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#3066: Senator Leahy on Haiti (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) at the Foreign Operations
Subcommittee, March 21, 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 more time, 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 1994.
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
What has been accomplished in Haiti? Verv 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 lies from hand to
Our policy has been simplistic and plagued by partisanship. Our aid
program, w ith few exceptions, has 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 its overly optimistic name.
But we need to use this opportunity to honestly assess and plan 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 policies in Haiti, it is Don Steinberg and I
commend Chairman McConnell for inciting 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.