Originally: Violence

June 12, 2005 

Violence “totally unacceptable” – Canadian envoy to Haiti

Excerpt from interview with Canadian Special Envoy Denis Codere by Nancy Roc, broadcast by Haitian Metropole radio on 12 June; Denis Codere, special adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister for Haiti affairs, arrived in Haiti on Wednesday [8 June] to transmit a clear message to the interim government to strengthen security in the country. This four-day visit was within the framework of a joint mission of Canada, the United States, France and Brazil. Its purpose was to assess the security situation in Haiti and feel the pulse of the electoral process.

We then had the privilege of having an exclusive interview with Mr Codere during his visit here.  This visit took place while violence and insecurity are raging in the country, which is undergoing a political crisis. About 20 political parties last weekend talked about the possibility of a change in government because, according to them, the transition has failed in the mission with which it was entrusted after the fall of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.

By the way, this is the first time that the Council of Eminent Persons [COEP] has taken a radical position, because Dr Ariel Henry told the Miami Herald that the transition has failed and there is no governance in Haiti. So, we mentioned all these issues in our conversation with Mr Codere and asked for his reaction regarding the insecurity. It should be reminded that this visit precedes an important conference that is going to take place in Montreal next week. According to Mr Codere, it is one of the most important conferences on Haiti. It will not be a fun party for any of the participants. He made it clear that it is not going to be a fun party for the Haitian Government, the international community, or Minustah [UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti]. We are going to discuss the insecurity issue and particularly the position of the international community, which is putting more and more pressure on the Latortue government to prompt it to resolve this crisis.

[Metropolis Programme host Nancy Roc] Welcome to the Metropolis Programme, Mr Codere.  You have shown so much concern for this country. Elections are supposed to be held four months from now and to repeat what Mr Louis] Joinet, UN human rights expert,  once said, the situation is not just grave it is as grave as can be. I would even say that it is critical. Besides, people even say that the situation here is like that of Somalia. You are here to evaluate the situation. Now that you have seen all the players, the government in particular, the political parties, civil society members and the COEP, can you actually give us your impression of the current situation?

Evaluating the security situation

[Codere] I think that words have significance and we must be careful what we say. So, I do not want to give any description. However, what I can say is that there is a situation here. My role is, at the request of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, to evaluate the security situation as well as the electoral process. Right from the beginning – as you said, this is my eighth trip here – my role is to make sure that we are heading in the right direction. As you said, there is going to be an important meeting in Montreal next week. This conference in Montreal will be a follow-up to the Washington and Cayenne meetings.

But as I said, it is going to be a very serious meeting. It is important that in light of the current situation that we can talk of achievement. I am not going to talk about what will be done, but about what has been achieved since I started coming here. They will discuss the improvements that need to be made. They need to know if the COEP’s advice was followed. They need to know if certain projects were implemented by the government. And also, they need to encourage more efforts by the Provisional Electoral Council [CEP] so that together with the United Nations and the OAS the voter registration process can be carried out in view of the holding of the elections. We want to make sure that there can be a secure environment to facilitate the holding of free, secure and democratic elections. It is going to be a well planned meeting.

A test for Minustah and the government

[Roc] Will it somehow be a test for the Haitian government?

[Codere] It is also a test for Minustah. It is also a test for the international community and the partners that play a key role within the international community including Canada, the United States, the Caribbean Community [Caricom], because we must not forget the importance of Caricom, our Brazilian colleagues, Latin America and the French-speaking communities.

As for me, the Haiti situation is not strictly a selective case. It is a way for the international community to take action to handle a situation in a more and more globalized world. I always say and I am saying it again, there is only a one hour and 30-minute flight between Haiti and Miami and yet Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. Moreover, the people often have the feeling they are abandoned.

So, this is why Canada is very concerned about this situation. And to prove this, our prime minister came here to launch the national dialogue plan in cooperation with the authorities. As I always say, we Canadians, when we talk to people we look them in the eye. Our role is really to accompany the Haitian people, to leave all the room for respect and dignity. So, I think I have said it all.

