CBC: Let Haiti Live                      April 30, 2003

News HaitiAction.net

Congressional Black Caucus on Haiti

"Let Haiti Live" Says CBC Special Congressional Session on Haiti - April 30, 2003


The following are excerpts from Congressional Black Caucus's Special Order on Haiti before the House of Representatives on April 30, 2003:

Ms. Barbara LEE (California): ...While our government levies our political weight with the international financial institutions and the Organization of American States, Haitians continue to suffer. Further, this delayed delivery of international humanitarian aid to Haiti is fostering instability and anarchy in their struggling democracy. Haiti's miserable poverty is indisputable. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand on this issue....This is just morally unacceptable. Together, we must urge the President to do the right thing in Haiti. Jared Johnson, the IDB branch director for Haiti, said you cannot run a country through non-governmental organizations. What does this mean? It means we cannot continue to funnel money into USAID and then blame the government of Haiti for lack of resources and poor social services.

Our government and the international financial institutions should not continue to raise the political bar in order for Haiti to receive basic humanitarian assistance. It is unacceptable to simply stand by and watch a season of misery inflict pain, suffering and death on human beings right here in our own neighborhood...We must address this injustice. We must release the IDB funds to Haiti and direct the international financial institutions to reengage and reengage now. It is our moral imperative, and it is our commitment.

...There is no way with these kinds of numbers and this kind of data, this kind of human misery and tragedy right next to us, that our efforts should be about blocking the release of loans that had been negotiated 3 years ago. That is outrageous. I do not even understand how we can believe that could even be half way right to do.

Mr. MEEK (Florida) ...I know that many of us in this Congress feel very strongly about U.S. involvement as it relates to the way of life in Haiti. What I can tell you is what this Bush administration has done is it has created an atmosphere of conflict.

S we are saying we want Haitians to stay in Haiti, but we are not creating an environment for Haitians to be in Haiti with a democracy that is functional because it has the resources to be able to work towards providing the kind of services that Haitians need...If we want Haitians to stay in Haiti, if we want to be able to have a strong government in Haiti, if we want to be able to provide drinking water and humanitarian efforts in Haiti, then we should not be standing in front of these dollars. On the other hand, we should not have unfair immigration policies when Haitians are trying to seek political asylum due to the fact that Haiti is struggling right now, and we have conflict there, political conflict in Haiti.

General Ashcroft, the U.S. Attorney General, put forth a decision just this past week saying that when Haitians are migrating to the United States, that they would be indefinitely detained...I just want to share tonight with my colleagues that being on the Committee on Homeland Security, being on the Committee on Armed Services, I have not yet heard or seen an FBI report or a CIA report to show any level of or any indication of terrorism in Haiti, or any member of its government that condones terrorism in Haiti, or the Haitian people in general. S We should be very careful as a country when we start using homeland security against individuals who cannot harm this government. I think it is very important for not only the Attorney General's office to hear this, but the Bush administration to hear this, that we cannot do nothing on both ends. We must do something on one of the ends, and provide aid now for Haiti, humanitarian efforts for Haiti...These are not new dollars, the dollars that have already been committed to Haiti.

General Ashcroft's decision did more than stop those dollars that should have been going to Haiti years ago. He has also put questions in the minds of the humanitarian community that has been doing work there. They may feel Haiti is a terrorist state, which is not true. It is important that we fight against those forces. Mr. MEEKS (New York): ...We cannot ignore that our immigration policy treats Haitians differently from other immigrants seeking to escape political violence. We cannot ignore that our foreign policy regarding Haiti has become tied to partisan politics. We cannot ignore that Haiti faces an HIV/AIDS epidemic and this administration has played a role in hindering international economic assistance to Haiti because we cannot come up with a policy approach that balances the needs of the Haitian people with our requirement that assistance be used properly. So, Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to say that if America can muster the political will and mobilize billions of dollars in resources to wage a war thousands of miles away from our shores, what about Haiti? When will America mobilize the same kind of resources and political will to wage a war against poverty, against disease, against human suffering right here in our hemisphere? If such rights and values are truly universal, Haitians deserve nothing less. We can do more to support the people of Haiti so that they can reclaim their human dignity. We can and we must.

Ms. WATSON (Southern California): ...I am appalled by the unsubstantiated allegations made by the United States Attorney General, John Ashcroft, with respect to Haiti. He claimed that the Pakistanis, the Palestinians, and others are using Haiti as a staging point for trying to get into the United States. What a ridiculous statement. I would ask him, has he been there, Mr. Attorney General? If not, he needs to go. He needs to scour every single part of that island nation. After what he is going to see he will be declaring another war, and that is on poverty, on starvation, on the fact that the people there have nothing; and we are allowing that to continue in this hemisphere.

Even the State Department's consular officers and officials are puzzled by his remarks. Jorge Martinez, a spokesman for Ashcroft's office, could not immediately say where the Attorney General got the information. Martinez then directed inquiries to the Department of Homeland Security, and a Homeland Security spokeswoman redirected questions right back to Martinez.

Mr. Speaker, according to the State Department, Haiti is not on the United States' terrorist watch list. Why is, then, the Justice Department and the State Department, amending its list?

The current U.S. policy towards Haiti is one that discourages travel between the two countries. There is a de facto embargo on loans and grants from the multilateral development banks. Assistance from the United States Government has been put on hold in order to leverage change in the present political structure of the Haitian Government.

