted.''
The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner suggested the country set up a committee to oversee how aid is spent, including members of both political parties. Before the hurricane, the former British colony's debt nearly equaled its gross domestic product.
The prime minister accompanied Carter on a tour Friday of a rain forest where Ivan felled many trees, threatening the habitat of monkeys, parrots and other exotic animals. Mitchell thanked Carter for his visit, saying it would give ''a tremendous moral boost to the psyche of the Grenadian'' people.
Carter, 80, also visited a nutmeg plantation Friday where he said not a single tree survived Ivan's winds, which reached up to 130 mph. Grenada lost 60 percent of its nutmeg crop in the hurricane, threatening its biggest income earner and the livelihood of one-third of its 100,000 residents, though officials say it has enough in stock to satisfy world markets for at least three years.
The ''Spice Island'' is the world's No. 2 nutmeg producer after Indonesia.
Total losses on the island due to destruction and lost tourist business was estimated at $900 million.
On Wednesday, President Bush signed a disaster bill clearing the way for $100 million in aid to help Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti and other Caribbean countries trying to recover from four major hurricanes.
During a visit to Grenada last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Grenada would receive the largest portion of the Caribbean aid.
U.S. aid to Grenada has dropped sharply since U.S. troops invaded in 1983 following a coup. Nineteen Americans died in the invasion, along with some 45 Grenadians and 24 Cubans.
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