It is no longer time now for talking. It is time to take action. I think that we are all part of the solution. For this reason, there are concrete actions that we must take. There are concrete actions that the interim government should take. I think that it is important, vital and fundamental to say that the international community supports the government and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. I think that it is an essential and important condition. Because in fact, if people want to focus on the elections, we should not get ourselves involved in [pauses], of course, the Canadian Government, in its accompaniment strategy, is not there to dictate. But if people want to know our opinion, we remain in solidarity with Prime Minister Latortue.

There are, of course, supportive actions that we need to take and efforts that we need to make. There is a better cohesion and coordination in governance but it is not strictly within the government. This cohesion, I would say, should deal with and help the security issue among the national police, Civpol, Minustah, the government and the international community.

Last Thursday [9 June], Mr Valdes [Minustah Chief Juan Gabriel] was very clear about the issue of cohesion and solidarity. This is very important. We can talk about security and this has to do mainly with disarmament. Like the Minustah chief said, this force should be an army of protection but not of repression, as some people claim. It is also necessary to define a decent and favourable environment to help the people recover their dignity. This means that there should be socioeconomic measures and selective actions. Issues are not always dealt with great plans and eloquence. People need to be helped to recover their dignity by having work today and by helping young people have a decent education. As for us, the opening of schools in August or September is of primary importance to us. For instance, people talk a lot about the electricity problem. The energy issue is basic infrastructure that has an impact on our quality of life. So, I believe that what is necessary here is planning for quality of life.

Therefore, my colleague [Daniel] Parfait of France, [Deputy Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs Roger] Noriega, there was also the special attache of the Brazilian Government and we also met with ambassadors of other countries that still show solidarity with Haiti, we were glad to note that we all thought it urgent to take action. This urgency is not just at the level of [pauses] you know, it is easy to say [words indistinct]. We need to take time to think things over to see whether there are things that we did not do adequately and should be done better.

“I am the son of a carpenter”

I am the son of a carpenter and I believe in renovation. As we say in my country, when you have a beam, you should not throw it away. It is good. There is a good foundation. So, all we need is to renovate and make adjustments. And it is in this sense that we are at a turning point. [words indistinct] we have all the ingredients. As they say in English, “where there is a will there is a way.” So, I think that the aim of my visit was an evaluation of my willingness to take action. I stayed in the country longer than my other colleagues just so that I could look into the follow-up strategy to see how things are going to work out. In the Montreal conference, I expect to see concrete actions and solidarity. In other words, it is not going to be an occasion for us to say that we are going to take action, but to make an assessment of what we have done.


[Roc] Mr. Codere, I am going to take you at your word. Talking about the different players and this willingness to take action, last week, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Haiti [CCIH] [Reginald Boulos] had to make a demand that raised a lot of controversy. He had to make this request because of all the armed attacks that were taking place in the capital in particular. At the time he asked the government to authorize people in the business sector to carry automatic weapons for self-protection.

Now, we have talked about the hypocrisy of the political players as well as the international community. And it seems to us that the cards were never put on the table. Even if there was willingness on the part of the Haitian Government, the international community was not really supporting and vice versa. This is the case with Minustah, for example. Today, it is obvious that there is failure. First, there is failure on the part of Minustah after a year in the country and everybody agrees about that, Mr. Codere. Second, the failure of the government. For the first time this week, Dr. Ariel Henri of the Council of Eminent Persons has taken a radical stand and it is the COEP as a whole that did so. The COEP declares that there is no governance and that this government is in a state of collapse. The COEP then gave the Latortue government a deadline of 30 days to restore security in the capital.

Meanwhile, there is going to be that conference in Montreal. In light of this situation, how do you see this radicalization of the various partners in the face of so many failures and in the face of a country, or rather a capital city that has now been taken hostage?


