Queen Sofia underscored Spain’s “unconditional” commitment to Haiti during a visit to the impoverished Caribbean nation, praising the contributions of hundreds of her countrymen who live and work there and give “the best of their youth and professional abilities,” The Latin American Herald Tribune reports.
In a speech prior to a dinner given in her honor Friday by Haitian President Michel Martelly, the queen recalled her first trip to the country in 2009 and the impact it had on her.
“Haiti is a special country for me … the Haitian people touch your heart,” the 72-year-old monarch said.
Sofia arrived in Haiti on Friday for a visit of less than two days to show her support for Spanish development cooperation efforts in the Caribbean country, which suffered a catastrophic earthquake in January 2010 that devastated the densely populated capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed more than 300,000 people.
Spain allocated 111 million euros ($148 million) to emergency and development assistance for Haiti in the aftermath of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake, which also left roughly a million people homeless.
Haiti was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere prior to Jan. 12 quake.
The queen said she wanted to see first-hand the projects that Spain, the world’s third-largest aid donor to Haiti, is carrying out in the country and expressed the “enormous affection” her compatriots feel for Haitians.
At the end of her speech, Sofia told her fellow dinner guests in Creole – Haiti’s official language – that the country “can count on Spain and the Spanish people.”
Martelly, for his part, said Spain rushed to assist Haiti after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake and that King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the Spanish government offered “unequivocal and concrete” support for the country’s efforts to rebuild and develop.
The president hailed Spain’s water and plumbing projects and its cooperation with Haiti’s Dinepa water agency, saying those efforts are essential to preventing sanitary diseases.
Martelly also mentioned the construction of 1,500 housing units by the Red Cross in Leogane – 30 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Port-Au-Prince and the epicenter of the earthquake – with a 4-million-euro ($5.3 million) grant from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, or AECID.
The queen was scheduled to visit Leogane on Saturday to learn about ongoing housing-construction and school-rebuilding efforts there.
Martelly stressed that Sofia had reinforced Spain’s humanist commitment with her visit and noted her sensitivity in recognizing the need to extend the development cooperation to all parts of the country – a mission reflected in a variety of AECID projects, some of which the queen will see first-hand on Saturday.
Prior to the official dinner, the queen met with a group of Spaniards who are working on various projects in Haiti, either as part of government-sponsored efforts or through their affiliation with a non-governmental organization.
The queen also is scheduled to travel Saturday 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Port-au-Prince to the settlement of Titanyen, where she and Martelly will visit the construction site for a water-treatment facility.
She will then return to Port-au-Prince to visit an initiative by the Sisters of Charity to assist destitute Haitians in the densely populated Cite Soleil district, as well as tour another project by the Salesian Brothers and the Rinaldi Foundation to build a school and a multi-purpose center.
For the original report go to http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=431342&CategoryId=14092