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Electricity grid project in Haiti suspended due to riots: MOFA

2019/02/19 13:08:25

Yui Tah-ray, director-general of MOFA's Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Progress on a Taiwan-supported electricity grid in Haiti has been temporarily suspended due to ongoing political turmoil in the country, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.

The ministry previously said the project, expected to help Haiti build or upgrade electrical substations, electricity distribution networks and transmission towers and help train maintenance workers, was to officially begin late last year.

But when asked about the project Tuesday, Yui Tah-ray (俞大㵢), director-general of MOFA's Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, said progress on the project has come to a standstill after widespread protests demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise broke out over the past week.

Yui said all preparations for the project have been completed, but it requires the approval of the Haitian Parliament before it can officially begin.

Because the parliament has not met recently due to the ongoing riots, the project cannot begin anytime soon, he said.

"We hope the Haitian government and protesters can resolve their disputes by engaging in peaceful dialogue so that the project can begin as soon as possible," he said.

Once the deal is sealed, it will become the first project launched with a diplomatic ally under Taiwan's Official Development Assistance, a program designed to help countries develop their infrastructure and get business for Taiwanese contractors, according to the ministry.

Yui said, meanwhile, that the roughly 50 staff members at Taiwan's embassy in Haiti and Taiwanese expatriates in the country are safe amid the widespread violent protests in Port-au-Prince.

Protesters in Haiti are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement related to a multi-billion-dollar Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti.

Yui said the embassy is still functioning, with all Taiwanese staff working as usual. The embassy's local employees, however, have been unable to get to work because protesters are blocking roads.

The latest protests started on Feb. 7 and have intensified since Feb. 13, when protesters started burning tires, blocking roads and engaging in violent criminal behavior, according to the MOFA.

The ministry on Saturday issued an "orange" travel warning, its second highest, for Haiti, urging Taiwanese citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Haiti and asking those who need to visit to exercise extreme caution.

The ministry uses a red, orange, yellow and gray four-color code to indicate levels of alert for people traveling overseas, with red the highest warning level and gray the lowest.

In the event of an emergency during a visit to the area, MOFA said Taiwanese nationals can request assistance from Taiwan's embassy in Haiti at (+509) 3113-4662 or ask their families to call the toll-free 24/7 hotline at 0800-085-095 to reach the ministry in Taipei.

(By Joseph Yeh)