[Codere] I would say that because of my vision of renovation, I do not think that we should allow ourselves to fall into absolutism. I think that the weight, the power of words is extremely important. This is the reason why we affirm that it is necessary for changes to take place. There is an introspection that was done at all levels whereby we should not point our fingers at a person or an institution in particular, but that we should instead realize that every one of them is part of the solution. Now, the question is not to ask who is concerned. The issue here is to say that it is obvious that we have not met all our expectations. I can remember however that Minustah did a very good job in Bel-Air in February. So, there are examples of things that were done and that were done very well.

[Roc] Mr. Codere, Haitians who are listening to you today will tell you that the US Marines were here then.

[Codere] There are actions that were taken too when the Marines were not there and I could even talk about the Canadian soldiers for this reason because we had about 550 of them here. I could tell you that once Minustah was at full strength, there were concrete actions that were taken. Anyway, I think that we need better coordination, better cohesion and better communication among all sectors: Civpol, the national police and Minustah. There needs to be better cohesion within the interim Haitian Government. We support this government and our role is not to dictate to the government authorities what they must do. But if everybody has a role to play then they should feel the need to take action. The COEP has a role to play too. By the way, I was with the COEP members this morning. I saw my good friend Ariel Henri, Mrs. [Danielle] Magloire, all the members were there. We exchanged ideas. I think that it is wise to have some direction. Upon signing the accord between the COEP and the government, it is clear that there was a cause and effect. This means that their role is also to give guidance or a certain orientation. Therefore, I think it is a good policy.

But Canada does not want to fall into this absolutism to say, for instance, it is either you believe or you will die, or you will have to leave, all these sorts of things. And this, because we have must work on a specific plan, which is the coming elections. We must focus [pauses] I am actually talking in the short term. There are actions that must be taken in terms of days and weeks to make sure that everything is ready for the elections. Our aim is to make sure that a legitimate government takes office in February 2006, that we will be able to welcome a legitimate government and that we may be able to give a [word indistinct] to this people who have suffered for so long.

“Adjustments will be made”

Meanwhile, adjustments will be made. We are expecting it to happen. For instance, the Montreal conference is going to be a turning point for us. When I said that it is now 2355, this means that things are happening and things must be done. We must fully do our part in the international community in terms of disbursement of funds to implement programs. Having programs is one thing but there need to be resources in order to implement them. Now, as you know, Canada had pledged more than 180m dollars and has disbursed about 60 per cent of this amount. So, we are ahead of all the other partners. The United States is doing its part.

The other advantage is that there is a common viewpoint within the international community. The UN Security Council is going to renew Minustah’s mandate. I think that Mr. Latortue made quite an exceptional speech in New York where he talked of quantitative and qualitative options in which we should invest in the coming weeks and months. But I would not like the Montreal conference to be just a state report. So, this is what we would like to do to show our determination.

Parties involved in destabilization

[Roc] Let us talk again about all the players we mentioned right from the start. [Minustah Chief Juan Gabriel] Valdes said about a week ago that there are certain political parties that are apparently involved in the destabilization situation. My first question is this. Do you think that it is acceptable for Haitians under the current circumstances, whether it is the attacks on the part of the armed gangs or kidnappings, is it correct for Mr. Valdes to reveal this fact without revealing names? It is something, of course, that we knew of and talked about in the press. But do you not think that he is somehow playing the insecurity game?

[Codere] I think this question should be asked of him instead. But I also think that the people need to know what is going on because everybody knows Mr. Valdes’s candour and transparency.

[Roc] Yes, indeed and this is why I talked about putting the cards on the table a while ago. It is either they put them on the table or they do not.

[Codere] I think you should ask him to do so instead. No one else that I know of apart from the Lavalas scoundrels played a role [pauses] if you will allow me, on behalf of Canada, I would like to offer my condolences to all the victims of kidnapping, the Tete Boeuf Marketplace arson and so on. There is also the French Honorary Consul who was murdered very recently.

Violence “totally unacceptable”

The violence is totally unacceptable wherever it comes from. As for us, we think that they should not put all their eggs in one basket. There is a situation of banditry, just as there is a reality that has to do with drug trafficking and there is another reality that has to do with the Lavalas scoundrels. So, if Mr. Valdes said that there are also other political parties involved in this case, then they should question him about it.

