Congresswoman Waters Urges Secretary Powell to Call for the Release of Political Prisoners in Haiti and to expedite Humanitarian Aid to Haiti
November 12, 2004
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December 3, 2004


Washington, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, urging him to call for the immediate release of all remaining political prisoners and other Haitians who are being illegally detained in Haitian prisons, and to do whatever is required to expedite desperately needed humanitarian assistance to Haiti. Copies of the letter were sent to President Bush and Secretary of State Designate Condoleezza Rice. The text of the letter follows:

"I congratulate you on your wise and courageous decision to travel to Haiti as one of your final acts as Secretary of State. I hope and trust that you will take this last opportunity to convey to the President and to Secretary of State Designate Rice just how desperate conditions are in Haiti and how much work remains to stabilize the country and secure a better future for the Haitian people. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that the interim government of Haiti is up to meeting these urgent tasks.

"It was gratifying to learn that Father Gerard Jean-Juste was finally released on Monday and at last is free to return to serving the impoverished people of Saint Claire Church. However, as you surely know, hundreds of other political prisoners remain illegally held in Haiti’s jails, including several prominent members of Haiti’s former government. Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has been illegally detained for more than four months, while former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert has been illegally detained for almost six months. Senator Yvon Feuillé, former Deputy Rudy Hérivaux, and the well-known Haitian singer and community activist Anne Auguste (So Anne) also continue to be illegally imprisoned. Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue should release all of these individuals, as well as all political prisoners and other Haitians who are being detained solely because of their suspected political views or support for the Lavalas Party.

"As you witnessed for yourself during your trip, political violence continues to be commonplace throughout Haiti. History will record that this crisis is a direct result of the failed policies of the United States, France and Canada, which worked with the Group of 184, the former members of the Haitian Army and known thugs to carry out last February’s coup d’etat. While I am certain that you would be the last to agree, I believe that the only way to stabilize Haiti is to do so with the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically-elected President of Haiti, until the end of his term in office, with a restoration of assistance for the rebuilding of Haiti’s infrastructure and, at the end of his term, assistance for free and fair elections.

"Interim Prime Minister Latortue cannot blame President Aristide for the current crisis.  The interim government has been unable to enforce the rule of law, disarm the thugs who were instrumental in carrying out the coup d’etat, or restore the authority of the interim government in the cities these thugs now control. When Interim Prime Minister Latortue set a deadline of September 15 for all groups holding illegal weapons to disarm, the deadline came and went without any such disarmament, while the thugs continued to demand the reestablishment of the Haitian Army and 10 years of back pay. 

"I remain deeply disappointed by the lack of leadership from the international community, including the United States, France, Canada and the United Nations peacekeeping forces. While international officials claim to be committed to democracy in Haiti, they have made no serious effort to disarm the thugs and killers who were involved in the coup d’etat or to demand that the interim government respect the human rights of the Haitian people. It is imperative that the United States demand that the interim government disarm the thugs and respect human rights.

"There can never be peace in Haiti without free and fair elections. In order to be credible, elections must include participation by representatives of the Lavalas Party. Lavalas continues to be the largest political party in Haiti, and it has widespread support among the Haitian people. It is critical that you make it clear to the Bush Administration that free and fair elections in Haiti are essential and that the interim government must include representatives of Lavalas in its election plans and in discussions of Haiti’s future.

"I also am disappointed by the delay in providing the humanitarian assistance that is so desperately needed by the people of Haiti, especially those who have been affected by this year’s hurricanes. The lack of humanitarian assistance for the impoverished people of Haiti is an appalling blot on all who claim to support democracy in Haiti.

"I urge you, as your last official acts of mercy and compassion for the Haitian people, to call for the immediate release of all remaining political prisoners and other Haitians who are being illegally detained in Haitian prisons, and to do whatever is required to expedite desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Thank you for your consideration and for your attention to these requests."