U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters: to Colin Powell - 2 13 04

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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters


February 11, 2004

Congresswoman Waters condemns violence in Haiti;
Calls for State Department to support the democratically-elected government of Haiti and denounce Andrè Apaid

Washington, D.C. -- Today, at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) called for the State Department to support the democratically-elected government of Haiti and denounce Andre Apaid. She made the following statement:

Yesterday, I returned from a trip to Haiti, where I observed the escalation of political violence that occurred over the weekend. This was my second trip to Haiti so far this year. I am deeply concerned about the growing violence organized by the so-called opposition and what now appears to be gangs in the northern part of the country being supported in their violent activities by this so-called opposition. Unfortunately, the opposition, led by Andre Apaid, under the banner of the Group of 184, is not simply a peaceful group trying to correct the problems of the government. Andre Apaid is a Duvalier-supporter, who allegedly holds an American passport and obtained permanent resident status in Haiti through deceptive means. Andre Apaid is ferociously adamant about forcing Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically-elected President in the history of Haiti, out of office.

Andre Apaid is the owner of fifteen factories in Haiti. He has been accused of tax evasion, operating sweatshops and being a President Aristide-hater. The so-called peaceful protests led by Andre Apaid and his Group of 184 are responsible for defying the rule of law as it relates to parade routes, notification of protest actions, and other laws that are normally respected in any democratic society. The protests he organizes have become increasingly violent. Police officers are confronted, property is damaged, and roads are blocked. It is my belief that Andre Apaid is attempting to instigate a bloodbath in Haiti and then blame the government for the resulting disaster in the belief that the United States will aid the so-called protestors against President Aristide and his government. Andre Apaid refuses to negotiate despite the fact that the State Department, the Organization of American States and many other organizations are now supporting a proposal put forth by CARICOM. Andre Apaid continues to use inflammatory language, denounce President Aristide, refuse to negotiate and demand that President Aristide leave his democratically-elected presidency. His so-called opposition group has accused President Aristide of everything from corruption and drug trafficking to support for paramilitary activity. When asked for documentation, they have not been able to produce anything more than rumors, innuendos and allegations. President Aristide disbanded the military when he returned to office and has a police force of only 5,000 for a country of 8 million people. The United States aborted its efforts to support and train the new police force and currently has a ban on selling guns and equipment to Haiti. This policy effectively denies Haitian law enforcement officers the essential equipment that they so desperately need to maintain order and enforce the rule of law.

President Aristide has given the United States special authority to assist with drug interdiction efforts by allowing the United States to interdict drugs in Haitian waters. The government of Haiti does not have the resources needed to wage a tough and consistent war against drugs, and the President of Haiti is begging the United States for assistance to eliminate drug trafficking.

President Aristide is pursuing a progressive economic agenda in Haiti. Under his leadership, the Haitian government has made major investments in agriculture, public transportation and infrastructure. On February 7, 2003, the government doubled the minimum wage from 36 to 70 gourdes per day, despite strong opposition from the business community. There have also been a number of reforms to prohibit trafficking in persons and protect the estimated 400,000 children from rural villages who work as domestic servants in households in the cities.

President Aristide has also made health care and education national priorities. More schools were built in Haiti between 1994 and 2000 than between 1804 and 1994. The government expanded school lunch and school bus programs and provides a 70% subsidy for schoolbooks and uniforms. The maternity wards of eight public hospitals have been renovated, and hundreds of Haitians are being trained as physicians. Twenty new HIV testing centers will open around the country during the next two years. All of this is being accomplished despite a continuing embargo by the IMF and the World Bank.

The so-called opposition is supported by many of the same people who were content with the brutal dictators of Haiti's past. These are the same people who enriched themselves on the backs of the poor in Haiti for so many years with the support of the United States government. These people do not want a strong president like Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who will force them to pay their taxes and provide decent wages to their workers. Last Thursday, armed gangs took control of the Gonaives police station during a five-hour gunfight and set the mayor's house on fire. Since then, these gangs have set fire to the police stations of Gonaives, St. Marc and Trou du Nord. In St. Marc, they sealed off the city by dragging tires, debris and logs across the main roads and setting them on fire. The armed gangs have seized nearly a dozen towns in the past week, and at least 40 people have been killed.

Unfortunately, these gangs appear to be obtaining support from the so-called opposition in the hope that their attacks will help to fuel other attacks in other parts of the country and eventually a coup d'etat in Port-au Prince. This is clearly an attempt at a power-grab. Unfortunately, the same forces that fashion themselves as the opposition also have control over the broadcast media in Haiti. They have used the power of the press to discredit President Aristide and disseminate false information to the international press about the situation in Haiti.

The nations of CARICOM are trying to assist the people of Haiti to end the violence and resolve this crisis peacefully. The CARICOM proposal includes an outright rejection of a coup d'etat in any form and requires that any change in Haiti must be done in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti. CARICOM calls upon the opposition in Haiti to ensure representation on the Provisional Electoral Council so that the Council can begin to prepare for the holding of elections.

CARICOM also calls upon the international community to provide economic support to Haiti. Economic assistance, including assistance from the United States, is essential to alleviate the suffering of the people of Haiti and build a foundation for political stability and economic growth.

The State Department must denounce Andre Apaid and the Group of 184 and must answer this question: How can the State Department remain silent while Andre Apaid, who allegedly holds an American passport, creates so much dissension, disruption and violence in this small, impoverished country?

The State Department must use its influence to help stabilize Haiti, provide assistance for health, education and infrastructure development, and discourage Haitians from building boats and rafts to get to American shores.

Finally, the international press must discontinue the practice of repeating rumors and innuendos and begin to spend quality time learning the truth and writing the truth about what is really going on in Haiti.

Maxine Waters
Member of Congress


cc: Ambassador Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Ambassador Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Department Spokesman