ADDRESS BY Ambassador Roger F. Noriega, U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS
PRESENTATION TO THE INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE
October 30, 2002
Thank you for your kind introduction.
I welcome the opportunity to address the distinguished members and guests of the Inter-American Dialogue today. Since its formation in the early 1980s, this organization has done much to bring understanding to important problems facing the Western Hemisphere. It has helped to shape the agenda of issues and policy choices on inter-American relations.
Today I want to share with you some thoughts on Haiti.
Of course, the United States is concerned about what is happening in Haiti. As Americans, we appreciate Haiti?s vibrant culture and the resiliency of its people. We feel a historic kinship that arises from our shared struggles for independence and, more practically, from the hundreds of thousands of Haitians now living and working in the UNITED STATES
And yet ? despite all the resources the international community, including the United States, has devoted to assist the Haitian people ? extraordinary problems persist.
This has not deterred our government from continuing to help the Haitian people, nor should it deter the international community from doing so. However, it does mean that we must speak openly about what these problems are and state frankly our views about how Haiti can best solve them.
And a candid, open discussion requires me to say that we have very serious concerns about the leadership of Jean Bertrand Aristide.
Let us start by looking at Haitian government efforts to comply with OAS Resolutions 806 and 822.
The record of Haitian government compliance with these resolutions thus far is frankly discouraging.
Resolution 806 was adopted January 16, 2002 by the OAS in direct response to the violent events of July 28 and December 17, 2001.
On July 28, 2001, simultaneous attacks on the National Police Academy and police stations in different parts of the country resulted in several deaths, including a number of police officers.
On December 17, the National Palace was attacked and part of it briefly occupied by the attackers. Also that day, in a series of coordinated incidents in Port-au-Prince and other cities, attackers ransacked and burned the offices of opposition political parties, and damaged or destroyed the residences of some members of the opposition.
These violent incidents last July and December substantially impeded efforts, led by the OAS, to broker an accord between Fanmi Lavalas and the opposition settling the dispute that followed the elections in May 2000. Resolution 806 called on the Haitian government to diligently pursue all efforts to restore a climate of security. In particular, Resolution 806 among other things required:
— completion of a thorough, independent inquiry into the events related to Dec. 17;
— prosecution of any person and dismissal, where appropriate, of any government official found to be complicit in the Dec. 17 violence;
— completion of a thorough inquiry into all politically-motivated crimes; and
— reparations for organizations and individuals who suffered damages as a direct result of the violence of Dec. 17.
The OAS subsequently adopted Resolution 822 on September 4, 2002. In doing so, it incorporated by reference the provisions of Res. 806 and specifically reiterated the requirements of that resolution, as I have just described them. In addition, it incorporated new commitments made by the Haitian government, including:
— publishing a report on actions taken with respect to persons found to be implicated in the events of December 17;
— strengthening disarmament policies and programs; and
— implementing to the fullest extent possible recommendations on improving human rights and protecting the press, as made by the OAS Commission of Inquiry Report into the events of December 17.
Resolution 822 also called on the HATIAN GOVERNMENT to ensure a climate of security and confidence with a view to establishing the conditions necessary for free and fair elections in 2003. It established November 4 as the date by which autonomous, credible, and neutral Provisional Electoral Council should be formed.
The United States gave its full support to OAS Resolution 822. Indeed, along with Canada, CARICOM, and others, we were instrumental in facilitating negotiations that produced unanimous adoption of 822 at the OAS.
Full Haitian government compliance with Resolutions 806 and 822 is essential. November 4 is coming up fast. That is the date projected under Resolution 822 for formation of the Provisional Electoral Council. All concerned parties ? the opposition, the international community, NGOs, and most importantly the Haitian people ? are looking to the Haitian government for concrete progress as that date approaches.
Unfortunately, the Haitian government has not met its commitments.
The OAS did conduct an independent inquiry into the events of Dec. 17, and ? yes ? the Haitian government did cooperate in that effort. However, the government has yet to produce its own final report on Dec. 17 as required by Resolution 822 and has yet to initiate any prosecutions. Moreover, inquiries into politically motivated crimes are far from complete.
Finally, despite some fits and starts, reparations are yet to be paid in full to all parties.
The government?s efforts to end impunity, a crucial part of 822, are a key barometer of its commitment to the rule of law. Unfortunately, in some important respects, the government seems to be losing ground in the fight against impunity.
