Originally: Letter from Rep. Cass Ballenger
November 13, 2003
Mr. Andy Apaid, Coordinator, Group of 184, Port-au-Prince, Republic of Haiti
Thank you for your letter of November 5, 2003, inviting Members of Congress and their staff to observe a rally to be held in Port-au-Prince on November the 14th, 2003 at 12:00 p.m. by the Group of 184 to introduce a proposal “to solve the current political impasse in Haiti.” Although I will not be in Haiti on November 14, I am planning to visit Haiti in December and intend to meet broadly with Haitians at that time. I hope to meet with you and members of the Group of 184, particularly to learn more about the Group of 184’s work on a new “Social Contract” for Haiti.
I note and commend your stated commitment to “nonviolent social mobilization.” Article 31 of the 1987 Haitian constitution establishes that “Freedom of unarmed assembly and association for political, economic, social, cultural or any other peaceful purposes is guaranteed.” Haitian citizens, whether they support or oppose the government, have a responsibility to exercise these rights peacefully.
I believe the government of Haiti should deploy public security forces to protect and defend Haitian citizens who gather peacefully in unarmed groups to exercise the political rights accorded to them by the Haitian constitution. In addition, I support the decision by our Ambassador to Haiti to assign United States Embassy officers to observe rallies and gatherings in Haiti.
Chairman, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
cc. Rep John Conyers, Jr.
Rep. Gregory Meeks