Haiti: U.S. Subcommittee Passes Bill to Recruit and Deploy U.S. Citizens in Support of Unelected Interim Government

Washington, D.C.- Instead of U.S. taxpayer’s money going to NGOs such as the Catholic Relief Organization, CARE, or Oxfam, $6 million in U.S. economic aid may soon be going straight to the bank accounts of a dictatorship, mired in corruption and massive human rights abuses, for the recruitment and deployment of American citizens. President Bush, during his second term inauguration speech, on January 20, 2005, stated, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” He went on to state “The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat.” How does Haiti fit into this new global "democratic" philosophy, one might ask?

On June 29th, 2005 Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), the Chairman of the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, read bill H.R. 611 – The Haiti Economic Infrastructure Reconstruction Act of 2005. The bill was written by Congressmen Rangle (D-NY), Foley (R-FL), and Shaw (R-FL). The bill passed the subcommittee and most likely will soon go to congress for a vote. With a recommended “funding of $6 million”, the bill could put millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer’s money at the disposal of Interim President Gerard Latortue’s coup regime.

The bill could also place American citizens in the precarious employment of working for a dictatorship, stating that “U.S. citizens will be recruited and deployed to Haiti to provide economic and infrastructure reconstruction and development assistance to the Government of Haiti. The bill sets forth specific program provisions, including: (1) maximum recruitment of Haitian-Americans, and (2) maximum one-year deployment, with a maximum two-year additional stay.” Burton explained that this bill would help bring forward the electoral cycle, registering campaigns, and providing security for disarmament.

Congressman Meeks (D-NY) successfully added an amendment to the bill that would place emphasis on securing ports and roads. He stated that it would “allow ships to dock safely and put Haitians back to work” and provide for development and maintenance.

Aid to Haiti is imperative as poverty and disease is widespread but the capability and success that Haiti’s illegal interim government would have in utilizing the funding is a serious question. In response to this question, Lauren Miton, of Development Alternatives, Inc (a USAID funded micro-finance project), who has worked in Haiti for two years, asks, “Does the government have the means to use the money correctly? What’s going to happen to the money? The NGOs have been working in this area for awhile and can channel those funds to populations that need assistance”.

Meanwhile, Andrea Nurko of the Palm Beach Washington Bureau is already promoting the subcommittee’s bill on Heritage Konpa magazine , a popular site with young Haitian-Americans. She writes, “the bill would authorize $3 million a year for five years to send recruits to Haiti to improve the nation's economy as well as bolster its judicial, education and health care systems.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), put forward an amendment to the bill in hopes of defining the language of the bill so as the bills funding would be provided to NGOs or a democratically elected government in Haiti, what she described as going “through the hands that best represent them [the Haitian people]”. Congresswoman Lee explained that the United States should engage the same standards it has for democracy in Cuba to Haiti, with the worry being that with so many well documented criminal and coup supporting figures within the interim government that U.S. funding will be pocketed and misused, never reaching those who are most in need. Congresswoman Lee proposed to add a Section 4 of H.R. 611 that would state:

“In this Act, the term “democratically elected Government of Haiti” means a government that- (1) results from free and fair elections- (A) conducted under the supervision of internationally recognized observers; and (B) in which – (i) opposition parties were permitted ample time to organize and campaign for such elections; and (ii) all candidates were permitted full access to the media; (2) is showing respect for the basic civil liberties of human rights of the citizens of the country; (3) is committed to making constitutional changes that would ensure regular free and fair elections and the full enjoyment of basic civil liberties and human rights by the citizens of the country; and (4) has made demonstrable progress in establishing an independent judiciary…”

In a 7 to 6 vote, all of the Republican Congressmen that were present voted against Lee’s amendment, alluding that the return of democracy to Haiti was not of importance in regards to U.S funding for the Haitian government or the recruitment of American citizens to work in league with the coup government. Does Haiti’s future teeter on the edge of a Republican majority in the U.S. congress?

Without Congresswoman Lee’s amendment, the subcommittee’s H.R. 611 serves to embolden and strengthen those such as Group 184, in that it diminishes the importance of the upcoming October and November elections. Congresswoman Lee’s stipulation would have placed pressure on the Latortue regime to resume the democratic process.

One must also wonder if the additional funding could be used to provide long-term advisors or mercenaries for the Haitian National Police or a new “force of auxiliaries” as the Haiti Democracy Project has recommended. Could Francois Emmanuel “Toto” Constant or other former death squad paramilitaries living in the United States play a role in forming this new group? In its March 16, 2005 Findings and Recommendations the Haiti Democracy Project stated that “the presence of Haitian-American trainers and auxiliaries would supply the best training and would provide an enormous boost in morale for those members of the HNP [Haitian National Police] who are trying to build a new and professional police force”. The Haiti Democracy Project goes on to recommend that the U.S. should “Enhance the police presence in the countryside by recruiting and dispatching a force of auxiliaries hired from Haitian-French, Haitian-Canadians and Haitian-American police and security professionals. Such a force should number up to a thousand.” Under the guise of “development assistance” could Congressman Burton’s bill be used to fund a new paramilitary group in Haiti? This remains to be seen.

With or without democratic elections the Haitian government will receive possibly six million dollars in U.S. financial backing, aimed towards the recruitment of U.S. citizens. With H.R. 611, as it currently stands, U.S. citizens may soon be placed into complicit working activities with the constitutionally illegal regime of Interim Prime Minister Gerald Latortue. The Latortue regime and its National Police force will be allowed unhindered, to continue their daily massacres of supporters of democracy, well documented by members of the Haiti Information Project and multiple human rights reports. The illegal detentions of thousands of political prisoners such as folksinger/pro-democracy activist Annette Auguste, Prime Minister Yvan Neptune, and Minister of the Interior Jocelerme Privert, many of whom have now been in jail for over a year will continue.

The Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere’s vote to block Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s amendment to H.R. 611 sends a clear message to Haitians and the international community that U.S. economic aid will continue to prop up a non-elected government bearing no accountability to it’s impoverished masses. Even if elections in Haiti are canceled or they fail to meet international standards, the money will continue to flow, bearing a frightening resemblance to the years of U.S. economic aid that propped up the ruinous rule-of-terror regime under Jean-Claude Duvalier.

 

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Jeb Sprague can be reached at JebSprague-at-gmail-dot-com. Visit Jeb Sprague's University web page: http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~jhsprague/