Haiti replaces head of industrial park agency

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - The Haitian government has issued a presidential decree replacing the head of an agency that oversees a new industrial park that the U.S. invested in heavily after the Caribbean nation's 2010 earthquake.

The office of President Michel Martelly announced Tuesday that he had issued a decree naming business owner Bernard Schettini the new director general of the government's National Society of Industrial Parks, which oversees the Caracol park in northern Haiti.

It did not say why it replaced former director Georges Sassine, a textile factory owner.

A U.S. State Department spokesman declined to comment on the change of directors. Schettini and Sassine also declined to comment

The U.S. government has invested more than $124 million in the $300-million Caracol park. The project was in the works before the earthquake, and became a top priority for the Obama administration after the disaster that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced another 1 million.

The agency's general director is charged with overseeing daily operations of the country's industrial parks and serves as secretary on a board of administration that also includes Haiti's ministers of finance and commerce and its Central Bank governor.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton hosted an elaborate inauguration for the Caracol project in October. Those attending included American actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller, British business magnate Richard Branson and fashion designer Donna Karan.

Backers say the project will transform the northern part of impoverished Haiti by creating about 65,000 jobs in the region. South Korean apparel giant Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd is the park's anchor tenant and enjoys duty-free status.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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