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#3163: Kofi Annan and Peter Romero on Haiti (fwd)

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

Annan condemns escalation of violence in Haiti.

April 4, 2000 -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the escalation 
of violence in Haiti, during which Jean Léopold Dominique, an advisor to
Haiti's president and the director of a highly respected radio station, 
was murdered in Port-au-Prince on Monday.

Mr. Dominique, a well-known political commentator who had been exiled
from Haiti several times because of his commitment to democracy, was
shot dead on his way to his office.

Recalling the deaths of nine people in Port-au-Prince last week alone, 
the Secretary-General urged all Haitians to refrain from any further
violence and encouraged the Government to hold their planned elections 
in order to meet constitutional deadlines for the seating of Parliament, 
Mr. Annan's spokesman said in New York.

"In the Secretary-General's view, these events underscore the urgent
need to re-establish democratic institutions in Haiti," he added.

In a statement issued in Paris, the Director-General of the UN
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mr. Koïchiro
Matsuura, expressed shock at Mr. Dominique's "assassination" and
extended his condolences to the victim's colleagues and relatives.

"The murder of Jean Léopold Dominique will distress all those who
believe in Haiti's democratic future and all who fight for freedom of
speech," he said, adding that UNESCO fully supported Haitian authorities 
in their effort to foster a peaceful climate, which he said was
indispensable for sustainable development.

posté le 4/06/2000

Peter F. Romero
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Statement before the House International Relations Committee
Washington, DC, April 5, 2000

U.S. Policy Toward Haiti

I am pleased to testify before this committee once again on Haiti. This 
hearing is particularly well-timed, as much has happened since my last 
testimony in November, and the next weeks and months will be crucial to 
our mutual efforts to promote democracy, recovery, and development in
Haiti. I look forward to a frank exchange both on recent developments
and on the ways we can work together to pursue strong American interests 
in Haiti, particularly as Haiti faces critical legislative and local

Since the early 1990s, Haiti has been a prime focus of U.S. efforts in 
this Hemisphere. Our objectives have been to help Haitians strengthen
democratic institutions and respect for human rights; alleviate crushing 
poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition; stem illegal migration; deter
drug trafficking; and promote stability throughout the Caribbean region.

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 ruthless,
authoritarian regimes. It must overcome the most severe poverty in the 
Western Hemisphere. Democratic institutions are fragile at best.
Unemployment, crime, illiteracy, corruption, drug trafficking, and
poverty pose constant threats to stability.

In 1994 the U.S.-led, UN-sanctioned Multinational Force restored
democratically elected government to Haiti. Had we and others failed to 
intervene, Haiti's nightmarish repression and economic disaster under
the de facto military regime would have continued, along with flotillas 
of Haitians fleeing the terror, who numbered about 67,000 from 1992-94. 
The vast majority of U.S. troops were out of Haiti within 6 months, and 
the forces that remained moved from intervention to peacekeeping to
humanitarian assistance. On January 30 of this year, the final elements 
of the U.S. Support Group withdrew, marking the end of the continuous
presence of U.S. forces in Haiti.

It is thus an appropriate moment to assess the progress achieved over
the past 5 years and consider the road ahead. Haiti has not fulfilled
many of the expectations associated with the restoration of
democratically elected government, but there have been significant
strides to alleviate hunger, build basic institutions, increase access 
to education and health care, combat environmental degradation, and
develop civil society and a free and active press. These efforts
reversed Haiti from the brink of economic and humanitarian disaster and 
gave it a fresh start toward democracy and development.

Standing Firm for Free and Fair Elections

Of utmost concern now is the holding of elections to restore the
Parliament that has been disbanded for 15 months and install independent 
local governments. Sustained efforts by Haiti's Provisional Electoral
Council (CEP), backed by U.S. and international assistance, have created 
the technical conditions for Haiti to hold free and fair elections in
April and May and seat its Parliament by the constitutionally mandated 
date of June 12. Electoral preparations have been characterized by some 
irregularities, but not at a level to prevent a credible vote.

The Haitian people have shown their thirst for democracy by registering 
to vote in record numbers: nearly 4,000,000 Haitians -- over 90% of
those eligible -- have registered since January. More than 29,000
candidates are competing for some 10,000 local, regional, and
parliamentary offices. Throughout Haiti, there is "election fever," as 
political campaigns are underway, debates are broadcast on radio and
television, and rallies and posters are proliferating.

We are deeply troubled, however, by the failure of the Haitian
Government to set a new date for elections. Last week, there were a
string of protests -- some violent -- by groups seeking to disrupt these 
elections. We are shocked by the murders of prominent journalist Jean
Dominique in Port-au-Prince and a center-right activist and his wife in 
Petit Goave, an attack on at least one opposition candidate, and reports 
that other opposition figures are receiving phone messages of recorded 
machine gun fire.

