04/26/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/26/2021 13:31
Washington, D.C. - Today, Representatives Gregory W. Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Hakeem Jeffries, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, co-led a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraging the United States to reassess its policies in Haiti.
The letter, signed by 68 members, including every Democrat on the Western Hemisphere subcommittee, calls on the Biden administration to withhold funding for the constitutional referendum proposed by Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and warns of the dangers of pushing forward with flawed elections later this year.
'Listen to the voices of Haitian civil society and grassroots organizations, who have been clear that no elections under the current administration in Haiti will be free, fair, and credible. The State Department should instead focus on the underlying democratic legitimacy issues identified by Haiti's civil society and support a Haiti-led process for change. Elections held without meeting internationally accepted standards for participation and legitimacy will only further undermine faith in democratic governance, waste scarce resources and perpetuate a cycle of political instability and violence.'
The full text of the letter can be found here and below:
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write to express our serious and urgent concerns regarding the quickly deteriorating situation in Haiti. Although we appreciate your personal engagement with Haiti, and the State Department's recent criticism of some of the unconstitutional actions by the administration of President Jovenel Moïse, we believe it is past time for a more significant review of U.S. policy in Haiti. We look forward to working with you to make this a reality.
We encourage you to support the sovereignty of the U.S.'s oldest neighbor in the hemisphere by reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the principles of democracy and rule of law. The Biden Administration inherited a multifaceted crisis (constitutional, human rights, economic, social) that the actions of the previous administration exacerbated. However, we must also recognize that the crisis of today did not start yesterday. For decades, the international community has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to help Haiti achieve political stability and a representative democracy. In order to move forward more productively, we must acknowledge that these efforts have failed to achieve their desired results, and that continuing along the same path will only exacerbate the situation.
Nationwide unrest and political turmoil have increased significantly since 2018 and have brought about severe instability and political violence. In January 2020, the mandates of all but 10 members of the Haitian Parliament and all Haitian mayors were terminated due to delayed elections, leaving President Jovenel Moïse to run the country without any legislative oversight. He has since abused his rule by decree powers in direct violation of the Haitian Constitution.
As a result of the political instability, a crashing economy, lockdown from protests, and street gang violence, the Haitian federal government is failing to meet even the most basic needs of its citizens. The Moïse administration lacks the credibility and legitimacy to oversee a constitutional referendum scheduled for June 2021 or to administer elections that are free and fair. The proposed constitutional reform, which legal experts maintain is unconstitutional, would further concentrate executive power.
Parliamentary, local, and presidential elections set for Fall 2021 could increase the risk of violence throughout the country significantly. We are also concerned about inclusiveness of elections, lack of preparedness of electoral institutions to hold elections, as well as the unconstitutional composition of the provisional electoral council. Further, we are deeply concerned by the risk of gender-based violence against Haitian women and girls, as increased political violence and a weak legal system foster widespread impunity for heinous gender-based crimes.
Despite this alarming situation, the State Department has been insistent, both in public and in private briefings with members, that elections - now scheduled for later this year - are the only path forward. While elections will clearly be needed in the near future to restore democratic order, we remain deeply concerned that any electoral process held under the current administration will fail to be free, fair, or credible and that continued U.S. insistence on elections at all costs will only make this outcome more likely. President Barack Obama's former Ambassador to Haiti, Pamela White, made clear during her testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March that legitimate elections are not possible in the current context. Witnesses from Haitian civil society agreed strenuously.
Considering these factors, we urge the State Department to:
We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.