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#3010: March 23 Senate Hearing (fwd)

From: Merrill Smith <advocacy@bellatlantic.net>



Ambassador Steinberg, we have spent a fortune in Haiti. By my estimate
we have spent $2.2 billion, yet, by any standard there is little to show
for it. Privatization has stalled, the economy and standard of living
have cratered. Procrastination and stonewalling are the hallmarks of
investigations of political murders. Clean water, a decent education and
basic health care are inaccessible to most of the population. Law
enforcement and justice are incompetent at best, and malicious at their
worst. The political process is deadlocked. Frankly, the only indicators
that are on the rise are unemployment and the drug trade. 

One of the largest investments we have made in Haiti is a good
illustration of the weakness of our track record. We have spent more
than $66 million to train and patrol with the Haitian National Police. A
State Department document says "In a country that has never had a
professional and apolitical security service the HNP despite numerous
problems and its relative inexperience is considered a success story." 

Let me describe how the Haitian police officers who are assigned to one
of the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince feel. They are inadequately
armed, inexperienced, lack competent supervision and are incapable of
basic law enforcement missions. They do not have ammunition. They are
uncertain of basic policing skills because there is no coherence to
their training program. They have been offered a hodge-podge of training
-- the Americans came in and told them to get out on the street and
engage in community policing. Six months later the French showed up,
threw up barb wire around their tiny compound and told them never to
venture on the street. In January, the Canadians showed up with more new

They have yet to prove they can engage in effective crowd control -- in
fact, senior U.S. and Haitian officials acknowledge they run away. There
continue to be regular complaints about their use of excessive force
during routine arrests. 

This, Ambassador Steinberg is not " a success story" by my standards and
probably yours. 

Adding to this bleak picture, the elections scheduled for March 19 have
been postponed amid allegations of incompetence, abuse, harassment and
violence. Registration facilities have been attacked and destroyed --
the basic materials for producing registration cards which USAID helped
pay for have been slow to arrive out in the field. While the process has
been marred, the people have clearly been eager to participate -- I
gather record numbers have turned out to be registered -- a small,
hopeful sign in light of the 5% turnout in the last elections. 

Many observers argue that the delays and destruction are part of a
Preval-Aristede strategy to stifle this interest and postpone the
parliamentary elections to a point that they would have to be combined
with the Presidential election scheduled for December. If the elections
were held today, polling shows it's likely an opposition party or
coalition of parties would gain control of the legislature, an outcome
Aristede and Preval hope to avoid if the elections are merged later in
the year. 

Let me be clear -- I would strongly oppose any continuation of bilateral
or multilateral aid to Haiti if the sitting government collaborates with
Mr. Aristede to manipulate the election schedule to secure political

Ambassador Steinberg, no doubt you can point to a project or two managed
by AID that has achieved some result. Let me be first to suggest, AID
has reason to be proud of a number of well run activities. The
agriculture sustainability and coffee cooperative projects are excellent
examples of programs having meaningful local economic impact. But, the
$6 million we have spent well to improve agricultural productivity has
to be considered in the context of a $2 billion failure which the
Administration seems to have walked away from. 

Before we pursue conditions in Haiti and where we go from here, let me
make one final observation. This is one of three hearings I want to hold
to evaluate the progress made over the past eight years in countries
where the Administration has launched major, new political and economic
commitment. Haiti, Russia and Bosnia lead that pack. Other nations may
have received more aid, but they were not the focus of the intense
diplomacy and political effort that these three have been. It is the
combined and considerable expenditure of political and economic capital
that makes these cases interesting. 

 MARCH 23, 2000 

Mr. Chairman, this is an excellent time to be examining United States
policy towards Haiti. Parliamentary elections, long awaited, were to be
held this month. Once again, they have been postponed, this time until
April 9, and who knows if they will happen then. 

According to the Administration, between the cost of our military
personnel and the aid we have provided to try to build democracy and
support economic development, the United States has spent over $2.2
billion dollars in Haiti since 1992. 

In a country of 7 million people, that is about $300 per person. By way
of comparison, our foreign aid to Africa amounts to about $1 per person
per year. 