SIt is time to stop this war on Haiti. External aid is essential to the future economic development of this nation. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries since the 1980s. Mr. Speaker, we cannot let our neighbor continue in this downward spiral.

Mr. CUMMINGS (Maryland): ...The people of Haiti are suffering and dying. They are suffering and dying because of the seemingly sheer indifference to their plight. In just the last week, the United Nations reported that only 46 percent of Haiti's population has access to clean drinking water, and 56 percent of the Haitian population suffers from malnutrition in 2003. Fifty-six percent of 8.3 million people is 4,648,000 human beings, nearly as many people as the populations of Idaho, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia combined.

Mr. Speaker, denying the most basic human needs, such as food and water, is almost the equivalent of a death sentence by a judge or a jury. Unfortunately, for several years now the United States Government has made this situation worse. Our government, Mr. Speaker, has unfairly and unnecessarily linked humanitarian assistance to Haiti with trying to change and to pressure the current government in Haiti to make concessions to the opposition party as it relates to domestic politics. How can we allow over 4 million people in that country to live in utter poverty while we play politics? Is not the argument about the suffering of the people the same argument that many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle made as it relates to Iraq? It is imperative that we release the humanitarian assistance for the people of Haiti so they may simply just live another day.

Mr. Speaker, last week the United Nations also made a plea that I will second tonight and I know all the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus would second, too. The plea is that the international community immediately make funds available to help stem this humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Mr. Speaker, the United States of America is the richest country in the world and must answer that plea. We must help our neighbor, and we must help our neighbor now.

How will future generations judge our country when the history of our relationship with Haiti is written? We know the suffering.

Mrs. CHRISTENSEN (Virgin Islands): S our country, the United States of America, has stood in the way of allowing the people of Haiti to grow, to thrive and to actually allow the democracy that we so are so honored to thrive in this country of poor but proud, hard-working and spirited people of African decent.

We are here tonight again to say let Haiti live, first, by releasing the loans that are needed to build their sanitation, transportation, health and educational infrastructure, and also by fully supporting the OAS mission there, whose responsibility it is to ensure the changes that we claim to seek in their judiciary and their police system and in their electoral process...There is no excuse for what this country is doing by holding back these so badly needed funds

Mr. CONYERS (Michigan): ...Tonight, I also rise with the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus to encourage my colleagues in Congress to support the Haitian people as they struggle to rebuild their nation. Not only does Haiti play an important role in the world community, but it is also strategically significant to the United States; particularly because it is located only 410 miles from the nearest U.S. shoresS

Although Haiti is located in our backyard, we continue to endorse a policy that prevents the return of economic stability and democracy of Haiti. Instead of supporting the flow of aid to Haiti in order to resolve the political impasse, the U.S. has adopted a policy of embargos to punish the Haitian government and people. The U.S. government has the power to veto the disbursement of loans to Haiti from financial institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and Inter-American Development Bank. To the detriment of the people of Haiti, the U.S. government, specifically the Departments of Treasury and State, has exercised this authority. For example, the Inter-American Development Bank has not released $146 million in aid to Haiti, which was initially approved by the IDB Board of Directors. It is more distressing that in the interim, Haiti has been forced to pay arrears payments to maintain its status with the IDB.

Ms. WATERS (California): ...The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is denying Haiti any access to loans for development assistance. Haiti has already had $145.9 million in development loans approved by the IDB. These loans include $50 million for rural road development, $22.5 million for reorganization of the health sector, $54 million for potable water and sanitation and $19.4 million for basic education programs. Haiti could also qualify for an additional $317 million in new loans for development projects, as well as a $50 million investment sector loan. However, the IDB is refusing to consider Haiti for any additional loans and has not even disbursed the loans that have been approved.

The IDB is effectively denying Haiti access to critical development assistance. Furthermore, Haiti is deeply in debt and has also been denied the opportunity to receive any debt relief for its existing debts. The reasons provided by the IDB and the U.S. government concerning the suspension of lending and assistance to Haiti shift from day to day. None of the purported explanations provide any justification for withholding this vitally needed aid. While the IDB and the Administration dither, the people of Haiti suffer and continue to live in poverty.

On March 5, 2003, I introduced H.R. 1108, the Access to Capital for Haiti's Development Act. This bill would require the United States to use its voice, vote and influence to urge the Inter-American Development Bank to immediately resume lending to Haiti, disperse all previously approved loans, assist Haiti with the payment of its existing debts and consider providing Haiti debt relief. The Access to Capital for Haiti's Development Act would allow Haiti to build roads and infrastructure and provide basic education and health care services to the Haitian people. This bill currently has 24 cosponsors. S

Haiti is a deeply impoverished country on an island just off our shores. We cannot provide assistance to countries all over the world while ignoring the needs of people so close to our border. It is time for the United States and the Inter-American Development Bank to resume lending to Haiti and provide debt relief and development assistance to this impoverished country. Ms. JACKSON-LEE (Texas): The United States government owes Haiti substantial funds in foreign aid. Substantial loans have been negotiated for the people of Haiti. Some estimates have the loans valued at as much as $146 million dollars. The United States government is delaying the disbursement of these funds to advance their political aims. While the U.S. government stubbornly maintains these restrictive policies the people of Haiti are suffering and dying.

S it is a disgrace that our Congress stands by while the people of Haiti suffer and die. I join my colleagues on the Congressional Black Caucus in imploring the U.S. government to let Haiti live.