Ambassador Donald Steinberg
Special Haiti Coordinator
Statement before the Senate Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing,
and Related Programs
Washington, DC, March 23, 2000
U.S. Assistance to Haiti
I welcome the opportunity to be with you this morning to discuss recent developments in Haiti and the Administration's efforts to address the challenges of promoting democracy, human rights, and economic recovery there. I just returned from my sixth visit to Haiti since November, and I look forward to an exchange of views with you on the road ahead.
Pursuing American National Security Interests
Since the early 1990s, Haiti has been a focal point of our efforts in the Western Hemisphere. Our objectives, based on strong national security interests, include: helping Haiti join the global march toward democracy through construction of basic institutions; alleviating crushing poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition; stemming illegal migration; and interdicting drug trafficking.
Pursuing these objectives has been a huge challenge and the record has been decidedly mixed. Haiti is struggling to overcome political, economic, and social legacies of nearly two centuries of authoritarian regimes and rapacious governments that fostered deep class and social divisions; it must also overcome the most severe poverty in the Western Hemisphere. Democratic institutions are fragile at best. Unemployment, crime, illiteracy, and poverty pose constant threats to stability. At a level of 99 per 1,000 live births per year, Haiti's infant mortality rate is nearly triple the Caribbean average of 38 per year. Some 28% of Haitian children under five suffer from malnutrition.
Events in Haiti were spiraling out of control in the early 1990s as a result of the coup d'etat that expelled then-President Aristide from office and established the de facto regime. This brutal military regime in Port-au-Prince victimized opposition figures; tens of thousands of boat people risked their lives to flee the terror; starvation and suffering were rampant; and the economy was in shambles due to capital flight and foreign sanctions. When international political and economic pressure failed to dislodge the de facto regime, a multinational force -- including some 20,000 U.S. troops -- restored order and made possible the restoration of elected government.
There were also dire predictions that if American forces were used as part of an international effort to restore the democratically elected government, we would face huge casualties and decades of military engagement. Fortunately, this was not the case. The vast majority of U.S. forces were out of Haiti within 6 months, and today there are no permanent U.S. forces there.
Areas of Progress Since 1995
Haiti has not met all the expectations held by many in the heady days after the restoration of the democratically elected government -- and I will be quite frank in a moment about areas of disappointment -- but we can share some satisfaction in strides to alleviate hunger, build basic institutions such as the national police, increase access to education, combat environmental degradation, incubate civil society, and demobilize the armed forces.
U.S. development assistance from 1995 to 1999 came to roughly $746 million. For roughly $.60 per American each year, we have been able to support a range of projects such as helping 225,000 farmers adopt sustainable agricultural practices; training some 6,000 teachers at primary and secondary levels; and supporting hundreds of grassroots organizations in the health, environmental, and public advocacy sectors. Our population program reaches women in the most rural areas and has doubled the use of modern family planning practices to 26% in the areas in which it operates. Our food security program feeds daily some 500,000 of Haiti's schoolchildren, down from more than one million several years ago. Our health care program supports access to primary health care services for nearly half the population and promotes child immunization.
The U.S. Agency for International Development -- USAID -- plans to build on its core projects in 2000 and 2001, albeit at reduced funding levels, with added focus on longer term development programs. USAID will continue its "Secondary Cities" program, begun in FY 99, to reduce the flow of migration to densely populated Port-au-Prince by increasing opportunities in and improving services to urban areas outside of the capital. If successful elections take place, USAID also plans to resume assistance to the Parliament and local governments.
At the same time, there are other areas where our best efforts have been frustrated and disappointing.
First, the consolidation of democratic institutions has been thwarted by the disbanding of Parliament and local governments in January 1999, and the failure to hold prompt, free, and fair elections. Due in part to U.S. and international assistance and the steady work of the Provisional Electoral Council -- CEP -- credible parliamentary and local elections can be held in time to seat a Parliament on June 12 as mandated by the constitution. We have voiced strong opposition to further delays in the vote, and we have worked with the international community -- including the United Nations, Organization of American States, and the European Union -- to underscore the urgency of prompt and credible elections. I will discuss this point further below.
Second, the "Administration of Justice" program in Haiti has trained scores of judges and prosecutors, contributed to the release of hundreds of pre-trial detainees, and provided free legal assistance to thousands of impoverished Haitians. Nonetheless, the judiciary remains essentially inoperative, plagued by huge case backlogs, a continued shortage of adequately trained judges and prosecutors, a lack of basic resources, minimal oversight by the Ministry of Justice, and pre-trial detention rate of roughly 80%. Numerous individuals are being detained despite valid release orders, or without charges filed against them. The poor state of the judiciary remains at the core of many of Haiti's problems, severely inhibiting investment, perpetuating corruption, denying average Haitians access to justice, and spurring vigilantism.
Third, in 1995, Haiti replaced its long-abusive military with a new civilian police force, mentored and trained primarily by the United Nations and the USAID-funded Department of Justice International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program -- ICITAP. Although there is no longer a severe and systematic pattern of abuse, as under the Duvalier and de facto regimes, the Haitian National Police -- HNP -- remains an immature force grappling with problems of corruption, attrition, and incidents of narcotics trafficking and human rights abuse.