What has been accomplished in Haiti? Very little, as far as I can tell.
The poorest country in the hemisphere remains a place where the
government is barely functioning, political reform has gotten nowhere
and democracy exists only in theory, the judicial system is in disarray,
the police are politicized, and the average person lives from hand to

Our policy has been simplistic and plagued by partisanship. Our aid
programs, with few exceptions, have been poorly conceived and poorly
managed. But the Haitian leadership deserves most of the blame. 

The greatest obstacle to the island's development, in the years since
President Aristide's return, has been Haitian officials who are far more
interested in playing politics and staying in power than addressing the
basic needs of the Haitian people. 

It would be easy to dwell on the mistakes of the past and the time and
money that has been spent -- or misspent -- since 20,000 U.S. troops
launched "Operation Uphold Democracy" -- a mission that may be
remembered most for it's overly optimistic name. 

But we need to use this opportunity to honestly assess where we are, and
what our options are for the future. Haiti is at a critical juncture.
Over the next few months it will either slide deeper into poverty and
violence, or begin to dig itself out of the quagmire. 

The question we must answer is whether we should cut our losses, close
down our AID mission and go home, or throw good money after bad in the
hope that we can do better from this day forward. 

The Haitian people deserve better. They have suffered every possible
indignity and deprivation. I would like to see the United States help,
if we can spend our money wisely. 

Despite years of empty promises and opportunism by Haiti's political
elite, despite an electoral process that is fraught with irregularities,
it is encouraging that millions of Haitians have registered to vote and
over a million more are seeking to register. Long lines outside voter
registration offices attest to their desire for a better life and a
willingness to again put their faith in the electoral process. They know
that it is their best hope. 

I have known Ambassador Steinberg from when he was our Ambassador to
Angola, and from his current role as Special Advisor to the Secretary of
State for Humanitarian Demining -- a cause that I have a deep, personal
interest in. If anyone is capable of injecting pragmatism and
forthrightness into our policy in Haiti, it is Don Steinberg and I
commend Chairman McConnell for inviting him here to testify. 

Don, this is your first time as a witness before this Subcommittee and I
do not envy your task today, but we welcome you and are eager to be
convinced that all is not as hopeless in Haiti as it seems. 

Statement by Special Haiti Coordinator Ambassador Donald Steinberg 
Senate Appropriations Committee 
Foreign Operations Subcommittee 
U.S. Assistance to Haiti 
March 23, 2000 

I welcome the opportunity to be with you this morning to discuss recent
developments in Haiti and the Administration's efforts to address the
challenges of promoting democracy, human rights, and economic recovery
there. I just returned from my sixth visit to Haiti since November, and
I look forward to an exchange of views with you on the road ahead. 

Pursuing American National Security Interests

Since the early 1990's, Haiti has been a focal point of our efforts in
the Western Hemisphere. Our objectives, based on strong national
security interests, include: helping Haiti join the global march toward
democracy through construction of basic institutions; alleviating
crushing poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition; stemming illegal
migration; and interdicting drug trafficking. 

Pursuing these objectives has been a huge challenge and the record has
been decidedly mixed. Haiti is struggling to overcome political,
economic and social legacies of nearly two centuries of authoritarian
regimes and rapacious governments that fostered deep class and social
divisions. It must also overcome the most severe poverty in the Western
Hemisphere. Democratic institutions are fragile at best. Unemployment,
crime, illiteracy and poverty pose constant threats to stability. At a
level of 99 per 1000 live births per year, Haiti's infant mortality rate
is nearly triple the Caribbean average of 38 per year. Some 28 percent
of Haitian children under five suffer from malnutrition. 

Events in Haiti were spiraling out of control in the early 1990's as a
result of the coup d'etat that expelled then-President Aristide from
office and established the de facto regime. This brutal military regime
in Port-au-Prince victimized opposition figures; tens of thousands of
boat people risked their lives to flee the terror; starvation and
suffering were rampant; and the economy was in shambles due to capital
flight and foreign sanctions. When international political and economic
pressure failed to dislodge the de facto regime, a multinational force,
including some 20,000 U.S. troops, restored order and made possible the
restoration of elected government. 

There were also dire predictions that if American forces were used as
part of an international effort to restore the democratically elected
Government, we would face huge casualties and decades of military
engagement. Fortunately, this was not the case. The vast majority of
U.S. forces were out of Haiti within six months, and today there are no
permanent U.S. forces there. 

