An upgraded international airport in Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haïtien, will bear the name of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who is on a six-day visit to the United States to tout his government’s achievements, confirmed the news on Twitter Thursday afternoon.
Lamothe’s tweet in French came after a day of confusion and debate on social media about the homage to Chávez. Earlier in the day, Haitian blog sites had reported that Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport would be renamed in honor of the populist leader who died from cancer March 5.
In October, Haiti’s government unveiled a newly asphalted 7,500-foot runway in Cap-Haïtien, the first step in transforming the regional airport into an international hub.
“President Chávez has done his best to help Haiti in the most difficult times,” said Gary Bodeau, Lamothe’s communications chief. “He has contributed over $1 billion to assist Haiti and is beloved by the Haitian people. As a tribute to him, and for his work to Haiti, we have decided to name the airport in Cap-Haïtien in his honor.”
Haiti is among 17 Caribbean and Latin American nations enrolled in Venezuela’s Petrocaribe oil program. After the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, Venezuela erased Haiti’s $395 million Petrocaribe debt, according to the Haitian government.
But by December 2012, Haiti had amassed another $903 million in Petrocaribe debt, according to government figures.
The ongoing airport upgrades are being financed with a loan from the Venezuelan Development Bank that was negotiated by former Haitian President René Préval just before the quake.
The move, however, infuriated donors who, as a condition of wiping out $1.2 billion in Haiti’s debt, told the country it could not acquire additional loans. The International Monetary Fund threatened to cut the country off from grant money but later dropped the idea after the quake hit.