U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to northern Haiti on Monday, where she and husband, former President Bill Clinton, will inaugurate a new $300 million industrial park.
They will be joined by Haitian President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, as well as several businessmen the Clintons hope will decide to expand operations to Haiti to create desperately needed jobs.
It is the Hillary Clinton’s first visit to the north and comes nearly a year after her husband, who also serves as U.N. special envoy to Haiti, helped break ground on the controversial project. Called the Caracol Industrial Park, it is located on 600 acres in rural Haiti, just east of the country’s second largest city, Cap-Haitien. Environmentalists and others have objected to its location on once prime agriculture land and near a fragile ecosystem.
The visit comes just days ahead of the U.S. presidential elections and is expected to highlight the Obama administration’s involvement in Haiti, especially after the devastating January 2012 earthquake. It will take place on the day that President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney hold their final debate, this one focusing on foreign policy.
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Long envisioned prior to the earthquake, the park was fast-tracked as a result sof the disaster with both the U.S. government and the International Development Bank pooling resources to create what they hope will be up to 65,000 jobs in the coming years. Just outside of the park is a new road, financed by the European Union.
To highlight what is being dubbed as aide-for-trade, Hillary Clinton will also visit a nearby housing site that is under construction and a recently built power plant that will serve the park and nearby communities. Both are financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
So far, about 900 Haitians, not including the construction workers still building factory shells, are employed inside the park. They recently completed the first t-shirts made there on behalf of Korean clothing manufacturer and main tenant Sae-A.
In addition to the Clintons, other attendees Monday include U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
Also taking place on Monday is a 24-person, four-day business development mission to Haiti’s capital led by County Commissioner Jean Monestime. Monestime, born in Haiti, is vice president of the county’s International Trade Consortium board of directors. The goal of the visit is to highlight the county’s assets as an international trade hub and to pursue commercial and business opportunities in Haiti, said Gerard Philippeaux, Monestime’s chief of staff. Representatives from the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and Port of Miami also will participating in the mission.