Areas of Progress Since 1995

Haiti has not met all the expectations held by many in the heady days
after the restoration of democratically elected government -- and I will
be quite frank in a moment about areas of disappointment - but we can
share some satisfaction in strides to alleviate hunger, build basic
institutions such as the national police, increase access to education,
combat environmental degradation, incubate civil society, and demobilize
the armed forces. 

U.S. development assistance from 1995 to 1999 came to roughly $746
million. For roughly 60 cents per American each year, we have been able
to support a range of projects such as helping 225,000 farmers adopt
sustainable agricultural practices; training some 6,000 teachers at
primary and secondary levels; and supporting hundreds of grassroots
organizations in the health, environmental and public advocacy sectors.
Our population program reaches women in the most rural areas and has
doubled the use of modern family planning practices to 26 percent in the
areas in which it operates. Our food security program feeds daily some
500,000 of Haiti's schoolchildren, down from more than one million
several years ago. Our health care program supports access to primary
health care services for nearly half the population and promotes child

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to build on
its core projects in 2000 and 2001, albeit at reduced funding levels,
with added focus on longer term development programs. USAID will
continue its "Secondary Cities" program, begun in FY 99, to reduce the
flow of migration to densely populated Port-au-Prince by increasing
opportunities in and improving services to urban areas outside of the
capital. If successful elections take place, USAID also plans to resume
assistance to the Parliament and local governments. 

Unmet Expectations 

At same time, there are other areas where our best efforts have been
frustrated and disappointed. 

First, the consolidation of democratic institutions has been thwarted by
the disbanding of Parliament and local governments in January 1999, and
the failure to hold prompt, free and fair elections. Due in part to U.S.
and international assistance and the steady work of the Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP), credible parliamentary and local elections can
be held in time to seat a Parliament on June 12 as mandated by the
constitution. We have voiced strong opposition to further delays in the
vote, and we have worked with the international community, including the
United Nations, Organization for American States and the European Union,
to underscore the urgency of prompt and credible elections. I will
discuss this point further below. 

Second, the "Administration of Justice" program in Haiti has trained
scores of judges and prosecutors, contributed to the release of hundreds
of pre-trial detainees, and provided free legal assistance to thousands
of impoverished Haitians. Nonetheless, the judiciary remains essentially
inoperative, plagued by huge case backlogs, a continued shortage of
adequately trained judges and prosecutors, a lack of basic resources,
minimal oversight by the Ministry of Justice, and pre-trial detention
rate of roughly 80 percent. Numerous individuals are being detained
despite valid release orders, or without charges filed against them. The
poor state of the judiciary remains at the core of many of Haiti's
problems, severely inhibiting investment, perpetuating corruption,
denying average Haitians access to justice, and spurring vigilantism. 

Third, in 1995, Haiti replaced its long-abusive military with a new
civilian police force, mentored and trained primarily by the United
Nations and the USAID-funded Department of Justice International
Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). Although
there is no longer a severe and systematic pattern of abuse, as under
the Duvalier and de facto regimes, the Haitian National Police (HNP)
remains an immature force grappling with problems of corruption,
attrition, and incidents of narcotics trafficking and human rights

Fourth, combating drug trafficking through Haiti remains one of this
Administration's highest priorities. We have increased our DEA presence
in Port-au-Prince from one to eight officers in the past year and
increased interdiction efforts to counter air drops, direct freighter
shipments and money laundering. Still, some 13 percent of the cocaine
entering the U.S. transits Haiti, and narco-traffickers operate with
relative ease. Drug trafficking threatens to corrupt the basic
institutions of Haiti, including the police, judiciary and government.
The Administration determined on March 1 that Haiti failed to meet 1999
counter-drug certification criteria, but granted a vital national
interest certification. 

U.S. Policy: The Road Ahead 

As we look to the future, our roadmap is clear. 

First, we seek prompt and credible legislative and local elections.
Elections per se do not equal democracy, nor are they a panacea for all
that ails Haiti, but after years of impasse and stagnation, free and
fair elections can empower government to spur economic growth, attract
new private investment, negotiate new cooperation from international
partners, and attack festering social problems such as crime,
insecurity, corruption and drug trafficking that threaten to become
cancers at the heart of Haiti's institutions. 