Consider the case of Amiot ?Cubain? Metayer. The government incarcerated Metayer in July, but not on charges related to the Dec. 17 violence. Even then, he escaped from prison in early August, along with some 150 other criminals (including some serving life sentences for participation in past political killings).
The government obviously failed to take adequate measures to prevent the escape of this dangerous prisoner. Police forces were outgunned when local thugs executed a well-coordinated attack on the prison and other municipal facilities.
The government has not taken any steps to re-arrest Metayer in order to continue the case against him, although we understand that some efforts have been made to apprehend some other escapees.
Consider also the case of Brignol Lindor, the journalist murdered in December 2001. The recent indictment of 10 suspects in the Brignol Lindor case was a positive development. But conspicuously absent from the list of suspects was a Fanmi Lavalas official in Petit-Goave whose statements incited violence against Lindor. We have seen reports in the Haitian media that the investigating judge might release some suspects. If true, this will only delay a just resolution of the case.
Some two years after the murder of Jean Dominique, there has been little movement in his case. Some witnesses were interviewed, but the government allowed the investigating judge?s mandate to lapse and waited several months before appointing a new one.
The Haitian government?s Preliminary Report to the OAS on the events of Dec. 17 describes actions taken by the government in some of these cases. We acknowledge that there has indeed been some action taken. But I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of getting results and justice. It simply is not enough to reiterate steps that were taken in the past, particularly since some of that progress has been reversed.
The government must make tangible efforts in all these matters. Only then will we be able to say that there have been some steps toward establishing the rule of law.
We also acknowledge the positive steps the government has taken toward payment of reparations. The Justice Ministry met with lawyers for victims this past summer and established a framework for making claims.
In mid-September, the Haitian government began the payment process, but ? inexplicably – imposed new technical requirements (producing formal titles to property), reopened the issue of how much was due to claimants, and proposed to pick and choose when to pay some victims. We understand that some claims have been paid in part to some opposition parties, while talks with others are dragging on.
The delay in settling claims has caused confusion and undermined confidence in the government?s intention to pay full reparations. The government should make every effort to reach agreement with the opposition and make full payment, without new conditions or requirements. This is not just compensation owed to victims, it is an unfulfilled commitment to the international community.
It is absolutely essential that the Haitian government heal the wounds caused by Dec. 17. If it does not, then participation of the opposition in the formation of the CEP becomes problematic, as do prospects for free and fair elections next year. We urge the government to clear remaining obstacles and pay the outstanding reparations.
In another important area, the United States is deeply dissatisfied with counter-narcotics cooperation in Haiti, and very concerned about police involvement in trafficking.
Operation Hurricane II, a recent joint Haitian-U.S. effort conducted in northern Haiti, was a disappointment and a setback ? only one arrest and a minor amount of drugs seized. Information on who was to be arrested and which houses were to be searched leaked from the police. Also, elected officials in the North actively worked against the operation.
We now estimate that as much as 15 per cent of the cocaine entering the UNITED STATES transits through Haiti. Haiti is growing as a cocaine transshipment point, not shrinking.
Our current cooperation with Haiti is carefully circumscribed because, on the whole, we do not have confidence in the Haitian National Police. There are too many senior officers who are either actively involved in trafficking, and others who turn a blind eye.
We need a housecleaning in the police force before we can engage the government in systematic counter-narcotics cooperation. Our Embassy in Port-au-Prince has asked the Aristide government more than once to remove officers involved in the drug trade. Thus far, some officers have been removed. We know who the other officers are, the Haitian government knows, and they too have to go.
When ordinary Haitians cast ballots in 2003, nothing will be more important than freedom from intimidation and from politically motivated violence. This will be the key factor in securing broad participation in the elections.
Given the prevalence of well-armed bands of ?chimeres? (thugs) operating at the beck and call of politically connected popular organizations (OPs), providing a secure environment will not be an easy task. But it is a task that the government, with the support of the OAS Special Mission and the international community, must undertake. And this undertaking must be successful for there to be free and fair elections in 2003.
President Aristide and other senior Haitian officials must take more forceful public positions calling on popular organizations to reject violence, and on police to stop using excessive force against legitimate demonstrations.
Inescapably, the Haitian National Police must serve as the principal means of guaranteeing security for the elections. A poorly trained, understaffed, and corrupt police force will not be up to the job.
