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#3762: Mike DeWine on Haitian elections (fwd)
Senatè Zwazo Mechan Mike DeWine on Haitian Parliamentary Elections:
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, as we prepare to begin the debate concerning the
provisions within the fiscal year 2001 foreign ops appropriations bill, I
would like to call my colleagues' attention to an event scheduled to take
place this Sunday, May 21, referring to the parliamentary elections of Haiti.
The openness, the fairness, the transparency of these elections that will be
held on Sunday are critical to Haiti, and really place the country and its
people at a crossroads. These are the elections that have been postponed,
postponed, postponed, and postponed. Finally, it appears as if they will
actually take place this Sunday.
The world is watching to see how Haiti conducts these elections. The
international community and the United States will be judging Haiti based on
these elections. I think it is a fair statement to say that future
assistance, future aid from the international community, from the private
sector, private organizations, as well as governments, as well as the United
States, will depend certainly to some extent on how these elections are
conducted. Not how they turn out but how they are conducted. The world will
be looking on Sunday to see the amount of violence connected with these
elections; to see whether or not the elections are fair, transparent, and
open; to see what kind of participation takes place among Haitian people.
We have every right to be concerned about these elections. We have a right to
be concerned because of the investment the United States has made in Haiti,
which I will discuss in a moment. We have a right to be concerned because
these elections have been postponed, postponed, and postponed. We have a
right to be concerned because we want to see whether or not this fledgling
democracy is, in fact, making progress.
So, yes, the world will be watching. We are concerned, quite candidly, about
these elections because of the action and because of the inaction of Haiti's
political elite, its upper class, what they have not done and what they have
done during the past 5 years.
We all had high expectations for Haiti when the United States sent 20,000
U.S. troops to that island in 1995 to restore President Aristide to power. At
that time, we understood it would take time for Haiti to become politically
stable. We understood it would take time to establish a free and open market
system in that country. We understood it would take time to invoke the rule
of law and privatization of government-run-and-owned industries. And we
understood it would take a while to establish a fair and impartial and
functioning judicial system.
Quite tragically, time has passed and very little, if anything, has changed.
The phrase ``Haitian Government'' is an oxymoron, given President Preval has
been ruling by decree without a democratically elected Parliament since
January 1999. Political intimidation is rampant, with violence and killings
increasing as the elections approach. Furthermore, the Haitian economy is, at
best, stagnant. Haiti remains the poorest nation by far in our entire
hemisphere, with a per capita income estimated at $330 per year per person,
where 70 percent of the people are either without jobs or certainly
When we deal with Haiti, the statistics don't matter. We are not even sure
how reliable they are. Anyone who has visited Haiti--and I have had occasion
to visit Haiti nine different times in the last 5\1/2\ years--sees where that
economy is and sees the years of wrenching, unbelievable poverty in Haiti, a
country that is just a short trip from Miami.
Absent a stable and democratic government, Haiti has no hope of achieving
real and lasting economic nor political nor judicial reforms. That is why
Haiti is finding itself stuck in a vicious cycle of despair. It is a cycle in
which political stalemate threatens the government and judicial reforms,
which, in turn, discourages investment and privatization.
Caught in this cycle, the economy stands to shrink further and further until
there is no economic investment to speak of at all. With no viable law
enforcement institutions in place, and given the island's weak political and
economic situation, drug traffickers operate with impunity.
I have talked about this on this floor on several different occasions in the
last few years. I predicted several years ago that we would see the amount of
drug transportation in Haiti, the amount of drugs flowing through that
country, go up and up and our own Government has estimated today that
prediction has, tragically, come true. Our Government estimates Haiti
accounts for 14 percent of all cocaine entering the United States today.
Haiti is now the major drug transshipment country in the entire Caribbean. We
estimate 75 tons of cocaine moved through Haiti in 1999. That represents a
24-percent increase over the previous year.
Quite frankly, Haiti has become a great human tragedy. While the decade of
the 1980s witnessed unbelievable changes in Central America, with countries
moving from totalitarian regimes to democracies, that was the great success
story of the 1980s. Many of us hoped in the 1990s, and into the next century,
we would see that same progress made in Haiti. Tragically, that has not taken
place. Haiti now stands as a missed opportunity for reform, a missed
opportunity for progress, for growth, and for development. The true
casualties, the real victims of all the turmoil and instability are the
children. They are the victims because the small band of political elite in
Haiti has not moved forward and taken seriously the need for reform. They
have missed their opportunity.
The economy is worse, human rights are being violated, and there is very
little optimism today in Haiti. These dire conditions are every day killing
children. Haiti's infant mortality rate is approximately 15 times that of the
United States. Because Haiti lacks the means to produce enough food to feed
its population, the children who are born suffer from malnutrition,
malnourishment. They rely heavily on humanitarian food aid. Additionally,
because of the lack of clean water and sanitation, only 39 percent of the
population has access to clean water. It is estimated only 26 percent have
access to sanitation. Diseases such as measles and tuberculosis are epidemic.
Given this human tragedy, we can't turn our backs on these children as mad as
we may get at the political leaders of that country, as frustrated as we may
become with the political leaders of that country. Haiti is part of our
hemisphere, and what happens in our hemisphere, what happens in our own
backyard, is very much our concern. If we ignore the situation, we risk
another massive refugee exodus for our shores, and drug trafficking through
Haiti will continue to increase and increase and increase.
We must seek ways to foster democracy building in Haiti and promote free
markets in the rule of law. We also must fight drug trafficking through Haiti
and expand agricultural assistance through nongovernmental organizations. Let
me say there are good nongovernment organizations that are in Haiti working
to make a difference in spite of the Haitian Government. I must also say I
have personally seen and visited a number of Americans in church groups who
are down in Haiti risking their lives, making a difference every day to save
the lives of children.
Finally, most important, I believe we must ensure that humanitarian and food
assistance continues to reach the Haitian people, especially the children. We
cannot just sit back and let the political elite in Haiti starve these orphan
children as well as the elderly and the destitute.
Ultimately, though, Haiti will not really progress until its political
leaders and the elite of the country take responsibility for the situation
and commit to turning things around. The tragedy of the last 5 years is that
the elite in Haiti has not made a decision that it is in their interests and
in the interests of their country to change things. Until the elite of Haiti
decides to make these changes, it is going to be very difficult, no matter
what we do, to have any significant progress made in that very poor country.
Haiti can succeed as a democracy if, and only if, the elite has the resolve
to hold open elections, create free markets, reduce corruption, improve its
judicial system, respect human rights, and learn how to sustain an
agricultural system that can feed its people. Nothing the United States does
with regard to Haiti can provide long-term permanent solutions unless and
until the Haitians take democratic and societal reforms seriously and work in
earnest to create a stable political system in a free and democratic market
economy. That is why the world is watching to see how these elections are
conducted this Sunday.
Let me turn to another portion of the foreign operations appropriations bill.
There is language, as I have just talked about, in regard to Haiti in this
bill. I wanted to speak about Haiti this evening on the Senate floor because
of that language in the bill but also because of the upcoming elections.
There is another provision in the foreign operations appropriations bill we
hope we will be taking up shortly. This provision has to do with our neighbor
to the south, Colombia. [...snip]
[Congressional Record: May 18, 2000 (Senate)]
>From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]