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Archbishop of Tegucigalpa Responds to IMF Director

TEGUCIGALPA, NOV 23 (ZENIT).- The removal of the foreign debt which weighs

heavily on Honduras is not an 'obsession' but a 'necessity' for such a poor

country, Archbishop Oscar Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa said in response to

recent statements by the director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),

Michel Camdessus. Camdessus told Hondurans they should not be obsessed by

the debt but by the future, in the aftermath of hurricane 'Mitch.'

After acknowledging that the visit by the IMF director and by the president

of the Inter-American Bank for Development (IBD), Enrique Iglesias, showed

clearly "that they are not indifferent and that it is simply a case of

finding the best way to alleviate the debt;" the Archbishop, who is also

president of the Episcopal Conference for Latin American (CELAM), stated

that "the request for cancellation of the debt is not an obsession but a

need of the country."

The cancellation of the debt will allow Honduras "to allocate funds for

development. What should really be of concern is that all the help received

go to the development of the country, and not to a few, as has always been

the case, who take advantage of the poverty of the people and of loans to

develop their own concerns to the exclusion of the vast majority."

The removal of the debt is practical and should be considered because the

peoples of Central America need it, but also because--as financial organs

insist -- the negotiations should be public, efficient and transparent.

The Archbishop cited the example of five countries which have cancelled

their existing debts with Central America and commented, "These are new

attitudes, which we never saw in the past."

Rodriguez made reference to a letter from the president of the World Bank

expressing solidarity with Honduras, the hope that the problems will be

overcome, and the promise of assistance for reconstruction.

Honduras' foreign debt amounts to some four billion dollars and represents

more than 200% of the value of exports and 98% of the Gross Domestic

Product. Moreover, in order to service the debt, Honduras pays 50% of its

earnings on all exports.