The current crop of some 870 cadets now training at the Police Academy offers the prospect of additional manpower for election security. The United States and the international community are willing to provide technical assistance to the police so it can play a proper role, under the supervision of a credible and neutral CEP, in providing security for elections in 2003.
Broader assistance for the HNP, aimed at creating a more professional and independent force, will depend on the Aristide government?s political will in rooting out corruption and preventing politicization by respecting internal rules of the HNP regarding recruitment, promotions, and assignments.
Another crucial element for security — perhaps the most difficult of all ? is disarmament. Progress on an effective plan is essential. The OAS Special Mission is prepared to work with the government on a priority basis to create and implement a plan, but no plan will work without firm Haitian government commitment.
The government must be willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions — calling on local officials, especially mayors, and so-called popular organizations to lay down arms and refrain from their use. More importantly, it must enforce the disarmament plan once it is formulated.
With respect to disarmament, we understand that on October 10, five of the nine civil society organizations who are to designate members for the CEP wrote President Aristide asking that he formally request the international community for assistance on a disarmament plans and a security plan for the elections. We understand that to date there has been no response.
Of course, no one expects disarmament to occur quickly, but an effective campaign stands little chance of success without sustained Haitian effort, which we urge the government to make with the support of the international community.
Let me turn now to another important aspect of our relations with Haiti ? economic relations and humanitarian assistance.
The United States is the largest single-country donor to Haiti, and has been for many years. We have given over $120 million worth of assistance to Haiti in the last two years, and close to $1 billion since President Aristide was restored in 1994.
Our assistance is given primarily through internationally respected non-governmental organizations that work with local counterparts to ensure that our assistance goes to those in greatest need. Our programs fund maternal and child health care, HIV/AIDS prevention, reproductive health, primary school education, agricultural development, food assistance, and democracy programs, among others.
This might surprise you. It is popular in some circles to talk of a so-called ?embargo? on assistance to Haiti, and to blame many if not all of Haiti?s ills on that so-called embargo.
Let?s correct the record:
From the time of the failed legislative elections in May 2000 until the September 4 approval of OAS Resolution 822, there was a consensus among major donors and the international financial institutions (IFIs), that granting of new IFI loans should be deferred until the Government and the umbrella opposition group, the Convergence Democratique, came to agreement on terms to resolve the dispute as to who should be sitting in the Senate.
The Organization of American States took a lead role in mediating this dispute and on several occasions in 2001 and 2002 came very close to resolving it. There is little doubt that the incentive of renewed IFI financing was key in bringing the two sides together, and indeed, that same incentive was key to the negotiation of Resolution 822.
The use of conditionality relating to basic governance is common in donor finance.
After Resolution 822, any conditions applied to future loans for Haiti will involve only those that we would look for in loans to any other country ? solid macroeconomic policies, fiscal responsibility, transparency of governance, etc.
In sum, despite the hiatus in new IFI lending, Haiti has continued to receive substantial aid from the United States and others. Haiti continues to benefit from huge remittances, estimated to exceed $700 million per year from the UNITED STATES, from its diaspora-over half a million persons of Haitian origin are U.S. residents. It continues to benefit from emigration to the United States — some 45,000 Haitians have emigrated, legally, to this country in the last three years to start new lives here, adding each year to the remittance stream.
So, in closing, let me say again that the government?s efforts to comply with resolutions 806 and 822 are disappointing. It is discouraging that the Aristide government is not doing more to live up to its obligations.
On virtually all fronts ? from a timely accounting of its actions taken with respect to December 17, to effective steps to end impunity, to disarmament, to reparations, to counter-narcotics, to election security ? the government has simply not moved with enough commitment or effectiveness. The government of Haiti must do more to comply with the OAS resolutions and its commitments to its own people. Absent that, Haiti faces a future that is at risk.
Let me end in the same manner I began, by expressing our concern about Haiti.
We are concerned about the well-being of the Haitian people; we are concerned about the effectiveness and legitimacy of institutions that still bear the stigma of the flawed elections of 2000, and we are concerned about the reluctance so far of the Aristide administration to meet the commitments it has made to the OAS, its member states, and to the Haitian people.
The primary responsibility for addressing Haiti?s political and economic problems rests with the government of Haiti.
Now is the time for that government to live up to its commitments to fulfill the great promise of this creative and vibrant people, who have as much to claim to democracy and economic opportunity as any of us.