U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
95/03/09 TESTIMONY: S. TALBOTT ON OPERATION UPHOLD DEMOCRACY
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE STROBE TALBOTT
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE
BEFORE THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE
March 9, 1995
Mr. Chairman, Deputy Secretary Deutch and I welcome the chance to give you a progress report on the U.S.-led, 31- nation effort that has rescued a neighboring country from disaster, restored stability in our region, and defended our nationās values and interests. Operation Uphold Democracy has fully lived up to its name. It has peacefully ousted Haiti's brutal dictators, restored its legitimate government, established a secure and stable environment, and is now preparing to pass the baton to a United Nations force under a U.S. Commander.
We cannot yet say "mission accomplished." We have another year of work ahead of us. But we can say, "So far, so good." This mission, while still a work in progress, is well on its way to being a success. 24 weeks after President Clinton sent our troops to their country, Haitians are constructing roads to advance commerce and build a civil society rather than boats to escape terror.
Let me briefly review how far we have come. It was nearly four years ago that a military coup transformed Haiti's newborn democracy into a nightmare of repression. A violent regime took power, one that crushed its opponents and caused tens of thousands of Haitians to flee from their shores toward ours. With the support of that regime, paramilitary gangs assassinated opposition leaders and priests who spoke out. Murder, mutilation, rape, and the kidnapping of children were not just officially sanctioned -- often officially perpetrated -- crimes; they were instruments of rule. They became common tools for dealing with citizens and families suspected of supporting democracy. Meanwhile, the economy, long the weakest in the hemisphere, plummeted deeper into ruin.
For three years, the United States and other countries around the world tried everything short of force to remove the coup leaders and restore Haiti's democratically-elected government. Persuasion, negotiation, mediation, condemnation, sanctions -- all to no avail. It wasn't until last September, when the coup leaders knew that the President had ordered U.S. armed forces into action, that they agreed to give up power peacefully.
Think for a moment where we would likely be today had we not acted:
-- The dictators would still be in power, and their campaign of murder and terror against the Haitian people would be continuing.
-- Tens of thousands of Haitians would be seeking refuge abroad, posing a threat to America's borders and to regional stability as well. The Bahamas and other small island democracies in the Caribbean would be faced with the prospect of being overwhelmed by a mounting flood of desperate humanity.
-- The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard would still be diverting massive resources, on an open-ended if not permanent basis, to manage migrant interdiction along our own coastline. These are resources that would otherwise be available to reduce the flow of illegal drugs, stop smuggling, protect our fisheries, and save lives at sea. More generally, we would be faced with more years like 1994, when we spent nearly $300 million to deal with Haitian migrants, sanctions enforcement, and humanitarian relief. These were the costs of non-intervention, recurrent costs for which -- absent our willingness to use force -- there was no end in sight.
-- Furthermore, the enemies of democracy elsewhere in the region -- coup-plotters lurking in the shadows of other capitals in the hemisphere -- would be more inclined to believe that they could act with impunity; that they, too, like the Haitian coup leaders of 1991, could overthrow democratically elected governments.
-- And finally, the United States and the international community would have failed to fulfill our commitments in the face of a coup that President Bush described as an extraordinary threat to our national security; that Secretary of State Baker said should not stand; and that President Clinton, the United Nations and the Organization of American States declared unacceptable.
Had it not been for the deployment of the U.S.-led Multinational Force on September 19, your Committee, Mr. Chairman, might well be holding a very different sort of hearing today -- a hearing to survey the damage sustained, and the damage to come, as a result of a crisis allowed to fester.
There was, of course, widespread controversy over our Administration's decision to use force in Haiti. We understood the concern and the skepticism. So did the President. As Commander in Chief, he considers no responsibility more serious than the one he assumes when he sends the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces into harm's way.
Thanks in the first instance to the superb performance of American soldiers, their officers, and Generals Shelton, Meade, and Fisher, Operation Uphold Democracy has set a new standard for the degree of peace and civic order that has been kept in a peace-keeping operation.
From the moment the armed services began planning, they demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to adapt to change, to identify and understand the problems, and to solve them effectively. When the Haitian military dictators agreed to step down, within minutes we were able to recall our assault forces, and within hours they had shifted to a deployment posture suitable for intervention in a permissive environment. In the months that have passed, our military's accomplishments -- which have ranged from quelling initial outbreaks of Haitian-on-Haitian violence to disarming the paramilitary gangs to, literally, turning the lights back on in Haitian cities -- have been truly outstanding.
