Originally: Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd said today at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Group of 184 had provoked the violence against it last Saturday by marching into Cité Soleil. He likened it to the groups in Northern Ireland who march into neighborhoods to provoke a reaction. He said the opposition to Aristide was “adolescent” in mentality and the withholding of aid was “mortifying” to him as an American.
Public witness Paul Farmer said that it was a tribute to the peaceful nature of the Haitian people that only stones were thrown at the Group of 184 in Cité Soleil. The Group of 184, he said, was an elite, bourgeois group. The people of Haiti were for Aristide and the Convergence and Group of 184 would be “massacred” at the polls.
Senators Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) were present during these remarks, but did not contradict them. The only witness to offer a contrary view was Rudolph Moise, a member of the board of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. He said that the Group of 184 or any group in Haiti had a right to have a peaceful demonstration anywhere and that workers’ and peasants’ groups were also in the Group of 184.
Prepared Statement by Senator Christopher J. Dodd
Committee on Foreign Relations
?Successes and Challenges for U.S. Policy to Haiti?
July 15, 2003
Mr. Chairman, I want to commend you for holding this hearing today on the current situation in Haiti. You have invited some very expert witnesses this morning who should help the committee members better understand what is happening in Haiti today and what we might do about it.
As one who has been an observer of the Haitian situation for some time, I am deeply concerned by recent developments in that country. The political and economic climates have gone from bad to worse ? anyone who has visited Haiti in recent years knows what I mean. People living less than 200 miles from our shores are desperately poor beyond imagination have life expectancies of less than 50 years; suffer from malaria, diarrhea, and even polio, which has reemerged on the island. Haiti ranks as one of the lowest on the U.N. survey of living conditions. Out of 176 countries ranked by the UN ? Haiti was near the bottom of the ladder ? 34th from the bottom.
Mr. Chairman, Haiti is sinking deeper and deeper into irreversible poverty. The extent of the heartache now being endured by the Haitian people is simply unspeakable. Their suffering is devastating and it is far reaching. In some places there is no potable water, there are no sewers, there are no basic medicines on hand to treat disease, no medical infrastructure in place to ward off otherwise easily preventable diseases.
As we know from our consideration of the HIV/AIDS legislation, Haiti has the highest infection rate in the Hemisphere, its people are being devastated by this disease and more than 200,000 of its children made orphans.
There are a lot of reasons for the sorry state in which we find Haiti today. Clearly the Haitian government must be a key actor in meeting the needs of its people. That it is failing to do so is self -evident. There are many reasons for that ? some are within that government?s power to address ? others are not.
Frankly, we need to be honest and acknowledge that until very recently the United States and other members of the international community bore a measure of responsibility for the worsening of conditions in that country.
I am speaking of US decisions to stop all bilateral assistance to Haitian government agencies and to join with other OAS members in blocking Haiti?s access to InterAmerican Development Bank resources.
Both have contributed to making a dire situation worse. While it is true that the US is a substantial donor of food to Haiti, that is simply a holding pattern to keep people from dying from starvation and does little or nothing to address the systemic problems confronting the Haitian economy and Haitian institutions.
I have been extremely critical of the decision by the US and others to tie Haiti?s access to IDB resources to a political settlement of the disputed May 2000 elections, because I thought that was mixing apples with oranges.
The IDB is supposed to be the premier regional development institution in this hemisphere, charged with alleviating poverty and promoting development.
It should not have been politicized, as was the case with respect to Haiti. If there is any country in the region that needs the Ida?s help more than Haiti, I don?t know which country that would be.
I believe that it should be the people of Haiti who are in the forefront of our concerns as we make policy decisions to restrict aid resources to that country. At long last, it would appear that the US government and the international community share that view. Haitian authorities have reached an agreement with the IMF and have paid off the arrears owed to the IDB.
Next week the President of the InterAmerican Development Bank will visit Haiti and sign an agreement with the Aristide government which will allow for the quick disbursement of some $35 million in technical assistance. Shortly thereafter, an additional $146 million in stalled IDB project assistance will be available to help address deficiencies in the areas of health, water, roads and education.
That?s good news.
Finally we seem to have an international strategy for dealing with some of the economic challenges confronting Haiti. I would also hope that the Bush administration would re-engage with Haitian agencies on a bilateral basis as well ? particularly in the areas of health and security. There is no way that there is going to be any measurable improvement in either area unless the US re-engages in these sectors.
So too the OAS needs to re-engage on the political front. For more than two years, I supported the efforts of the OAS Secretary General to end the political crisis that is rooted in earlier flawed elections. I believe that a proposal tabled last year by Luigi Einaudi, the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, which provides for a series of steps leading ultimately to elections, made a great deal of sense. It still does.
The Aristide government supports the OAS plan ? some elements of the opposition have not. This has caused an impasse. That impasse has meant that there has been virtually no progress on the political front. I am concerned that lack of progress at some point is going to produce a major crisis.
By the end of this year, the electoral terms of the entire Haitian Congress and one-third of the Haitian Senate will have expired. How is the Haitian government supposed to function in the absence of a functioning legislature?
To be kind, the OAS seems to be in a holding pattern. But in Haiti, there is no such thing as the status quo. The ongoing political stalemate has fostered even greater divisions in Haitian society ? positions continue to harden, making compromise even more difficult than it would have been six months ago. I am concerned that neither the US administration nor the leadership of the OAS seems to have developed a strategy for what is likely to come next in Haiti if OAS Resolution 822 is not successfully implemented soon.
Last month during the OAS annual meetings, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that in September the US would be reassess its support for the OAS efforts, including the OAS mission in Haiti.
I will be very interested to hear from Secretary Grossman exactly what Secretary Powell meant by those words. It is not clear to me that either the US administration or the OAS leadership has any game plan for helping Haiti resolve the political impasse it finds itself caught in ? namely wanting and needed to have elections either by the end of the year or shortly thereafter ? but not being able to get all the players to join with the government in those elections.
Mr. Chairman, the Haitian people are a proud people ? they love their families and they love their country. Next year, Haiti will celebrate its bicentennial anniversary of independence making it the second oldest independent nation in our hemisphere. This should be a time of joy and celebration. It is not going to be so in the current climate of mistrust and insecurity.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses this morning what they think should be done on the economic and political fronts to address the many challenges which confront Haiti so that the upcoming 200th Haitian anniversary of independence can be more than a date on the calendar.