DEMOCRACY OVERTHROWN IN HAITI -- HON. MAJOR R. OWENS (Extension of Remarks - October 02, 1991)
HON. MAJOR R. OWENS
in the House of Representatives
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1991
- Mr. OWENS of New York. Mr. Speaker, as the United States Representative from the 12th Congressional District that is home to one of the largest Haitian-American communities in the United States, I am outraged at the news that Haiti's first freely and democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted yesterday by a military coup. I am particularly angered because despite the fact that the U.S. Government has one of the better information, monitoring, and espionage systems in the world, it apparently did not anticipate the coup in advance--or so it is claimed.
- Any lay person who has been following events in Haiti for the last 10 years would have known that Aristide's Presidency was in danger as far back as January, when former Duvalierist henchman Roger Lafontant tried to overthrow interim President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot just before the Aristide's February inauguration. They would have known that Haiti's all-powerful, notoriously corrupt military would react to Aristide's attempts to reform it by replacing generals from the Army high command with younger officers more supportive of a democratically and freely elected government.
- Our Government knew from Haiti's previous history of coups and countercoups by military dictators and representatives of Haiti's wealthy, notably the former ruling Duvalier family, that Aristide would need a great deal of support from the United States to maintain control over his fledgling democracy. What Aristide got instead
- was a scolding from our Government when in April he detained the former interim President Pascal-Trouillot due to her role in the attempted coup by Roger Lafontant. According to the Washington Office on Haiti, a Washington, DC-based Haitian policy and information organization:
- The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, ignoring diplomatic protocol, issued a press statement expressing its concern over (Pascal-Trouillot's) arrest and called on the Government of Haiti to abide by international norms regarding human rights. Privately, State Department officials expressed outrage over the incident, suggesting that it was political persecution rather than a genuine, judicial investigation. Shocked that `they had not received advance notice,' the State Department indicated that the incident threatened to eliminate any goodwill which had thus far been demonstrated. One early casualty was the cancellation of a visit to the United States by President Aristide since the State Department could no longer guarantee any meeting between Presidents Aristide and Bush.
- The Washington Office on Haiti adds that United States aid to the island nation was briefly held up due to conditions placed on the aid which the Aristide government objected to.
- In short, Mr. Speaker, our Government did not help the admittedly shaky democratic government in Haiti because it was a government that the United States could not control. It was not a military puppet regime or a callous family dynasty propped up by our Government, as was the case with previous Haitian regimes. It was a progressive government elected by the nation's people. And as we know from past United States policies toward Grenada and Nicaragua, our Government does not like, and will not assist, the governments of countries, especially those `in its own backyard,' who will not allow our country to dictate its policies, its relations with other nations, its day-to-day internal affairs. Thus Haiti was a victim of our Government's not-so-benign neglect.
- Today the United States Government suspended $84 million in economic and food aid to Haiti, along with $1.5 million in nonlethal military aid, in retaliation for the coup. That is like closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Bush administration sources have told the Associated press that it `is prepared to use maximum political, diplomatic, and economic pressure to reverse Monday's coup in Haiti.' But maximum assistance was needed well before the coup to protect President Aristide's government from the military, the Duvalierists, and elements of the Ton-Tons Macoutes, the Duvalier's outlawed militia, whom some in Haiti say are ultimately behind yesterday's overthrow.
- If the Bush administration really wants to help the forces of democracy regain a foothold in Haiti, it should refuse to extend any diplomatic recognition to this latest military junta; insist on unequivocal respect for the Haitian people's expression of their own political will in the democratic election of President Aristide last December; demand the restoration of the democratically elected government of President Aristide; and respect the right of the island nation to self-determination and political autonomy.