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#4608: Peter Romero on Haiti at NOAH/Georgetown U. Meeting (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
For Georgetown University/NOAH
June 30, 2000
I am delighted to have this opportunity to visit Georgetown
and address this impressive gathering of friends of Haiti. I
wish to take this opportunity to thank the Georgetown
University Haiti Program for inviting me.
I also wish to compliment the National Organization for the
Advancement of Haitians (NOAH) on its initiative in sponsoring
its two-day "Summit 2000." As I understand it, the objective of
the summit is to sharpen knowledge on many key issues
related to the development of Haiti, and to U.S.-Haiti policy,
and to use that knowledge to deliberate on NOAH's
role in development initiatives and policy debates.
I have been a long-standing advocate of the need for U.S.
citizens whose roots are in the countries of Latin America and
the Caribbean to become involved in helping to determine our
nation's hemispheric priorities. With that involvement, U.S.
foreign policy can be better informed, better focused and
I know that our principal focus today is Haiti. Before turning
my remarks specifically to Haiti, however, and passing the
microphone to my colleague, Don Steinberg, I would like to make
a few comments that place Haiti in the broader context of U.S.
policy in the Western Hemisphere. This is particularly important
in view of the fact that today Haiti is no longer as isolated as
it has been throughout much of its history.
We can attribute this decrease in Haiti's isolation to several
important factors. Among them is the role played by Haiti's
overseas population in breaking down the barriers that have
existed between Haiti and its neighbors since independence in
1804. Also, an important factor is the fact that following the
1986 demise of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti began to find
its place in the hemisphere -- and the world -- among other
countries where democratic transitions had become the rule
rather than the exception.
The United States has three primary goals in the Western
Hemisphere: consolidating democracy, promoting economic
reform, and helping Latin American and Caribbean societies
protect themselves from the onslaught of transnational crime
-- particularly the narcotics trade. These goals are inextricably
intertwined. If we fail on one front, we will eventually fail on
all of them.
Drugs and Crime:
Let me begin this brief discussion of primary U.S. policy
goals in the Western Hemisphere with some comments on
transnational crime. Transnational crime -- particularly illegal
drug trafficking -- undermines the rule of law, corrupts justice,
and thwarts economic development. As you are aware,
Colombia is now the key to this focus.
Colombia is key in large part because of the important
successes our counter-narcotics efforts have already yielded
in Bolivia and Peru. With U.S. assistance, both countries cut
coca production dramatically. For example, in Peru production
has been reduced by about two-thirds over the last three
and a half years.
An indispensable element to this success has been the
reestablishment of government control and the return of
government services to former drug producing safe havens.
Also vital is the partnership and cooperation of national
governments and citizen organizations. This is true whether
the key national issue is production or trafficking.
Most Latin American and Caribbean nations are firmly on
the path of economic reform, stepping into the 21st century
with privatized economies, liberalized regulatory systems and
improved financial systems. U.S. trade with the rest of the
hemisphere is strong, and growing. And steps are already
well underway to vastly increase that trade via the creation
of the world's largest free-trade area by the year 2005 -- the
Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA.
Unfortunately, these positive developments are hindered by
the fact that corruption and government inefficiency still thrive
at near epidemic levels in some countries in the region and the
political will to put aside partisan differences and pursue sound
economic policies is simply not always there. When we examine
the growing importance of governmental decentralization and
the increasingly important role that parliaments have begun to
play in governance throughout the hemisphere, we see how
vitally important it is for there to be an emerging consensus
within the body politic and the political party apparatus.
Of critical importance, also, is the growing realization that the
region's prosperity is not being equally shared. The per capita
growth of the '90s, averaging about 1 percent per year, is not
enough to make a real impact on the daily lives of the lowest
third of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean
that lives on $2 or less a day.
In the context of Haiti, the poor have not seen enough
progress toward achieving their expectations for an improved
standard of living that accompanied the restoration of
democratically elected government in 1994. The achievement
of economic reform goals is vitally important in Haiti to
create the framework for the investment and job creation
that will help to make lasting progress toward meeting those
expectations. Unfortunately, progress toward economic reform
in Haiti has been uneven and painfully slow.
Consolidation of Democracy
Citizens throughout the hemisphere are justly proud that
the Western Hemisphere is now the hemisphere of democracy.
In most countries democratic institutions are growing stronger.
