Peter F. Romero
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Remarks to the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH)
Washington, DC, June 30, 2000
I am delighted to have this opportunity to visit Georgetown and address this impressive gathering of friends of Haiti. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Georgetown University Haiti Program for inviting me.
I also wish to compliment the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH) on its initiative in sponsoring its two-day "Summit 2000." As I understand it, the objective of the summit is to sharpen knowledge on many key issues related to the development of Haiti and to U.S.-Haiti policy, and to use that knowledge to deliberate on NOAH's role in development initiatives and policy debates.
I have been a long-standing advocate of the need for U.S. citizens whose roots are in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to become involved in helping to determine our nation's hemispheric priorities. With that involvement, U.S. foreign policy can be better informed, better focused, and more inclusive.
I know that our principal focus today is Haiti. Before turning my remarks specifically to Haiti, however, and passing the microphone to my colleague, Don Steinberg, I would like to make a few comments that place Haiti in the broader context of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere. This is particularly important in view of the fact that today Haiti is no longer as isolated as it has been throughout much of its history.
We can attribute this decrease in Haiti's isolation to several important factors. Among them is the role played by Haiti's overseas population in breaking down the barriers that have existed between Haiti and its neighbors since independence in 1804. Also, an important factor is the fact that following the 1986 demise of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti began to find its place in the hemisphere -- and the world -- among other countries where democratic transitions had become the rule rather than the exception.
The United States has three primary goals in the Western Hemisphere: consolidating democracy, promoting economic reform, and helping Latin American and Caribbean societies protect themselves from the onslaught of transnational crime -- particularly the narcotics trade. These goals are inextricably intertwined. If we fail on one front, we will eventually fail on all of them.
Drugs and Crime
Let me begin this brief discussion of primary U.S. policy goals in the Western Hemisphere with some comments on transnational crime. Transnational crime -- particularly illegal drug trafficking -- undermines the rule of law, corrupts justice, and thwarts economic development. As you are aware, Colombia is now the key to this focus.
Colombia is key in large part because of the important successes our counter-narcotics efforts have already yielded in Bolivia and Peru. With U.S. assistance, both countries cut coca production dramatically. For example, in Peru production has been reduced by about two-thirds over the last 3½ years.
An indispensable element to this success has been the re-establishment of government control and the return of government services to former drug producing safe havens.
Also vital is the partnership and cooperation of national governments and citizen organizations. This is true whether the key national issue is production or trafficking.
Most Latin American and Caribbean nations are firmly on the path of economic reform, stepping into the 21st century with privatized economies, liberalized regulatory systems, and improved financial systems. U.S. trade with the rest of the hemisphere is strong, and growing. And steps are already well underway to vastly increase that trade via the creation of the world's largest free-trade area by the year 2005 -- the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA.
Unfortunately, these positive developments are hindered by the fact that corruption and government inefficiency still thrive at near epidemic levels in some countries in the region, and the political will to put aside partisan differences and pursue sound economic policies is simply not always there. When we examine the growing importance of governmental decentralization and the increasingly important role that Parliaments have begun to play in governance throughout the hemisphere, we see how vitally important it is for there to be an emerging consensus within the body politic and the political party apparatus.
Of critical importance, also, is the growing realization that the region's prosperity is not being equally shared. The per capita growth of the '90s, averaging about 1% per year, is not enough to make a real impact on the daily lives of the lowest third of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean that lives on $2 or less a day.
In the context of Haiti, the poor have not seen enough progress toward achieving their expectations for an improved standard of living that accompanied the restoration of democratically elected government in 1994. The achievement of economic reform goals is vitally important in Haiti to create the framework for the investment and job creation that will help to make lasting progress toward meeting those expectations. Unfortunately, progress toward economic reform in Haiti has been uneven and painfully slow.
Consolidation of Democracy
Citizens throughout the hemisphere are justly proud that the Western Hemisphere is now the hemisphere of democracy. In most countries democratic institutions are growing stronger.
Progress in democratic consolidation has been uneven, however, and great challenges remain. Recent coup attempts in Paraguay and in Ecuador, a questionable presidential election in Peru, Colombia's on-going civil conflict and, most essential to today's meeting, the flawed election results in Haiti, are disturbing developments.
