Originally: Independence Day Reception Speach
July 3 2005
Minister Bazin, members of the government and the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, dear friends,
I thank all of you for coming to share our celebration of the 229th anniversary of the independence of the United States. I believe it is particularly important that we are gathered here together ? Haitians, Americans and our friends from the international community ? to demonstrate our solidarity with the Haitian people in one of the most painful moments of their history. The history of my own country has also been punctuated by difficult trials: a civil war, two world wars and the struggle against racial discrimination in our society. Since September 11, 2001, we have found ourselves once again confronted by a major challenge. That day we were struck by the biggest terrorist attack ever known. But the American people have not shirked from this challenge; they remain determined to vanquish this scourge regardless of the cost for us and regardless of how long it takes.
This experience has made us extremely aware of the difficulties the Haitian people are currently experiencing. Today in Haiti, people are burning homes; they are burning stores; they are attacking transportation and communication links; they are kidnapping people of all social classes; they are assassinating, torturing and raping. The June 1st attack on the Tete Boeuf market was unimaginably savage; the attackers shot at people so that they would perish inside the market that they had torched. 4,000 merchants and employees lost their livelihoods.
All of this has a name. The use of violence against civilians for political purposes is the very definition of terrorism. The difference with our experience is that in Haiti this is happening silently, daily and secretly. The terrorists do not dare to reveal themselves; they do not dare to claim responsibility for their actions. There are certainly criminal and shadowy elements who have aligned with the political masterminds, and whose participation only makes the political aims all the more illegitimate. But for the most part we know what is involved and who is involved. That is why Ambassador Valdes condemned certain so-called political representatives who attend meetings with the United Nations while at the same time planning violence against the United Nations forces.
The people responsible for the violence can certainly still do more harm. They are strong when it comes to destruction. However, they are incapable of building anything. In fact, their use of violence is a sign of weakness. They claim to represent many Haitians, but in fact they terrorize them and hold them hostage, preventing any possibility of an economic recovery that would benefit the population. They claim to be popular, but in reality they are afraid of the elections. They commit terrorist acts in order to destroy the electoral process and retake power to serve their own interests. Above all they seek to prevent the people from freely choosing their next leaders.
But they will not succeed. First of all because they need anonymity, and this they no longer enjoy. There is not a single responsible government in the world that will treat with those spreading terror in Haiti. In continuing with their campaign of destruction and destabilization, they are excluding themselves politically.
They will not succeed as well because they do not have the support of the people. The people want peace and economic progress. This requires a return of tranquility, which is the only way to profit from international assistance and to attract investments critical to economic recovery.
They will not succeed, finally, because the international community will not give in to terrorist pressure. The solidarity of the international community will be manifested. MINUSTAH and all the members of the United Nations that support it will create the climate necessary for holding free and independent elections in Haiti.
However, to succeed we also need the support of all elements of Haitian society. There needs first of all to be a surge of national unity against violence and in favor of the rebuilding of the country. The reshuffled transition government now has the road map of the Council of Wise Men, supported by civil society, to implement. What is needed is to make rapid and concrete progress in the areas of security, elections preparation and in the struggle against misery in the most afflicted neighborhoods. The Provisional Electoral Council also must bestir itself and finally play effectively its role in preparing the elections. And the political parties themselves have a great responsibility in the success of the transition. They should seek to establish unity on behalf of the supreme interests of the nation ? first by condemning, without exception, the use of violence for political ends; and then by working for the amalgamation of political parties and candidacies in order to give the people coherent and viable choices at the time of the elections.
Here this evening, the theme of our celebration is Democracy for all. Around this theme we have organized an exhibit of democratic movements around the world ? in Asia, Europe, the United States and Haiti. Each photo bears witness to the desire of every human being to shape his destiny by voting for the candidates of his choice.
On this occasion I therefore launch an appeal to all Haitians to go register for the elections so that you can indeed shape your destiny. I know that in the present circumstances it is very difficult to see a way out of the current situation. But the key to change is in your hands. You not only have to register, but you should also mobilize yourselves to demand specific plans from the political parties and eventual candidates as to how they would change the country. You have had too much experience with politicians who make promises that they do not keep, and who seek power in order to profit themselves from power.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to close by recalling the recent visit to Haiti of a great American, Ambassador Andrew Young, whose personal witness and experience are relevant to the current situation in Haiti. Ambassador Young was a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; he was present at his assassination. He explained to us how he and his other colleagues decided to forego vengeance and instead continue on a peaceful path to obtain the changes for which Dr. King gave his life. He also explained how as mayor of Atlanta he managed to bring together all the social classes to work for the common good. He was able to persuade the wealthy that it was in their interest that the economy benefit the whole population, even in the most underprivileged communities. Today, the remarkable prosperity of Atlanta is the result of the reconciliation and collaboration among all social classes that Ambassador Young was able to foster, so that the American dream would become accessible to all.
There is a need for this kind of dream in Haiti today. There needs to be an outpouring of solidarity among brothers and sisters of this country in order to finally end the violence that has blighted the history of Haiti; to turn the page on these most difficult past 20 years; and to go forward towards democracy and economic progress for all. The United States is linked forever to Haiti. You can count on the American people to help you and to accompany you all along this difficult but unavoidable path.