Anyway, I think that the message we need to issue is that, concerning this destabilization, certain countries that claim to be Friends of Haiti actually want to live with the nostalgia of the past. Whereas, the nostalgia of the past will never return again. There are people who do not want elections. There are some that want to take the people hostage because they know that the international community, Minustah, the interim government, the other players and the COEP, they all want the people to have a future and hope. For, these people have suffered for so long.

It is unacceptable in 2005 in globalization, in a world that is more and more globalized, for the level of intolerance to drop lower and lower. It is unacceptable for people to [pauses] there are people who even talk about terrorism here. It is unacceptable for people to be playing this destabilization card.

As for me, I am here to bring hope to the people, to send a message of solidarity to the Haitian people, to the government and all those who want to establish democracy in the country through the holding of elections. Canada is there not just to accompany the electoral process but will remain here to accompany the people in the long term.

“A clear message to the government”

[Roc] So, I should think that this is the content of your message because when people were talking about your visit here, they said that you were coming to issue a clear message to the government. Was that the message?

[Codere] The clear message is that everybody has got to do his job and that it is no longer time for philosophy, although I like philosophy very much. But we can do without it. I am rather a man of action. Our government is a government of action. We have Ambassador [Claude] Boucher who is constantly working and who has shown this nice friendship and solidarity.

You know, a friend does not always have to say what he thinks the other friend would like to know but what he should know. And I think that what I have noticed, my assessment of this trip so far is that I felt the urgency to take action and that the strategy is not just in the immediate announcement but also in the follow-up. Canada will be there to make sure that there is follow-up. However, Canada will not be there to dictate things but it will be there instead in a context of friendship and accompaniment. [passage omitted]

Social programmes

[Roc] Mr. Codere, you have talked about investing in social programmes. This is very important because I know that Canada always keeps its word. Canada is always quick to disburse funds more quickly than other countries. Besides, as I always say, Canada has taken the lead in terms of giving assistance to Haiti. But we have also had promises made by the United States, for example, particularly in favour of volatile places like Cite Soleil. But a year later, these promises still remain to be fulfilled.

Now, what I want to stress is that the situation has worsened not just in terms of insecurity but also in the sense of the problems we were trying to work on a year ago. What I mean is that, how can this accompaniment in social programs take place effectively now while these gangs are in fact making more money than the international community could give them? For example, not only do they use their weapons to get what they want, but experts have revealed that the kidnappers have made over 5m dollars from December to now in kidnapping activities. I do not think that any international program would be able to help these criminals make as much money as that.

So, my question is this. How can we encourage these kidnappers and the young people who are going to follow them for convenience purposes to choose to work hard instead so that they can earn a living? How can we encourage them to get involved in accompaniment programs while they know that they will not get a decent salary by working hard and with honesty? How can we change this situation, Mr. Codere? You are talking about the urgent need to take action, but we have a reality here.

Security means dignity

[Denis Codere] I completely agree with you. To repeat what my friend [French Special Envoy Daniel] Parfait said, security also means dignity. It is not just a question of selective actions saying that we are carrying out a program that will be beneficial for everybody.

[Roc] Do you think that we could speak of values in a country where dignity means nothing to these people? Unfortunately, dignity is one of the values that have disappeared in this country to be replaced by gangs in general.

[Codere] This is the reason why I said that in my opinion insecurity is also a social issue. I do not want to fall into a certain fatalism or cynicism. I believe in the people’s good will inasmuch as we are going to take action. I make a distinction between the gangs and the people and it is essential to do that. So, I think that we should also [pauses] there are selective actions that should be taken against the gangs, but at the same time, we need to talk to the people and accompany them. It is certain that when the people have lost their dignity, when they have no hope even to be able to get food to eat, then they just have to support armed gangs. [words indistinct] and this is going to give a new reality. But the issue here is that people will need to determine what the reality should be. This should be based on certain values, that is, to work in cooperation with the Haitians themselves and to their advantage, because it is not just a government or the international community that will bring the solution. This requires everybody’s participation.