Originally: A Delegation to Revive HOPE
Haiti Democracy Project
Report of the “Delegation to Revive HOPE”
Click here for the delegation’s detailed schedule
Second Haitian-American delegation to Washington, September 6–8, 2006
The Haiti Democracy Project’s September 6–8 delegation to Washington made key contacts which helped greatly in the introduction of HOPE on September 21, 2006.
In meetings with Rep. E. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.), chairman of the trade subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, and with Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), ranking Democrat on the committee, the delegation energized the two congressmen, who then made short work of the obstacles to HOPE’s introduction.
From June to September 2006, the Haiti Democracy Project’s delegations of Haitian-Americans were among the few Congress and the executive agencies were hearing from on behalf of HOPE.
The pre-inaugural visit last spring of President Preval, the work of Amb. Raymond Joseph, the interventions from the Haitian ADIH manufacturers’ associations, and the contributions of specialists in U.S. law firms and trade associations were also important contributing factors.
Altogether, this delegation saw five members of Congress: four House members and one senator. It also visited the White House, State Department, and international agencies.
The delegation was led as before by Lionel Delatour, well known in Washington for his tireless advocacy of Haiti, especially in the fields of investment and job creation. The delegation was strengthened by the presence of two dynamic Haitian women, Marie Florence Siclait Bell and Maryse Kedar-Penette . Ms. Bell, of Miami, was chairperson of Gov. Jeb Bush’s Haiti Advisory Group. Ms. Kedar-Penette, of Port-au-Prince and Miami, is president of the ADIH manufacturers’ association in Haiti, past minister of tourism, and resident representative for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
The delegation also had Illinois state senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th district), the highest-ranking Haitian-American elected official in the United States. It also had Jocelyn McCalla, director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, the oldest Haitian human-rights organization in the United States. Amb. Ernest H. Preeg, chairman of the board of the project, joined the visit to the State Department. Claire Sturm, the able new associate of the Haiti Democracy Project, accompanied the delegation.
Motivated by their meetings with the delegation on September 7 and 8, Representatives Rangel and Shaw each took measures to revive the HOPE legislation in the House Ways and Means Committee. These include discussions with committee chairman Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). Given the paucity of other messages, the eloquence of the Haitian-Americans on our delegations was a key factor remotivating these dramatis personae who are both long-term supporters of Haiti but are always distracted by a plethora of other issues.
This was the primary contribution of the delegation. There are many Haiti supporters in Congress, but they need to be activated.
By redirecting these key senior members of Congress to Haiti’s cause, the Haitian-American legislators and leaders on our delegations have stepped to the front as full players on behalf of Haiti in Washington.
Meetings with development organizations focused on ministerial capacity-building, strengthening judicial integrity, improving finance infrastructure for private sector development, creating wealth in rural areas, as well as professional development training for Haitian legislators and their staffs. Security concerns surfaced in most discussions of development strategies. There is an evident lack of coordination among key development organizations working in Haiti. There is also hope across the development community that Haitian Americans will play an increasingly prominent role in providing technical expertise.
The CEP announced that the next municipal and local elections would be held on December 3, and that date has since been published by the government. All members of Congress, agency officials and organization staff concerned with Haiti agreed that this last round of elections was essential to further build the legitimacy of the Préval government and to increase confidence of the international community. The presence of international observers would provide further validation. The OAS could field election observers if the Préval government requests them. Members of the Haitian diaspora made excellent observers because of their cultural and linguistic familiarity with the country.
Notes on individual meetings
Rep. E. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) is the chairman of the subcommittee on trade of the House Ways and Means Committee. He considered the delegation’s forceful support for Haiti as a plus in the debate. Similarly, he thought that a visit by President Préval could get the attention of policy-makers.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Western Hemisphere subcommittee, is another friend of Haiti and sympathized with its problems in security, in job-creation that HOPE would address, and the completion of elections. He supported Representative Foley?s bill to send a hundred Haitian-Americans to Haiti for one year. He wanted Congress to keep abreast of MINUSTAH and would like to participate in a possible bipartisan congressional delegation to Haiti in December 2006.
Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) last June, after a meeting with the Haiti Democracy Project?s “Delegation to Move Haiti Forward,” asked Rep. Bill Thomas, the chairman of Ways and Means, to introduce the HOPE legislation in September. After two years of unofficial discussion by the committee, he believed it was time to move the bill. He said that a meeting between Chairman Thomas and President Préval could help bring that about.
Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and her aide Robert Marcus expressed their deep concern for Haiti and their support for the concept of the HOPE legislation, although because of their principled support of U.S. labor and labor rights she would like to see the actual text once it was introduced.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) knew Haiti and had visited it with Senator DeWine (R-Ohio). In the forty-five-minute meeting of the delegation with this senior senator, he asked each delegation member for an assessment of the situation in Haiti. He saw the HOPE bill as a step forward. He noted the need to work with Senators DeWine and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to help the bill move in the Senate. He expressed his wish to return to Haiti soon.