From the beginning of the operation, President Clinton instructed the military commanders on the ground that their first responsibility was to safeguard our men and women in uniform. In the five months since our troops entered Haiti, we have lost one brave American soldier in the line of duty: Special Forces Sergeant Gregory Cardott, who was shot when he went to investigate a disturbance that arose from an isolated crime at a toll-collection point.
Mr. Chairman, while we pay tribute to the American soldiers serving in Haiti, we must also remember that Operation Uphold Democracy is a truly multinational effort, with participation from 30 other nations. In this regard, I particularly want to say a few words about the contributions of the 11 nations of the Caribbean Community. Haiti's CARICOM neighbors took an international leadership role by calling for forceful action to remove the coup leaders, and each of these 11 states has matched its words with deeds, by contributing soldiers or police, or both, to the multinational force.
Mr. Chairman, the success to date of Operation Uphold Democracy has also been due to the lessons that we have learned from previous experiences in peacekeeping and other missions. From U.S. operations in Grenada and Panama, we learned the importance of inter-service cooperation, joint and inter-agency planning and operational flexibility. In Operation Uphold Democracy, the lifting of a U.S. Army division from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier took the concept of joint operations to a new level.
Mr. Chairman, just as our military forces are strengthened by the integration of sea, land and air power, so too is the force of our diplomacy increased by the integration of unilateral with coalition and more broadly multilateral approaches. From the Gulf War, we learned how American leadership in multilateral fora can spur the actions of others, reduce our burdens, and enhance our effectiveness. UN Security Council Resolution 940 authorizing "all necessary means," the Multinational Force, and the handoff to the United Nations Mission are all conscious adaptations of the Desert Storm experience.
Mr. Chairman, credit for the current success of Operation Uphold Democracy is also due to President Aristide, Prime Minister Smarck Michel, members of the Haitian parliament, Mayor Evans Paul of Port-au-Prince, and other democratic leaders of Haiti. And, of course, credit is due to the Haitian people themselves. Remember, Mr. Chairman, some of the fears and warnings that were in the air at the time when this mission began: some said that President Aristide would choose vengeance over reconciliation; that Haitians would fight, rob and slaughter each other in a frenzy of lawlessness; and that efforts to rebuild Haiti's democracy and economy would never get off the ground.
Instead, in overwhelming numbers, the Haitian people have heeded President Aristide's consistent call for reconciliation. They are joining together to begin building a new society. They have shown immense resilience, courage -- and, I might add, restraint -- in the face of enormous challenges. Moreover, they have also shown a gratifying and richly deserved degree of appreciation for our troops. All across the country, from Port-de-Paix to Les Cayes, our soldiers are now greeted each day by signs bearing three simple words: "Thank you, America."
So Deputy Secretary Deutch and I come before you with a sense of confidence and optimism. But we also come with our eyes open to the magnitude of the challenge that remains -- for us and for the international community in the coming months, and, more importantly, for the Haitian people themselves in the coming years and decades. Before the coup of September 1991, Haiti was, as I mentioned, the poorest country in the hemisphere; it may take until the end of this decade for its people to work their way back even to that level.
A devastated economy is only part of the legacy with which Haiti must cope. This is a country still struggling to banish the ghosts of its past. Its people must learn new habits and new ways of working together as they try to overcome a long history of social polarization, political instability and institutionalized brutality. As President Aristide so frequently and memorably puts it, Haitians will have to work hard simply to move "from misery to poverty with dignity."
But we must also place Haiti's problems in the context of the extraordinary progress that its people have made in just five months. All that we've given to the Haitian people is an opportunity -- an opportunity for them to resume the hard work of sustaining their democratic institutions and building a viable market economy. But having been given a second chance -- after four long, lost years -- the Haitian people are making the most of that opportunity.
Today, thanks to Operation Uphold Democracy, the Haitian people live in an environment that is -- in relative terms - - safe, secure and free of political violence. They have made progress in breathing life back into democratic institutions. And they have begun to jump start their dead economy, by initiating free market reforms, and by seeking the investments they need for long-term growth.
Let me examine each of these topics -- security, democracy, and economics -- in turn.
When the United States sent its troops to Haiti, our mission was to restore the legitimate government, and to create a secure and stable environment in which it could function. Thanks to the Haitian people's desire to end the violence that has plagued their nation and the cooperation of our allies in the multinational force, we have been largely successful.
