by Chris Celius
Washington – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), a strong advocate for the Haitian people in the U.S. Congress, sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dated April 24, 2012, expressing grave concern about the current political crisis in Haiti. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY), and Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) also signed the Congresswoman’s letter. The text of the letter follows:
“As congressional friends of the people of Haiti, we have been observing the recent political crisis in that country with grave concern.
“The sudden and unexpected resignation of Prime Minister Garry Conille is a cause for serious concern. We had the opportunity to meet with him on several occasions, including while he was in Washington, DC, on February 9th. We believed he was ideal for the job. He appeared to be very hard-working and dedicated to the people of Haiti. He was working hard to develop productive relationships with President Michel Martelly and members of the Haitian Parliament. We supported his efforts to improve transparency as it relates to government contracts and other important government business.
“Prior to his resignation, there were rumors that his life had been threatened. We urged him to share this information with the U.S. State Department. Unfortunately, less than one month after we met with him, he resigned. Prime Minister Conille’s resignation does not speak well for Haiti.
“We are also concerned about the decision to drop all charges against Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier for human rights violations committed during his fifteen-year reign. We suspect that this decision is an attempt to exonerate him and reintegrate him into Haitian society. We are especially concerned that his rehabilitation apparently has the support of President Martelly. What does this mean? Is there a credible, independent justice system in Haiti at this time?
“We are further concerned by the rumors that former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide may be arrested based on trumped-up corruption charges. These rumors could be an indication that President Aristide’s life is in danger. Is this true? Is President Aristide’s life in danger? President Aristide continues to have substantial and widespread support in Haiti. If any harm should come to him, it would cause turmoil and disruption in Haiti. Furthermore, the outcry and disruption would only serve to set Haiti back, discourage investment, and create yet another crisis in this troubled country.
“The United States played an important role in resolving the issues surrounding Haiti’s last presidential election. Our action’s helped position President Michel Martelly to emerge from the November 2010 election as the strongest candidate, thus enabling him to win the runoff election the following spring. While some of us may have questioned the role the United States played in the elections, once the election took place, many of us vowed to give support to the new president and do everything we can to assist him in addressing Haiti’s urgent needs for housing, cholera treatment, infrastructure, and job creation. Just as the United States accepted responsibility for the crisis over the election, we have great hope that the United States will accept responsibility for the political crisis Haiti is facing now.
“An especially worrisome development is the unofficial reestablishment of the army. Prior to his election, President Martelly supported the reestablishment of the army, despite the fact that it is known primarily among the Haitian people for its gross violations of human rights. The international community appears to agree that there should be no funding or support for the reestablishment of the army at this time. However, it appears that the army is being organized on an unofficial basis. Old police stations have been taken over by former members and supporters of the army and the brutal tonton macoutes paramilitary force, and these individuals are conducting training exercises throughout Haiti.
“We recognize that Haiti is a sovereign nation and has the right to develop its own laws and policies. However, the American people have been very supportive of Haiti since the earthquake, and the United States has taken a leading role in supporting democracy and reconstruction. The United States Congress provided emergency supplemental appropriations for relief efforts and passed legislation to cancel Haiti’s multilateral debts. We cannot sit by idly and watch while current events undermine our efforts.
“We respectfully urge you to establish a commission to oversee Haiti’s political development. Furthermore, we urge you to work with the Martelly administration, the Haitian Parliament, and representatives of civil society in Haiti to ensure that human rights are respected, democratic progress is not reversed, and political instability and chaos are not allowed to interfere with Haiti’s development. Finally, we urge you to keep us informed about the work of this commission and political developments in Haiti. Stable, effective governance is critical for Haiti’s future.”
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