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#3050: Ambassador Steinberg's Statement on Haiti (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Ambassador Donald Steinberg, Special Haiti Coordinator

Statement before the Senate Appropriations Committee,
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations,
Export Financing, and Related Programs, Washington,
DC, March 23, 2000.

U.S. Assistance to Haiti

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 1990s, 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 1,000 live births per year, Haiti's infant mortality
rate is nearly triple the Caribbean average of 38 per year. Some 28% of 
Haitian children under five suffer from malnutrition.

Events in Haiti were spiraling out of control in the early 1990s 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 6 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 the 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 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% 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 immunization. 

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

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 of 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%. 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% 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% of those eligible -- who registered to vote in the 
past 2 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.

[end of document]

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