A few statistics illustrate this point. When our troops arrived in Haiti, there were an average of 10 to 15 serious incidents of organized political violence reported each week. Those have virtually disappeared. Incidents of criminal violence remain at a very low level as well: in Port-au-Prince there are now an average of 18 violent crimes being reported each week -- a figure far below those of other cities in the hemisphere with similar-size populations.
The multinational force has recovered nearly 33,000 weapons, through buybacks, by seizing caches, and by setting up roadblocks. There is no doubt that some weapons are still in circulation. But the multinational force made the right decision not to go door to door to try to find every gun. That was not our mission, and it would have been impossible -- and indeed illegal under the Haitian constitution, which protects gun ownership within the home. Our goals were to create a generally secure environment in which the democratic government could take hold and to establish new civilian-controlled professional security forces as the first line of protection for the Haitian people.
In this, we have made good progress. In the three months following the intervention, over 3,000 recruits for the Haitian Interim Public Security Force received transition training at a facility provided by the government of Haiti, funded by the Department of State, managed by the Department of Justice, and supported by the U.S. military. Over 900 Haitian migrants received comparable training at the camps in Guantanamo. These interim security forces are now on the streets of Haiti -- increasingly responsive to the civilian authorities and acting as public servants, rather than as official thugs.
These interim security forces are monitored and assisted by more than 600 International Police Monitors, or IPMs, spread throughout the country. These IPMs are police officers, provided by more than 20 countries on 6 continents, under the leadership of former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. They are protagonists in one of the great success stories in the annals of international peacekeeping. Recruited, trained, and deployed in less than six weeks, the distinctive IPM "yellow hats" have restored the confidence of the Haitian people that police exist to serve and protect society, not to brutalize it.
In organizing the Interim Public Security Force we have worked with the government of Haiti to remove individuals involved in serious human rights abuses, or narcotics trafficking. All senior officers of the Haitian army have been released from active duty. More than 2,400 former soldiers have been enrolled in a program of counseling and job training funded by USAID, and run by the International Office of Migration. The government of Haiti is continuing to pay these soldiers' salaries as they go through the retraining process.
We have made it clear to the government of Haiti that the decision whether to retain a military is theirs to make. For our part, we are ready to work with Haitian government officials to make sure that the process of demobilization, however far it may go, takes place in an orderly, responsible and equitable fashion, consistent with President Aristide's emphasis on reconciliation.
Mr. Chairman, candidates for a permanent civilian police force are now being recruited and trained by our Justice Department, in cooperation with French, Norwegian and Canadian police, at the new National Police Academy in Camp d'Application, Port-au-Prince. All trainees are entering the Academy on the basis of merit -- their performance in the entrance exams -- rather than personal or political affiliation. We regard these entrance exams as a crucial filter in breaking the cycle of personal and political security forces that have dominated Haiti's history.
The first class of Civilian Haitian Police entered in January and will graduate in May. About 350 graduates will be deployed each month, building up to a force of at least 4,000 that will replace the Interim Public Security Force. This new, accountable, professional, apolitical police force will be a dramatic improvement over the violent, corrupt security forces of the past.
For all these reasons, life in Haiti is generally secure today. The simple activities of everyday life -- street vendors plying their wares, children going to school, and families attending church services -- have come alive again. Thousands of men, women and children who were in hiding or in exile -- from members of Parliament to mayors to clergy to entrepreneurs -- have resumed normal lives. The flood of refugees from Haiti -- which hit a high of over 3,000 per day in July of last year -- has virtually stopped. Since September 19, the Coast Guard has helped more than 13,000 Haitians -- including all but a few hundred at Guantanamo -- to return home.
Another measure of the security of the situation in Haiti is the pace with which we are moving to turn the Multinational Force's responsibilities over to the United Nations Mission. We are right on schedule. On January 20, the MNF Commander, Major General Meade, and the member states of the multinational force reported to the UN Security Council that "a secure and stable environment" had been established. On January 30, the Security Council passed Resolution 975 authorizing the U.N. Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) to build up to a force of 6,000 troops and 900 police, and to take over from the Multinational Force by no later than March 31. The process of transition has already begun, and will accelerate as we approach the end of the month.
The United Nations Mission is enabling us to continue the draw down of American forces in Haiti. U.S. forces reached a peak of 21,000 in early October. Together with their colleagues from the multinational force, they established 27 bases and made their presence felt in each of the 133 districts of Haiti. As the situation began to stabilize in November, we started to withdraw our troops. Today there are about 5,800 American soldiers in Haiti. That number will be cut by more than half when the UN Mission takes up its full responsibilities.