Rep. Charles E. Rangel (D-N.Y.) resumed discussion of the themes that the Haiti Democracy Project delegation had raised with him in June. The focus was on overcoming the hurdles to HOPE. Rangel too worried that because of internal House politics, HOPE might not be introduced before the November 7 elections. If the Democrats were to win back the House, the chances would recede that committee members would introduce HOPE during the lame-duck session. That made a push in September 2006 all the more important.
For if it languished through the lame-duck session as well, it would then only be introduced after the House was reorganized, in June or July 2007. Representative Rangel believed that that would be too late for Haiti and too late to shore up support for President Préval. The United States would have failed Haiti in a vital area and the ramifications would be far greater than any minor effect of greater Haitian production in a field already dominated by China.
The only way Rangel saw to speed up the process would be for President Bush to officially declare HOPE a “critical patriotic interest.” This too was unlikely, but Rangel believed that if the president did this just before the lame-duck session, the legislation would go through. Gov. Jeb Bush reportedly had contacted Chairman Thomas without success in moving the bill forward. Linking it to another bill was not a viable option either. Congressman Rangel suggested putting it on the suspension calendar, which would allow a symbolic passage at the beginning of the next Congress.
In his masterly, systematic exploration of the options, and his low estimation of the prospects of other support for HOPE, Representative Rangel persuaded himself that HOPE would require a new, major effort by himself as ranking Democrat on the committee. And indeed after our visit he threw himself in it, with senior House Ways and Means Committee personnel reporting that Rangel was exploring new options of combining HOPE with other measures, which the Republicans on the committee wanted but Rangel had hitherto hoped to avoid.
Brian Nichols is director of the office of Caribbean affairs at the State Department. He expressed his optimism for Haiti, saying that President Préval was sending the right signals politically, although he remained concerned about security. He mentioned the November 2006 donors? meeting in Spain. To Jocelyn McCalla’s question as to how to involve the Haitian-American community, he said the Diaspora could keep the attention of policy-makers focused on Haiti and could make crucial investments of skills and financial resources in the Haitian economy.
Doug Fears is the director for Central America and the Caribbean at the National Security Council. He believed that the HOPE legislation would be introduced in the next Congress. Fears recognized the Haitian diaspora as a powerful resource for Haiti, not only in remittances but also in its potential to bring technical expertise to Haiti.
Susan Williams and Jessi Frend are legislative aides to Sen. Mike DeWine. Ms. Williams briefed the delegation on the senator’s meeting with U.S. trade representative Amb. Susan Schwab on September 7. Ambassador Schwab understood Senator DeWine’s dedication to HOPE, but was not actively involved because HOPE is not a negotiation but a unilateral U.S. decision. The senator told Ambassador Schwab that the bill was overdue, and said he would be in close touch with the House Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate, the vote would depend on majority leader Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Finance Committee.
Caroline Tess is a legislative aide to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). She said that linking the HOPE bill with the Vietnam Permanent Normal Trading Relations bill would complicate the issue for the House. Senator Nelson was considering a letter recommending the bill to Senator Grassley. As to the situation in Haiti, Senator Nelson believed that President Préval was on the right track.
Greg Adams is the legislative director for Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.). He understood Haiti’s problems in Washington including short attention span and budgetary limitations. He noted that the House Democracy Assistance Commission, coordinated by the office of fellow California representative David Dreier (R-Calif.), might also send observers.
Amb. Albert Ramdin is the assistant secretary-general of the Organization of American States. He described the organization’s current involvement in Haiti:
- civil registry
- assistance to CEP
- determined targeted support of the PNH and judicial system
- dialogue between political parties
- trade orientation missions
- security mission
Ambassador Ramdin said that the Haitian-diaspora-consultant program to the ministries would be renewed if the Haitian government asked for it. He also encouraged investment in infrastructure, with the objective to create jobs in the short term, such as city cleaning, and in the long term, such as tourism. The OAS could also be involved in election monitoring, provided the Préval government requests such a presence.
Lionel Nicol is a deputy manager of regional operations at the Inter-American Development Bank. He met the delegation with eight staff members. The bank’s approach to Haiti is a coordinated effort to increase cooperation between the government and the private sector. Parliament was taking its role seriously but also needed improvements at the structural level, in staff training, and in the execution of oversight. One way to involve the Haitian diaspora was to select advisers for key ministries, although the issue then became the length of the advisers’ commitment; it would need to be long-term.
Conclusion: From Hopeless to Hopeful
President Préval’s initiative in visiting Washington to advocate HOPE even before he was inaugurated got the ball rolling. Then the support of the ADIH manufacturers? association, the Haitian chamber of commerce, the local Haitian-American community all set the stage for the June and September delegations of Haitian-American leaders organized by the Haiti Democracy Project. Judicious intervention by Amb. Raymond Joseph of Haiti was also essential. As a result, in Stephen Lande’s words, the so-called Hopeless bill has now become the Hopeful bill.
One breaking point came when after the September delegation’s conversation with Representative Rangel, he indicated to Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, that he would not insist on a stand-alone bill for Haiti. Equal reasonableness on the Republican side, which was reportedly reluctant to introduce trade legislation shortly before an election, played a commensurate role. Intervention by a number of HOPE supporters, particularly Lionel Delatour in his discussions with Representatives Shaw and Rangel, paved the way for this breakthrough.