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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]

Archive-Name: gov/us/fed/congress/record/2000/may/18/2000CRS4181 
[Congressional Record: May 18, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S4181-S4184]
>From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]