The United Nations forces in Haiti will be commanded by an American, Major General Joseph Kinzer, and include about 2,500 American troops. Two-thirds of the forces that will comprise the UN Mission will carry over from the Multinational Force, and are already on the ground in Haiti, including the Bangladeshis, the Nepalese contingent, and the CARICOM battalion. The contingents from Pakistan and India will arrive later this month. I should add that the United Nations will assume the costs for the American and international forces and the international police, costs that the United States has largely been paying up until now. This means that the U.S. share of the UNMIH costs will be just over 30% until October 1, and only 25% thereafter. As Secretary Christopher noted in a broader context, when testifying before your Committee in January, "this is a sensible bargain I know the American people support."
Our success at helping the Haitian people create a secure environment has also helped Haitians to strengthen their fragile political institutions. Let me turn now to that subject.
President Aristide has set the tone of tolerance and reconciliation for his entire country. He returned to Haiti with one of the largest democratic mandates of any political leader in the Western hemisphere. Yet from the beginning, he has reached out beyond his own enormous constituency. Through his cabinet and other appointments, President Aristide is building bridges to all sectors of society, from the elite families to the residents of the slums of Cite de Soleil.
Immediately upon his return, President Aristide met with parliamentary leaders from all sides of the political spectrum to set a common, cooperative agenda. On crucial matters -- such as appointing a Supreme Court and drafting a new police law and amnesty legislation -- he has worked with the Haitian Parliament, not around them. Thanks in large part to President Aristide's leadership, the Parliament passed the first national budget that Haiti has had in five years. And he personally helped Haiti's political factions to put aside their differences and move forward with arrangements for the national elections. Thanks to those arrangements, Haitians will be able to go to the polls on June 4 to elect the 83 members of the Chamber of Deputies, 18 of 27 Senators and 2,100 local officials.
This is a record of which any executive and legislature could be proud -- even in a country less shattered, polarized, and traumatized than Haiti. But faced with high expectations, Haiti's political leadership still confronts daunting challenges. When President Aristide returned in October, the national treasury was virtually empty and the government heavily in debt to foreign lenders. Aristide's cabinet ministers took over ministries that the dictators had stripped of basic supplies -- even plumbing. There are few professionals below the ministerial level to implement decisions. Haiti's judicial system, which was never strong to begin with and collapsed under the Cedras regime, must be completely renovated.
The necessary reforms will not be accomplished overnight, or by any single person or political party. That is one reason why, from the beginning, our primary goal has been to promote the process of democracy. To that end, we are working with the United Nations Elections Assistance Unit and the Organization of the American States to ensure that the June legislative and local elections, as well as the Presidential elections in late November, are open and fair. With this objective in mind, the responsibilities of the UN Mission will end by February 1996, with the inauguration of President Aristide's democratically elected successor. Let me note that the National Democratic Institute is currently actively engaged in preparing for the upcoming elections, and we hope that the International Republican Institute will also become involved.
We are also working closely with Haiti's new Minister of Justice, Jean Joseph Exume, to rebuild Haiti's legal system. We have completed a comprehensive assessment of judicial, court and penal facilities in the 9 provincial capitals and a short-term training program for judges and prosecutors is already underway.
However, no matter how successful the Haitian people are at establishing a secure environment or building democratic and legal institutions, stability will elude them without strong, steady, broad-based economic growth. Haiti has a per capita income of about $200 a year, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. It also has one of the worst infrastructures of any country in the world, including the most expensive, least efficient port in the western hemisphere. Its roads are almost non-existent, and it has among the world's fewest telephones per capita. Bringing the economy to life will be Haiti's most difficult task.
President Aristide has risen to this challenge by committing his government to a far-reaching program of free market reform. That program includes the nearly total abolition of tariffs; a reduction of the civil service by up to 50%; a fiscally responsible budget; and the privatization of state- held enterprises. Other steps towards a free market include the removal of most exchange controls, the modernization of commercial law provisions, and a decentralization of many economic powers of the central government. These reforms are far sighted, based on sound economics, and deserving of support.
The international community is doing its share by providing aid and technical assistance to help Haiti make the transition to democracy and a market economy. In January, international donors and lenders met in Paris to review the progress that has been made since President Aristide's return, and the general assessment of this progress was so positive that the donors actually pledged $1.2 billion, nearly double what had originally been proposed. It is anticipated that $900 million of that $1.2 billion will be available over the next 12-15 months.
