Haiti: Congresswoman Waters says that Ambassador Foley was right about the interim Government of Haiti
August 23, 2005
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Congresswoman Waters says that Ambassador Foley was right about the interim Government of Haiti

Washington, D.C. - Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) released a statement in response to Ambassador James B. Foley's comments regarding the interim government of Haiti. The Congresswoman's statement follows:

I commend Ambassador James B. Foley for taking a courageous stand in support of justice and the rule of law in Haiti prior to his final departure as the United States Ambassador to that tormented nation. Ambassador Foley said the interim government of Haiti tarnished the country's image by releasing convicted killer and death squad leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain from prison while continuing to detain former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune.

Time and time again, I have decried the incompetence of the interim government of Haiti, which continues to be supported by the Bush Administration. Kidnappings, murder and other crimes have become widespread in Haiti since the interim government came to power a year-and-a-half ago. Roads and infrastructure have fallen into disrepair, and public services have virtually disappeared. The interim government has done nothing to stem the growing violence in the country, and it has done nothing to make millions of dollars in promised aid from international donors available to the Haitian people. Just about the only thing the interim government has done is jail hundreds of political prisoners.

Yvon Neptune is one of these political prisoners. He served as Haiti's prime minister prior to the February 2004 coup d'etat, and he is now the most prominent member of Lavalas, the largest political party in Haiti. The interim government arrested him over a year ago without charges and continues to detain him without a trial. Twenty-eight Members of Congress called for his release in letters sent to President Bush last May.

Another one of these political prisoners is Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a widely-respected Catholic priest. Prior to his arrest last month, Father Jean-Juste operated a soup kitchen for hungry children, one of the few social services available in a country whose government has abdicated its responsibilities. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, and twenty-nine Members of Congress signed a letter calling for his release. Other prominent political prisoners in Haiti include former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert and Haitian singer Anne Auguste, both of whom have been detained without a trial for over fifteen months.

There is a growing consensus that there can be no free and fair elections in Haiti under the violent conditions that exist today. Nevertheless, the interim government is determined to hold elections in November of this year, despite rampant violence and the continuing imprisonment of Lavalas party leaders. Under these circumstances, it is hard to believe that the Haitian people would ever accept the results of the elections. Suspicion is already widespread that the interim government's real motive in keeping Prime Minister Neptune and Father Jean-Juste behind bars is to prevent them from running for office.

The interim government's decision to let death squad leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain out of prison must be seen in light of the upcoming elections. Chamblain's history of organizing violence against political activists is enough to make any potential candidate afraid to run for office. Setting him free three months before the elections could possibly further endanger potential Lavalas candidates and lead to incidents like the 1994 Raboteau massacre, a brutal massacre in a low-income neighborhood, for which Chamblain was later convicted.

We may never know why James B. Foley left his post as the Ambassador to Haiti. We may hope he decided that he could not in good conscience continue to stand by while the interim government imprisons potential candidates and allows violent criminals to control the countryside. Perhaps he grew tired of operating an embassy with a skeleton staff after other personnel returned to the United States to escape the escalating violence.

What we do know is that there can never be free and fair elections in Haiti as long as thugs and killers are allowed to roam free and innocent priests and politicians remain behind bars.


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