Corruption and Debt Relief

THIS MORNING I READ Wilfred Manyango’s letter to the editor (January-February 2000) about how the Congo’s late president Mobutu was worth $4 billion, and whether the level of corruption entitled some countries to debt relief.

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, historical fiction that deals with this very issue. I highly recommend it. From that source and others, I know that the CIA overthrew the democratically elected president of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, put Mobutu in his place, and kept him there against the will of the people, knowing full well of his corruption. The main issue was for the United States and Belgium to keep control over Congo’s diamond mines and other minerals, whereas Lumumba wanted to use them to improve the lot of his poor people.

Furthermore, the Congo has paid back more than twice the original debt, but with high compounded interest, the debt has tripled. Though the poor did not profit from the loans, they are being asked to bear the burden of repayment.

If we paid for all the resources and cheap labor we have taken from the poorest countries, the debt would suddenly be owed by the United States to the Third World.

Connie Hohlfeld Molbeck, Racine, Wisconsin

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