"In 72 hours we lost what we had built, little by little, in 50 years." These were the words of Honduran President Carlos Flores Facusse following the emergency summit of Central American leaders in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. In Honduras and Nicaragua, the most affected countries, 10,000 people were killed. Honduras needs new homes for 1.4 million and 70 percent of the nation's crops were destroyed. In Nicaragua more than 1,600 miles of roads were destroyed and 42 bridges damaged beyond repair. Costs of reconstruction are estimated at $3 billion.
Compassion has been mobilized. Ordinary people have responded to the misery, donating money, time, and resources. The U.S. government has announced an aid package worth tens of millions of dollars. However, without debt relief, this sort of compassion will mean little in the long run. For Carole Collins, national coordinator of the Jubilee 2000/USA campaign, it is plain. "The U.S. commitment...is certainly welcome and needed," Collins said. "Yet Nicaragua and Honduras are obliged to pay back more than $2.2 million every day. Unless it is canceled, this debt burdenwhich is essentially unpayablewill make the effort at long-term recovery a tragic failure. It is absolutely shameful that, especially after a disaster of this magnitude, we continue to demand repayment."