Aristide letter to OAS

(letterhead)

Republique d' Haiti

Jean Bertrand Aristide, President

November 28, 2003

Dear Mr. Secretary General:

I have the honor to address you concerning our mutual commitments to the implementation of OAS Resolution 822 and the strengthening of democracy in Haiti.

Resolution 822 calls upon all parties in Haiti to participate in national and local elections for Parliamentary and municipal offices, in a climate that is conducive to free, fair and democratic elections. These elections must be held as soon as possible, because the terms of most Members of Parliament and hundreds of local officials will expire in January 2004, leaving a legislative and administrative vacuum that will challenge democratic governance until new elections are held. My Government has agreed that steps must be taken to enhance security so that there is a proper climate in which to hold free, fair and democratic elections. The most important securityenhancing step that can be taken is the establishment of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). One of the principal causes of insecurity in Haiti, and the violence that has grown out of it, is the climate> of uncertainty and tension that comes from a political crisis that has no end, no solution, in sight. Once the people of Haiti have confidence that elections will be held, and that the political crisis will be solved at the ballot box and not in the streets, tensions will be reduced, a sense of security and confidence will grow, and politically-related violence will diminish.

The establishment of the CEP would also send an important message to the entire population about the need for reconciliation. In fact, it would serve as a vehicle for reconciliation, because it would be a forum for peaceful resolution of disputes by discussion and agreement, instead of conflict. It would give protection to opposition parties and groups, especially, because they would be represented by seven of the nine members.

It is unfortunate that those seven members and the parties and groups they represent have failed to do their part for establishing a secure climate for elections in Haiti by taking up their seats on the CEP. Ironically, some of them claim that they will not participate in the CEP until security is improved, even though the single-most important contribution to security that could be made is their participation in the CEP.

Of course, the Government of Haiti bears its own responsibilities for enhancing security for the electoral process. Toward this end, we have taken major steps, which have been duly reported to you by the OAS Special Mission in Haiti, despite an extreme shortage of financial and technical resources. The Haitian National Police (PNH), our principal security force, is understaffed, in need of greater training and is undersupplied. While my Government has both the political will and the responsibility to establish security, end impunity and strengthen the administration of justice, it is undeniable that the lack of resources impedes our efforts to do so effectively. Not holding elections increases tension and confrontation, resulting in a deterioration in security. The deterioration in security undermines the climate for elections, and leads opposition parties and groups to refuse to participate in the CEP. In short, without elections there is no security; and without security there is no CEP.

In these circumstances, it is either naive or cynical for outside forces to continue to blame the Government of Haiti for the failure to establish a climate that is secure enough to hold elections. Despite all the problems, security in Haiti is still better than in other countries where democratic elections were successfully held. Moreover, no party wants to enhance security more than we do. In the first place, it is our primary responsibility as a government. Second, we need greater security to improve the climate for elections that we are anxious to hold. But to establish a more secure climate, we require the technical and financial support of the international community. Accordingly, I am calling upon you, once again, to urgently request your assistance in obtaining technical and financial support from Member States, and the international community at large, for the purpose of enhancing security in Haiti and creating a more favorable climate for the holding of elections at the earliest practicable time in 2004.

A little more than a year ago, on October 29, 2002, Prime Minister Neptune wrote to the OAS Special Mission in Haiti officially requesting assistance in connection with "the elections including electoral security." The Terms of Reference developed in response thereto stated that the OAS would assemble an "international support staff' to be " entrusted with helping the CEP in its mission to ascertain that the PNH is performing its functions in an impartial, neutral and equitable manner and also with giving the PNH support in its preparation of the National Electoral Security Plan." The Terms of Reference also called for the deployment of at least 100 international police officers to guarantee electoral security.

My Government also requested support from the international community to develop and implement a comprehensive support program to fight impunity and improve the administration of justice, involving strengthening of police, prosecutors and judges. In March, I personally asked the OAS High-Level Delegation to give its most serious consideration to this request. I fully understand that the resources available to the international community are not unlimited, and that there are other priorities besides Haiti. Nevertheless we have not received a sufficient number of international police officers and international support staff. The assistance received to develop and implement a National Electoral Security Plan and support the PNH, our prosecutors and judges must be substantially increased if we are to improve the administration of justice.

If the international community is truly serious about implementation of Resolution of 822 about supporting democratic elections in Haiti, and about improving security in this country, then the time to demonstrate that seriousness is now.

I fully understand and support the need and responsibility of international donors to monitor the manner in which their support to Haiti is utilized, and assure that it is employed properly, transparently, for the right purpose and to maximum effect. I am willing to work with you, and the donors, to establish an appropriate, impartial monitoring mechanism, that would closely supervise all assistance projects and issue progress reports at regular intervals. In this manner, accountability would be assured.

I look forward to discussing these matters with you, or with Ambassador Einaudi, at the earliest possible time.

Thank you very much for your interest in and support for Haiti, and for your courteous attention to this letter. Please accept assurances of my highest consideration. Sincerely,

Jean Bertrand Aristide

Honorable Cesar Gaviria
Secretary General
Organization of American States
Washington, DC

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