Remarks by Interim U.S. Permanent Representative Michael J. Fitzpatrick on the Situation in Haiti

Interim Permanent Representative of the United States Michael J. Fitzpatrick addresses the Permanent Council, January 27, 2016.
Interim Permanent Representative of the United States Michael J. Fitzpatrick addresses the Permanent Council, January 27, 2016.

On January 27, 2016, a special session of the Permanent Council met to assess the situation in Haiti and agreed to the Haitian government’s request to send a Special Mission in accordance with Articles 17 and 18 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Thank you Mr. President.  The United States welcomes Secretary General Almagro’s request for this meeting today, despite the wintry weather we have experienced in recent days in Washington.  Our collective presence here today underscores the urgency, and the importance, of the challenges facing our brothers and sisters in Haiti at this time.

Now then, allow me to echo the sentiments expressed by the Secretary General in his request for the convocation of this meeting, in which he underscored the “high quality, professional and technical work” carried out by the OAS electoral observation mission in Haiti.

We applaud Chiefs of Mission Enrique Castillo and Celso Amorim and their entire teams for the exhaustive work they conducted in Haiti before, during and after the several rounds of elections that have taken place there since August 9.  We condemn the attacks on election observers and laud the personal commitment of OAS observers from across the Americas to so dedicate themselves to democratic ideals as to have put themselves at risk – something we wish never to see again.

We would also like to recognize the dedication that the Secretary General’s Special Representative in Haiti, Frederic Bolduc, continues to show in helping promote the democratic principles we are all committed to, in the OAS Charter and Inter-American Democratic Charter.

We are similarly impressed by the professionalism of the report we all just received this afternoon from DECO on the EOMs in Haiti.  Thank you, Mr. de Icaza, for this very timely report, under Article 24 of the Democratic Charter, of your activities.  We congratulate you and DECO for your continuing efforts – technical, professional and neutral – in Haiti and across the Americas, and often in challenging situations.

And what have we seen in Haiti? As we have heard, the EOM’s presence helped ensure that a new Haitian Parliament could be seated on January 11.  This important step forward makes it possible, after far too long, for the Haitian people to again be democratically represented in the legislative branch of government. As we have seen, this success cannot be taken for granted.

Unfortunately, the parallel electoral process for the Presidency has been derailed and needs to get back on track.  As we have also heard, Haiti’s Electoral Council and President Martelly postponed elections that were due to be held on January 24.  If we dismiss the Presidential elections we risk casting aside the parliamentary elections as well – a clear and dangerous reverse of fortunes.  This is Haiti’s opportunity to have democratically elected officials in both elective branches of government for the first time in more than one year.  So we must build on the partial successes obtained thus far – and we look forward to the inauguration of an elected president as soon as possible.

We do not believe an indefinite period of unelected transitional government is in accordance with the democratic principles the United States supports‎ – and which the Haitian people deserve.  Nevertheless, we are encouraging as broad a consensus as may be achieved in Haiti to agree now on a way forward together that would see completion of the electoral cycle and buttress Haiti’s democratic political institutional process to reflect the will of the Haitian people.

The absence of explicit constitutional guidance on how to proceed after the President’s departure from office on February 7 – just 10 days from today – presents an altogether new challenge.  Any solution now will require political dialogue and compromise and most importantly – a firm commitment from all parties involved to a peaceful, political solution.  For that is the only lasting solution.  We hope that such a solution can be agreed upon in the coming days and before February 7, when President Martelly’s term expires.

Thus, the Haitian government’s request for assistance from the Secretary General for the strengthening and preservation of the nation’s democratic system under Article 17 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter is particularly timely.  As we have heard from both the Secretary General and from His Excellency Ambassador Edmond today, the Haitian President has asked the Secretary General to send an OAS envoy to witness the ongoing negotiations for a political solution.

Following the postponement of the January 24th elections, we understand that discussions between President Martelly and President of the Senate Privert are ongoing.  The United States is watching these developments closely.

And having now heard at length and with great clarity and passion from Ambassador Edmond about the current situation and his government’s request, we support the Secretary General’s using his authorities under Articles 18 and 25 of the Democratic Charter, to first respond to Haiti’s request by sending an urgent, short-term mission to consult, and observe, and to otherwise analyze the situation and report back to him.  We look forward to hearing from him about that mission in the very near future, also under the terms of the same Articles, so that the Permanent Council may then consider, with the support of the government of Haiti, whether to “adopt decisions for the preservation of the democratic system and its strengthening” and with a view to improving the conditions for free and fair elections.

The OAS has been, and should continue to be involved in encouraging all sides in Haiti to find a negotiated way forward that can ensure a peaceful transfer of power by a date certain – and soon.  The Democratic Charter provides Member States and this council with numerous options to assist a requesting member state in such situations, and we must take advantage of all suitable tools as we all work to support Haiti’s request for our collective assistance.

My nation values Secretary General Almagro’s unremitting commitment to supporting democracy and human rights whenever and where ever needed in our hemisphere, and we support a quick signal of support by this Council to the Haitian Government’s request for our assistance.

Let me conclude by speaking directly to the people of Haiti: We hear your call. You seek a President with a clear mandate from you to lead you.  Wi.Dakò.

Now hear our call: Your friends, your families, your leaders need to hear from YOU that violence is NOT the answer.  YOU must insist that now is the time for everyone to put aside personal, and party, interests.  In this moment of national crisis, the national interest must come first – peace. There must be peace.  So that there can be elections. So that there can be legitimacy in the nation’s institutions. Yielding security.  Yielding jobs and education.  And yielding a stronger and more vibrant democracy.  One capable of advancing the rights and prosperity of a people so deserving.

Your leaders must agree on one path, one joint path forward, to new elections.  For if they do not agree on a new electoral path, things will not change: As you might say in Haiti – “Ti Mari p ap monte, Ti Mari p ap desann.”

But when your leaders agree on a joint path to elections, then YOU will indeed get to choose your next President.  All your voices will be heard.  All Haitians win.  And we will stand beside you throughout this process, and walk with you.  In solidarity.  And help you make real for all the people of Haiti the promise of the Inter-American Democratic Charter – that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

Mesi ampil.

Thank you very much.

See Also: OAS Press Release