Haitians' thirst for democracy was shown by the over 3.6 million
Haitians -- about 80 percent of those eligible -- who registered to vote
in the past two months. More than 29,000 candidates from a wide array of
parties registered to run for nearly 10,000 local, regional, and
parliamentary offices. Preparations have been characterized by some
irregularities and some incidents of violence, but not at a level to
prevent credible elections. The CEP was delayed in opening registration
sites in Port-au-Prince, but most locations were open, and accommodating
large crowds, by early March. 

We will continue to stress clearly and strongly the importance of
holding these elections rapidly. We have expressed privately and
publicly that it is time for the Haitian government to publish new dates
for elections and lend full support to ensure those dates are met. We
warned that failure to constitute a Parliament risks isolating Haiti
from the community of democracies and jeopardizes future cooperation. 

We will also continue to underscore to all political leaders that they
are responsible for actions of their party membership; that the
legitimacy of presidential elections later this year depends on credible
elections this spring; and that international aid flows require the
presence of a fully functioning legislature. 

Second, we seek to strengthen Haiti's basic democratic and security
institutions to improve respect for the rule of law and the protection
of basic human rights. Most notably, working with the UN and the
so-called "Friends of Haiti" (U.S., Canada, France, Argentina, Chile,
and Venezuela), we are putting in place a new UN mission called MICAH to
provide international technical assistance to the police, judiciary, and
human rights sector. MICAH is much smaller than its predecessor UN
missions, and moves the focus of UN operations in Haiti from
peacekeeping to institution building. Its human rights component will
increase emphasis on developing an indigenous capacity for monitoring
and promoting human rights. Among other efforts, the justice component
will help Haitians modernize the Ministry of Justice, improve the
quality of judges, and revise the archaic criminal code. 

Bilaterally, we will continue to press the Haitian government to reduce
the high rate of pre-trial detention; and enhance the effectiveness of
our police training, including new efforts to promote retention of
existing officers and recruitment of qualified new officers. 

Third, we will remain engaged in promoting economic development to
address abject poverty and festering socio-economic problems. In
addition to USAID efforts cited above, we are encouraging others in the
international community to share the burden of helping Haiti move
forward. We meet with bilateral donors and international financial
institutions to discuss how we can work together to support economic
recovery and democracy. All have agreed to consider new engagement in
Haiti if conditions can be established for effective use for scarce
international resources. At the same time, we are working with the
Haitian diaspora in the United States to encourage their increased
involvement, recognizing their personal interest in success and
prosperity in Haiti. 

We will continue to press the Haitian government to restore fiscal
discipline, and move ahead on the modernization of key state-owned
enterprises and on other critical areas of economic reform. 

Finally, we continue efforts to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs and
prevent a resurgence in illegal migration. We will work on an
interagency level in planning U.S. law enforcement activities, in such
areas as tracking international traffickers, improving the drug
interdiction capacity of Haitian police, attacking money laundering, and
facilitating cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic on
cross-border narcotics issues. 

As the U.S. has remained engaged in Haiti, the number of illegal
migrants leaving Haiti by boat for the U.S. has declined. The U.S. Coast
Guard interdicted 67,140 Haitian migrants at sea from 1992-94. In 1999,
there were only some 1,039 such interdictions. We will work with Haitian
authorities to identify and prosecute individuals involved in alien
smuggling operations; and continue monitoring trends that may indicate
the potential for renewed large scale migration to the U.S. 

Building on Past Cooperation 

We look forward to enhanced cooperation with this committee to promote
U.S. interests in Haiti through strengthening democratic institutions;
promoting respect for human rights, and transparent and responsive
government; helping lay the groundwork for sustainable economic
development; and disrupting the flow of illegal drugs and preventing a
flood of illegal migrants. 

Already we have made a foothold in supporting an increasingly confident
civil society, free and active press, improved respect for human rights,
vocal political opposition, decreased population growth, improved
agricultural practices, and increased literacy and access to basic
healthcare. We cannot turn our backs on a fledgling democracy nor on
extreme poverty on our doorstep. If the U.S. and international community
remain engaged, resisting the easy solace of fatigue and frustration,
future generations may look back to the year 2000 as the period in which
the roots of democracy, national reconciliation, and economic recovery
finally took hold. This is good for Haitians and good for the United
States as well. Thank you. 

Testimony  Ambassador Donald Steinberg before the Senate Appropriations
Committee, Foreign Operations Subcommittee March 23, 2000