Progress in democratic consolidation has been uneven,
however, and great challenges remain. Recent coup attempts
in Paraguay and in Ecuador, a questionable presidential
election in Peru, Colombia's ongoing civil conflict, and, most
essential to today's meeting, the flawed election
results in Haiti, are disturbing developments.
While disturbing, I want to emphasize an important fact.
These developments run counter to a twenty-year trend toward democratization throughout the hemisphere. This is a trend
that has left only one regional state -- Cuba -- without a
democratically elected government. While certain problems
persist, this year alone will see democratic elections in
Venezuela and Mexico, and it has already seen one in
Haiti's neighbor -- the Dominican Republic. Democracy remains
alive and vital in Latin America and the Caribbean.
A major question remains as to whether Haiti will be
added to the list of hemispheric nations that have achieved
democratic elections this year. Haiti's quest to solidify its
position in the ranks of world and Western Hemisphere
democracies since the 1986 demise of the Duvalier
family dictatorship certainly has been fraught with many
obstacles and setbacks. Over the past three years, in particular,
Haiti has been plagued by one debilitating political crisis
Today, Haiti is fraught with a new political crisis -- one
completely of its own making, and one which threatens to
re-isolate Haiti from the world's community of democratic
nations. That crisis centers around how Haitian authorities
determined the results of the Senate elections run
on May 21.
In elections held that day, more than 2 million Haitians of
all walks of life voted -- more than 60 percent of the registered
voters. With dignity and a commitment to the principles of
democracy, Haitians clearly expressed their desire to choose
transparently, through the ballot box, a government that could
work toward ending hunger, poverty, illiteracy, disease, and
Today, the dignity and commitment of those voters and of the
many thousands of Haitians who worked to organize and
observe elections in their communities has been put in jeopardy
on account of a vote tabulation process that has failed to apply
Haiti's own electoral law. Haitian election law is clear on this: in
the races for the parliament, the victor must gain 50 percent
plus one of all the valid votes cast.
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) instead decided
to use a methodology that counted only the votes for the top
four vote-getters of the Senate races in each department.
As a result, the votes of hundreds of thousands of Haitian
citizens throughout the country were simply cast aside by
electoral officials as meaningless. Haiti's people -- like
minorities in this country -- have struggled long and hard to
achieve the right to vote. After that struggle, and their
expressed determination to exercise that right, for these votes
to be simply cast aside as meaningless is unconscionable.
The Organization of American States' Electoral Observation
Mission pointed out the flawed methodology early in the vote
tabulation process and asked that corrective measures be
taken by the CEP. The OAS request was rebuffed by the
CEP, which instead, ultimately announced official results
that gave first round victories in the 17 Senate races to at
least 7 candidates who should have been required to enter
into second round run-off elections.
That these races were awarded to candidates of the ruling
Family Lavalas party is not the issue. What is at stake here
is the correct application of Haiti's own electoral law and the
sanctity of the vote in determining the ultimate outcome of
The U.S. has made its position clear. It supports the findings
of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission and believes that
the results of the Senate races, as determined through the
use of the flawed methodology and as announced in Haiti,
are nor correct. We have been joined by Canada, France
and other governments in expressing both our deep concerns
over this issue and our continued support of the OAS. The
Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, has
issued a statement expressing similar concerns and continued
support. The European Union has been equally outspoken.
Important voices in Haiti from civil society, the Catholic church,
and the business sector are also speaking out on this issue.
Today, the ball is clearly in the court of the Haitian authorities
to act quickly to resolve this issue to the satisfaction of its
own citizens and the international community. Much is at stake.
The insistence of the Government of Haiti in accepting the flawed
results of the Senate vote puts at severe risk the prospect that the parliament will be recognized by the international community. It
also puts at severe risk the prospect that the presidential elections scheduled for November of this year will be viewed as free and fair
by the U.S. and by the international community.
Finally, all future allocations of multilateral and bilateral
assistance to the Government of Haiti, including the
$500 million of multilateral aid already on hold for want of
a legitimate parliament, will be severely jeopardized.
To conclude, U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere
recognizes that our support for social and economic
development in this region can't succeed if the hemisphere's
democracies are weak. Our democracy programs seek to
help assure the governments have the know-how and
wherewithal, as well as the commitment, to protect the
rights of the citizens and deliver the services, security, and
growth that they deserve.
Implementing these policies is not an American crusade. We
need to work hand-in-hand with the many in this hemisphere
who want the transition to democracy to be both permanent
and complete, including such organizations as NOAH. When
we all work together, we can expect results.