|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Haitian President Rene Preval
Press Conference at the National Palace
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 17, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
PRESIDENT PREVAL: On behalf of the Haitian people, the government and my own behalf, I am happy to express my joy in welcoming here today Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Secretary of State Albright is accompanied by a delegation of important people like Senator Dodd, Ambassador Dobbins and others. We have, of course, had a meeting that dealt with important issues for both countries but I want to be short since Secretary Albright has traveled all night. She's been to Leogane this morning and will be shortly departing. Therefore, I will have her take the floor now.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. Thank you Mr. President. I am glad to be here, three years to the week after legitimate government was restored to Haiti. And I am pleased to be joined by Senator Chris Dodd, one of Haiti's best friends in the United States Congress. No one could deny that Haiti continues to face tremendous challenges; but no one should deny that the Haitian people have made tremendous progress through their determination to live lives of dignity, freedom and hope.
Today I have been privileged to see many of those Haitians working to transform their country. They are building not just formal institutions but the informal ones that are democracy's lifeblood: women's groups, schools, clinics, small businesses. Because of their efforts, and because of help from the international community, Haiti's first transfer of power from one democratically-elected government to another was achieved. Political violence no longer confronts Haitians in every aspect of their daily lives. Haiti's police forces are steadily increasing the authority and respect they command. Inflation is half of its 1995 level.
Modernizations have begun, with two blue-chip American corporations and a Haitian firm banding together to purchase Haiti's flour mill. I want to recognize representatives of the American investors who are with us today: David Daines of Continental Grain and Ralph Moss of Seabord Corporation.
This is the largest single American investment in Haiti of the past three years. It will re-open a mill that has been closed for five years -- increasing Haiti's self-sufficiency, creating jobs, and sending a powerful positive signal to other investors.
And Haiti is contributing to regional goals such as the war on drugs. Haitian authorities have seized over 3,000 kilos of cocaine in the last 20 months alone. And President Preval and I have just signed an agreement that expands cooperation between the U.S. and Haitian Coast Guards to stop drug trafficking at sea.
These accomplishments are real, they are significant, and they are above all popile --achievements of the Haitian people. But in the words of a local proverb, "beyond mountains there are more mountains."
Haiti is at peace; but tyranny's legacy of political uncertainty and economic ruin persists. And progress in breaking the cycle of grinding poverty and despair is slow indeed.
I have come to Haiti to recognize the progress that has been made under the leadership of President Preval. And to take stock, with him and other leaders and people of how we can jump-start a renewed cycle of progress. We took one important step today by moving to add $2 million to our support for family planning programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development. I was very moved in my visit to Leogane today by the strength of Haitian women's desire for methods to control their fertility and to build better lives for their families. This money will go immediately to support programs like those we saw; I encourage other donor countries to join us in meeting this challenge. I agreed with the wisdom of the doctor there who said that the program is built on the basis of helping women and children. That is the way to move a society forward.
Just now, President Preval and I discussed Haiti's political stalemate. I told him the same thing I will say to other political leaders with whom I will meet: disputes in parliament are the lifeblood of democracy. But Haiti has gone too long with its government at a standstill. All politicians, of all parties, must ask not what is best for themselves, but what is best for Haiti.
Parliament must look past its differences and seize this moment to unblock over $100 million in foreign assistance, and to restore the international confidence that will attract still more resources to the task of rebuilding the Haitian economy.
President Preval's reform package is integral to this effort, not just because it foresees modernization and other steps to improve Haiti's economy, but because it will help provide stability as the country goes through reform. Funding for education, agriculture, roads, and health care are an integral part of the reform.
I do not intend to tell Haiti's political parties how to resolve their differences; that is democracy's great chore. But I can assure you that this is a reform package designed by Haitians to provide immediate benefits to Haitians. It is the right package at the right time.
President Preval and I also discussed how the international community can support Haiti's stability and help lighten the burdens his government faces. I also shared with him my tremendous pride in the American troops I saw today -- both for the good work they are doing and the warm acceptance that they have earned among the Haitian people. The tasks remaining here in Haiti are immense. We know that democracy cannot be built from the outside; the tree of liberty must find its roots deep in Haitian soil.
Haiti remains desperately poor, but it is abundant in the resources that can build lasting stability. Its culture is rich; its pride great; its people imbued with energy and courage. Haiti and its friends around the world must continue to develop those resources and keep all our eyes firmly fixed on the prize of a Haiti that enters the twenty-first century free, at peace, and increasingly able to put food on the table and hope in the hearts of all its children.
