The Miami Herald
March 15, 1999
U.S. subsidizing witchcraft, Helms complains

             DON BOHNING
             Herald Staff Writer

             Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., is accusing the U.S. Agency for International
             Development of subsidizing witchcraft in Haiti -- and he wants it stopped.

             Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Feb. 8
             letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that the committee had spent a lot
             of time recently reviewing U.S. aid programs to Haiti in light of ``President [Rene]
             Preval's most recent lurch backward toward dictatorship.''

             He cited in particular some population control efforts of which, he said, it's ``no
             secret that these programs are far too often wrongheaded and wasteful.'' Still, he
             added, ``if the administration insists on funding these programs I shall not stand in
             the way so long as you agree to the following conditions'':

               That no funds go to any affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood
             Federation in Haiti, including the local PROFAMIL organization.

               That no funds be provided ``directly or indirectly to any group whose programs
             include producing material intended to be used in a voodoo ceremony.''

             Helms cited as the basis for his concern a recent exchange between U.S. AID and
             the Foreign Relations Committee, in which AID was asked if it provided ``any
             assistance to any group, like IPPF's affiliate PROFAMIL, which, according to
             IPPF's 1995 Annual Report, undertook `a campaign to reach voodoo followers
             with sexual and reproductive health information . . . by performing short
             song-prayers about STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] and the benefits of family
             planning during voodoo ceremonies.' ''

             AID acknowledged providing $295,000 from April 1998 to March 1999 to
             PROFAMIL. The agency said many AID ``partners and implementing
             organizations use this important social network [voodoo ceremonies] as the
             medium for disseminating health sector messages and information.''

             That means, said Helms, that AID ``is funding programs that endorse or legitimize
             what amounts to witchcraft.''

             AID defended its family planning programs as ``very successful'' in what is the
             hemisphere's most densely populated country but agreed to Helms' conditions.


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