I should note that the non-American donors and lenders have provided over 75% of these funds, making this, from an American standpoint, the most successful instance of burdensharing in the history of the hemisphere. In Haiti, we are demonstrating that American leadership can leverage tremendous power and resources on behalf of a common good.
Mr. Chairman, on Tuesday I accompanied a delegation of 28 corporate executives to Port-au-Prince and Cap Hatien. The purpose of this two-day trip was, first, to give American companies an opportunity to assess the emerging business opportunities in Haiti, and, second, to give the Haitian government a chance to hear more about the steps they need to take to improve the climate for American investment. One of the highlights of the trip was the first meeting of the U.S.-Haiti Business Development Council, which is bringing together business and government representatives of both countries.
Yesterday, the U.S. Agency for International Development signed an agreement with President Aristide to provide funding and technical assistance for Haiti's Presidential Commission on Modernization and Economic Growth. This Commission will work to identify specific regulatory changes and commercial law reforms that will make it easier and more profitable to do business in Haiti.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has announced that it is prepared to provide $100 million in finance and political risk insurance to support American private investment in Haiti. Yesterday, OPIC signed an agreement with the First National Bank of Boston to create a lending facility that will make more than $65 million in working capital and loans available. The Bank of Boston has operated in Haiti for many years, and has already identified a number of promising investment ventures.
To complement the OPIC-Bank of Boston facility, USAID announced yesterday that it will provide an additional $12 million in credit, training and marketing assistance to small businesses in Port-au-Price and Cap Haitien. To implement this new initiative, USAID will be working closely with three local institutions -- the Haitian Development Foundation, the Haitian Credit and Savings Society, and the Haitian Women's Assistance Fund. USAID will also continue to work with the Haitian Development Foundation on the Provincial Enterprise Development project, which is already in place with 1,100 loans outstanding.
In addition to these initiatives, we are organizing several sector-specific business missions to bring U.S. business executives in direct contact with Haitian businesses and government decision makers. These missions will concentrate on telecommunications, power generation, light manufacturing, and handicrafts. The telecommunications delegation will travel to Haiti on April 20-21, and the others will follow soon thereafter.
Mr. Chairman, there is already evidence that the Haitian private sector is getting on its feet: more than 35 manufacturing operations have restarted in Haiti since the beginning of the year; exports of mangos and papayas have resumed; the construction industry is rebounding; and cruise ships are once again bringing tourists to Cap Haitien.
In light of the great progress that has been made over the past five months, and in light of the hard work ahead, we have asked the Senate to ratify the bilateral investment treaty with Haiti that is now before it. That treaty would increase investor confidence and make Haiti a more attractive place to do business. It would ensure that funds from investment activities could be transferred freely; that American companies would have full protection against expropriation; and that the Haitian government's investment approval decisions will be free of performance requirements.
Mr. Chairman, I mentioned earlier that our intervention in Haiti made sense for reasons of American self-interest. That includes our economic self-interest. Of course the operation has not been cost free. But those costs must be judged in context, and that means, among other things, against the costs of inaction. Since September 19, the U.S. government has spent about $700 million on Operation Uphold Democracy, most of which are one-time-only-costs, instead of continuing to pay some $300 million a year for the costs of non-intervention. This investment protects our borders, has helped consolidate democracy in our hemisphere, and will help Haiti become a good neighbor and stable partner in diplomacy and trade. But our intervention also does justice to America's core values and principles as well.
The best defense of our Haiti policy is simple: we intervened because it was in our national interest, we intervened after every other alternative had been exhausted, and we intervened because it was the right thing to do.
The American intervention in Haiti has been successful thus far. Now, we must see the job through, and that means until the completion of the United Nations mission 11 months from now. As Iāve already stressed, we cannot solve Haiti's basic problems -- the Haitian people must solve those themselves -- but we can help. Indeed, our help is essential: only we can lead a U.N. effort to maintain security in Haiti until the Haitian government fields a professional police force of its own; and only we can lead the international effort to help Haiti strengthen its democratic institutions and build its economy.
As Secretary Christopher has told the United Nations General Assembly, Haiti now has an opportunity "to take its rightful place in the growing community of democratic states; to work with the international community to solve the transnational problems we all face; and to become an inspiration to other nations, not an outcast." And American leadership in Operation Uphold Democracy has shown that the United States is willing to stand up for its own interests and for democracy in the hemisphere, and that our military is second to none, in creativity and professionalism as well as in strength and courage. This is an effort of which we, and you, can be proud. Thank you.
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