President Preval, I thank you very much for all you have accomplished and all that your are going to accomplish.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the first question is for you and of course there are many crises throughout the world. But we have one right here in Haiti. The problem is that the government is paralyzed and in great difficulty. You said you do not want to dictate solutions to Haitians. Now, what does the U.S. government intend to do? Is it going to deploy heavy diplomatic artillery or are you going to ask the parties to solve these questions? President Preval, your question is about what are you going to do about the crisis? Are you going to appoint a new prime minister? Are you to call for a second round of elections? We heard that you are going to leave. Everybody is very concerned about that, sir. What are you going to do?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me answer my part which is to say first of all there is no question that we are troubled by the fact that there has been disagreement about how to run this country for some time and there seems to be a lack of action. We, as I said in my statement, are very proud of what has happened in Haiti in the last three years, and the fact that it was possible to transfer power from one democratically-elected president to another has deep significance. Our democracy in the United States is now over 225 years old. And we are still practicing democracy. (Inaudible) ...in our democracy is the art of compromise. And I think that that becomes the essence of democracy and so, President Preval and I discussed the importance of compromise. Thank you.
PRESIDENT PREVAL: The political crisis in Haiti has two different aspects. One is the electoral problem and the other is the prime minister, there is no longer a prime minister.
Tradition is that the President solves everything or every question. That is our tradition. However, in a democracy, that is not the way it works. It is enshrined in the Constitution that there is an electoral council that will oversee elections. This council should decide on differences of interpretation on implementation of electoral law and any challenges to election results. Neither the President nor the government has final say on the results of any election. It is up to the council, the electoral council. The government and the President only give technical support, financial support, etc.
The council, unable to resolve the conflict over the results of the second round of the legislative elections, has left it up to me to find a solution to the problem. This week, I will speak to the council and propose a solution. As far as appointing a new prime minister is concerned, as you know, the Constitution allows me to choose a prime minister, but he must be confirmed by the parliament.
When former Prime Minister Smarth resigned, I said that it was necessary for us first to put an end to the electoral crisis and solve certain economic problems prior to appointing a new prime minister. At that time I was accused of being a presidentialist, of wanting more power for the presidency. We lost six months in the process. I have one proposal made by Lavalas and the other proposal made by a coalition of political parties. I would like to present these two proposals to the prime minister that I intend to appoint so that he can take them into account whenever he makes his statement on policy if, of course, he is accepted by parliament.
For a prime minister to be confirmed by the parliament in Haiti he has to present to the parliament his birth certificate and those of his parents, grand-parents, uncle, aunt and so on. Because of our record keeping here, it would be very difficult for anybody to come up with so many birth certificates. The last prime minister I nominated, who works for the Inter-American Development Bank, was rejected because he could not find his grand-mother's birth certificate.
I was planning to leave Port-au-Prince to go to an FAO conference in New York about food, but I canceled that trip. Foreign minister Fritz Longchamps is going to present my message to the assembly.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, what kind of security arrangement has President Preval requested for after the scheduled November 30 U.N. pull out, and what is your assessment of the ability of the Haitian National Police to maintain order?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me begin with the second question first. I met today with representatives of the police and some police units. (Inaudible) ... I found this particular unit with a much greater ability to do their job. President Preval and I agreed that the United Nations military mission will be over at the end of November. We talked about various other kinds of international assistance after that, but no decision has been made and ultimately the decision is President Preval's.
PRESIDENT PREVAL: If you allow me to answer your question in more detail, I would say that in the last few months the Haitian police have made enormous progress. The director of the Judicial Police arrested the attacker of Deputy Emilio Passe. Other attackers and aggressors have been arrested and the drug enforcement unit has also made important seizures. Of course, these are good results. We also have signs that indicate that there are some weaknesses that must be corrected. To correct these failings, we are going to ask for multilateral aid in order to continue the process of forming this professional police.
QUESTION: Mrs. Albright, you have talked about compromises. I would like to ask you one question on the elections in particular. It is said that some political parties involved in negotiations, and represented in parliament, would agree to the run-off elections. I would like to know under which conditions the United States would support these run-off elections.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am going to let Ambassador Swing answer this question because I am late for a meeting. I am very sorry. Thank you very much.
[End of Document]
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