Let no one mistake our messages:

First, the Government of Haiti must announce a new prompt date for
legislative and local elections now. Failure to constitute a Parliament 
by June 12 would risk isolating Haiti from the community of democracies 
and jeopardize future cooperation.

Second, the government of Haiti must work with the CEP to provide the
financial, logistical, and security support needed for free, fair, and 
secure elections.

Third, the violence associated with the electoral process must cease

immediately. Political leaders are responsible for the actions carried 
out by their supporters, and there will be consequences for actions to 
thwart democracy.

Fourth, the legitimacy of presidential elections later this year relies 
on credible, separate elections this spring.

These messages have been announced publicly and communicated directly to 
the leaders of the government of Haiti and major political parties by
senior Administration officials and our embassy in Port-au-Prince. We
are working with others in the international community -- including the 
UN, OAS, and EU -- to deliver similarly strong messages. In fact, I will 
be addressing today the Permanent Council of the Organization of
American States on the dangers to democracy represented by the absence 
of a firm date for new elections. The U.S. made a tremendous investment 
in the restoration of Haiti's democratic institutions. We seek to ensure 
Haiti remains on a democratic path.

Building the Institutions of Democracy and Governance

When I last testified on Haiti before this committee, there were
concerns with recent events that indicated attempts by some sectors in 
Haiti to politicize the 5-year-old Haitian National Police (HNP). Since 
that time, senior HNP leaders report that this pressure has diminished, 
although we continue to watch the situation closely. A recent survey
showed that more than half of the Haitian population continues to give 
the HNP high marks, the highest of any other government institution.
This figure is a remarkable transformation in a nation where state
security forces were historically feared as agents of repression.

Still, we recognize that the HNP is an immature force grappling with
serious problems of corruption, attrition, and incidents of narcotics
trafficking and human rights abuse. We support the activities of the HNP 
Inspector General in investigating and prosecuting police members
accused of committing crimes. We are also committed to assisting
training efforts through the USAID-funded Department of Justice
International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program

In addition, we are working with the United Nations and the so-called
"Friends of Haiti" to establish a new mission called the International 
Civilian Mission for Haiti (MICAH). This mission supports nascent
institutions of democracy in Haiti by providing 100 international
experts to support the police, the human rights sector, and the
judiciary. MICAH's police component is focusing on developing improved 
management practices in the HNP. Its human rights component is
emphasizing support for indigenous organizations and monitoring of human 
rights practices and potential abuses.

Fighting Drug Trafficking and Illegal Migration

Combating drug trafficking through Haiti remains one of this
Administration's highest priorities. Some 13% of the cocaine entering
the U.S. transits Haiti, and narco-traffickers operate with relative
ease. Drug trafficking is a direct threat to American national security 
interests and threatens to corrupt the basic institutions of Haiti,
including the police, judiciary, and government. To fight this scourge, 
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 
airdrops, direct freighter shipments, and money laundering. We are
helping train the new Haitian drug enforcement unit and its coast guard. 
In these efforts, we have regrettably received inadequate cooperation
from the government of Haiti, in part because of insufficient resources 
and the absence of a parliament needed to pass vital legislation. The
Administration determined on March 1 that Haiti failed to meet 1999
counter-drug certification criteria, but that U.S. vital national
interests required that Haiti be certified.

We will continue efforts to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs. 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.

Over the past 5 years, the number of illegal migrants leaving by boat
for the U.S. has declined and remains relatively low. The U.S. Coast
Guard interdicted 67,140 Haitian migrants at sea from 1992-94; by
contrast, in 1999, there were only some 1,039 such interdictions. We
will work with the Haitian police 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 
United States. We will also encourage potential immigrants to use legal 
means of entry, noting that some 16,000 immigrant visas were granted to 
Haitians in 1999.

Building on Past Cooperation

We look forward to enhanced cooperation with this committee to help
ensure Haiti remains on a democratic path. We will continue to promote 
U.S. interests by strengthening democratic institutions, promoting
respect for human rights and transparent and responsive government,
laying the groundwork for sustainable economic development; disrupting 
the flow of illegal drugs, and preventing illegal migrations.

With critical elections approaching, Haiti is at an important crossroad. 
We and our international partners have helped Haitians make prompt,
credible elections possible. We strongly hope Haitian leaders,
themselves, will demonstrate their commitment to the consolidation of
Haitian democracy by ensuring these elections take place in the coming 
weeks in a free, fair, and peaceful manner. Moreover, the U.S. and
international community must remain engaged, resisting the easy solace 
of fatigue and frustration. Already we have made a foothold in
supporting an increasingly confident civil society, a free and active
press, improved respect for human rights, vocal political opposition,
decreased population growth, and increased literacy and access to basic 
health and population programs. Building on these accomplishments, we
hope to help Haitians move their country forward toward more responsive 
and democratic governance and away from a long history of oppression and 
severe underdevelopment. Thank you.

[end of document]

April 5, 2000