Fourth, combating drug trafficking through Haiti remains one of this Administration's highest priorities. We have increased our DEA presence in Port-au-Prince from one to eight officers in the past year and increased interdiction efforts to counter air drops, direct freighter shipments, and money laundering. Still, some 13% of the cocaine entering the U.S. transits Haiti, and narco-traffickers operate with relative ease. Drug trafficking threatens to corrupt the basic institutions of Haiti, including the police, judiciary, and government. The Administration determined on March 1 that Haiti failed to meet 1999 counter-drug certification criteria, but granted a vital national interest certification.
U.S. Policy: The Road Ahead
As we look to the future, our roadmap is clear:
First, we seek prompt and credible legislative and local elections. Elections per se do not equal democracy, nor are they a panacea for all that ails Haiti, but after years of impasse and stagnation, free and fair elections can empower government to spur economic growth; attract new private investment; negotiate new cooperation from international partners; and attack festering social problems such as crime, insecurity, corruption, and drug trafficking that threaten to become cancers at the heart of Haiti's institutions.
Haitians' thirst for democracy was shown by the over 3.6 million Haitians -- about 80% of those eligible -- who registered to vote in the past 2 months. More than 29,000 candidates from a wide array of parties registered to run for nearly 10,000 local, regional, and parliamentary offices. Preparations have been characterized by some irregularities and some incidents of violence, but not at a level to prevent credible elections. The CEP was delayed in opening registration sites in Port-au-Prince, but most locations were open, and accommodating large crowds, by early March.
We will continue to stress clearly and strongly the importance of holding these elections rapidly. We have expressed privately and publicly that it is time for the Haitian Government to publish new dates for elections and lend full support to ensure those dates are met. We warned that failure to constitute a Parliament risks isolating Haiti from the community of democracies and jeopardizes future cooperation.
We will also continue to underscore to all political leaders that they are responsible for actions of their party membership, that the legitimacy of presidential elections later this year depends on credible elections this spring, and that international aid flows require the presence of a fully functioning legislature.
Second, we seek to strengthen Haiti's basic democratic and security institutions to improve respect for the rule of law and the protection of basic human rights. Most notably, working with the UN and the so-called "Friends of Haiti" (U.S., Canada, France, Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela), we are putting in place a new UN mission called MICAH to provide international technical assistance to the police, judiciary, and human rights sector. MICAH is much smaller than its predecessor UN missions, and moves the focus of UN operations in Haiti from peacekeeping to institution building. Its human rights component will increase emphasis on developing an indigenous capacity for monitoring and promoting human rights. Among other efforts, the justice component will help Haitians modernize the Ministry of Justice, improve the quality of judges, and revise the archaic criminal code.
Bilaterally, we will continue to press the Haitian Government to reduce the high rate of pre-trial detention, and enhance the effectiveness of our police training, including new efforts to promote retention of existing officers and recruitment of qualified new officers.
Third, we will remain engaged in promoting economic development to address abject poverty and festering socio-economic problems. In addition to USAID efforts cited above, we are encouraging others in the international community to share the burden of helping Haiti move forward. We meet with bilateral donors and international financial institutions to discuss how we can work together to support economic recovery and democracy. All have agreed to consider new engagement in Haiti if conditions can be established for effective use for scarce international resources. At the same time, we are working with the Haitian diaspora in the United States to encourage their increased involvement, recognizing their personal interest in success and prosperity in Haiti.
We will continue to press the Haitian Government to restore fiscal discipline and move ahead on the modernization of key state-owned enterprises and on other critical areas of economic reform.
Finally, we continue efforts to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs and prevent a resurgence in illegal migration. We will work on an interagency level in planning U.S. law enforcement activities, in such areas as tracking international traffickers, improving the drug interdiction capacity of Haitian police, attacking money laundering, and facilitating cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic on cross-border narcotics issues.
As the U.S. has remained engaged in Haiti, the number of illegal migrants leaving Haiti by boat for the U.S. has declined. The U.S. Coast Guard interdicted 67,140 Haitian migrants at sea from 1992-94. In 1999, there were only some 1,039 such interdictions. We will work with Haitian authorities to identify and prosecute individuals involved in alien smuggling operations, and continue monitoring trends that may indicate the potential for renewed large-scale migration to the U.S.
Building on Past Cooperation
We look forward to enhanced cooperation with this committee to promote U.S. interests in Haiti through strengthening democratic institutions, promoting respect for human rights and transparent and responsive government, helping lay the groundwork for sustainable economic development, and disrupting the flow of illegal drugs and preventing a flood of illegal migrants.
Already we have made a foothold in supporting an increasingly confident civil society, free and active press, improved respect for human rights, vocal political opposition, decreased population growth, improved agricultural practices, and increased literacy and access to basic healthcare. We cannot turn our backs on a fledgling democracy nor on extreme poverty on our doorstep. If the U.S. and international community remain engaged -- resisting the easy solace of fatigue and frustration -- future generations may look back to the year 2000 as the period in which the roots of democracy, national reconciliation, and economic recovery finally took hold. This is good for Haitians and good for the United States as well. Thank you.
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