While disturbing, I want to emphasize an important fact. These developments run counter to a 20-year trend toward democratization throughout the hemisphere. This is a trend that has left only one regional state -- Cuba -- without a democratically elected government. While certain problems persist, this year alone will see democratic elections in Venezuela and Mexico, and it has already seen one in Haiti's neighbor -- the Dominican Republic. Democracy remains alive and vital in Latin America and the Caribbean.
A major question remains as to whether Haiti will be added to the list of hemispheric nations that have achieved democratic elections this year. Haiti's quest to solidify its position in the ranks of world and Western Hemisphere democracies since the 1986 demise of the Duvalier family dictatorship certainly has been fraught with many obstacles and setbacks. Over the past 3 years, in particular, Haiti has been plagued by one debilitating political crisis after another.
Today, Haiti is fraught with a new political crisis -- one completely of its own making, and one which threatens to re-isolate Haiti from the world's community of democratic nations. That crisis centers around how Haitian authorities determined the results of the Senate elections run on May 21.
In elections held that day, more than two million Haitians of all walks of life voted -- more than 60% of the registered voters. With dignity and a commitment to the principles of democracy, Haitians clearly expressed their desire to choose transparently -- through the ballot box -- a government that could work toward ending hunger, poverty, illiteracy, disease, and corruption.
Today, the dignity and commitment of those voters -- and of the many thousands of Haitians who worked to organize and observe elections in their communities -- has been put in jeopardy on account of a vote tabulation process that has failed to apply Haiti's own electoral law. Haitian election law is clear on this: in the races for the Parliament, the victor must gain 50% plus one of all the valid votes cast.
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) instead decided to use a methodology that counted only the votes for the top four vote-getters of the Senate races in each department. As a result, the votes of hundreds of thousands of Haitian citizens throughout the country were simply cast aside by electoral officials as meaningless. Haiti's people -- like minorities in this country -- have struggled long and hard to achieve the right to vote. After that struggle, and their expressed determination to exercise that right, for these votes to be simply cast aside as meaningless is unconscionable.
The Organization of American States Electoral Observation Mission pointed out the flawed methodology early in the vote tabulation process and asked that corrective measures be taken by the CEP. The OAS request was rebuffed by the CEP, which instead, ultimately announced official results that gave first-round victories in the 17 Senate races to at least seven candidates who should have been required to enter into second-round run-off elections.
That these races were awarded to candidates of the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party is not the issue. What is at stake here is the correct application of Haiti's own electoral law and the sanctity of the vote in determining the ultimate outcome of those races.
The U.S. has made its position clear. It supports the findings of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission and believes that the results of the Senate races, as determined through the use of the flawed methodology and as announced in Haiti, are not correct. We have been joined by Canada, France, and other governments in expressing both our deep concerns over this issue and our continued support of the OAS. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, has issued a statement expressing similar concerns and continued support. The European Union has been equally outspoken.
Important voices in Haiti from civil society, the Catholic church, and the business sector are also speaking out on this issue.
Today, the ball is clearly in the court of the Haitian authorities to act quickly to resolve this issue to the satisfaction of its own citizens and the international community. Much is at stake. The insistence of the Government of Haiti in accepting the flawed results of the Senate vote puts at severe risk the prospect that the Parliament will be recognized by the international community. It also puts at severe risk the prospect that the presidential elections scheduled for November of this year will be viewed as free and fair by the U.S. and by the international community.
Finally, all future allocations of multilateral and bilateral assistance to the Government of Haiti, including the $500 million of multilateral aid already on hold for want of a legitimate Parliament, will be severely jeopardized.
To conclude, U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere recognizes that our support for social and economic development in this region can't succeed if the hemisphere's democracies are weak. Our democracy programs seek to help assure the governments have the know-how and wherewithal, as well as the commitment, to protect the rights of the citizens and deliver the services, security, and growth that they deserve.
Implementing these policies is not an American crusade. We need to work hand-in-hand with the many in this hemisphere who want the transition to democracy to be both permanent and complete, including such organizations as NOAH. When we all work together, we can expect results.
[end of document]
|| Western Hemisphere Affairs | Policy Remarks Index | State Department Home Page ||