Some ten members of the Congressional Black Caucus came to lambast Assistant Secretary of State Roger F. Noriega. These members argued that the United States should have sent the Marines to keep Aristide in power against his own people. Ignoring the fact that Haitian public opinion had turned decisively against Aristide, and that both the civil-society Democratic Platform and the armed rebels rode a wave of popular support, they argued that the Haitian people’s insurrection against this abusive ruler was a coup d’etat.

The three witnesses facilitated by the Haiti Democracy Project “were the only ones to talk about Haiti” in the whole seven hours, one observer noted. The Haiti Democracy Project brought three distinguished public witnesses:

  • Amb. Timothy Carney, U.S. ambassador to Haiti 1998-99, founding board member of the Haiti Democracy Project
  • Amb. Orlando Marville, chief of OAS electoral mission to Haiti, 2000, founding board member of the Haiti Democracy Project
  • Prof. Pierre-Marie Paquiot, president of the State University of Haiti, victim of attack by Aristide thugs in the university on December 5, 2003.

Two other public witnesses who appeared, Robert Maguire and Jeffrey Sachs, took the pro-Aristide viewpoint.

The interventions of Ambassador Carney and Professor Paquiot will be posted on this site. Marville’s will be updated. A preliminary account follows:

Ambassador Marville emphasized that Aristide’s reelection in November 2000 was undemocratic. However, he also tried to steer the hearing away from its obsession with Aristide and to stop making Haiti a political football. He told the legislators they were hardly talking about Haiti at all, they were talking about U.S. domestic issues. He emphasized that the truth was not partisan. He raised the question of sufficient support and observers for elections in Haiti in 2000 and in the future. It was a Republican senator who had blocked sufficient observers in 2000, and this led other countries to restrict their contribution as well.

Many comments by legislators, he said, missed the real point. At the present the main point was to deal with the problem of armed gangs of all persuasions. The Black Caucus members were calling for appointment of a subcommittee to investigate the role of the CIA in Aristide’s departure. This was marginal to the issue of Haiti. More important was to focus on the challenges facing the international peacekeeping operation in Haiti. There was a real danger, down the line, of clashes between it and one or another of these armed factions. There needed to be a concerted program of disarmament of all of them. There was a culture and continuity of gangs. Many of Aristide’s chimeres had been Tontons Macoutes. Some of the armed rebels had been chimeres or FRAPH. That made violence endemic.

There was therefore no quick fix. The international community must organize the basics such as clean water, health service, neutral police, and functioning justice before it thought of elections, which should be a minimum of two years away. Then it would need two to ten years of close monitoring.

Democrats beatifying, Republicans demonizing Aristide were both beside the point. The point was the eight million people of Haiti, not one man.

The hearing was covered by Reuters.