BALLOTS NOT BULLETS
As you know, Haiti for too long has been dropped off of the corporate media's agenda. And whenever they have written stories, for the most part it has been distorted information which helped to lead to the unrest and the destabilization of Haiti. But you are absolutely correct. There was a coup d'etat that removed President Aristide from office. They did drop him off in the Central Republic of Africa.
I got together with Randal Robinson and a few other people, and we chartered a plane, and we traveled to the Central Republic of Africa, and we negotiated with President Bokassa I think it is, who was holding him there and was afraid to release him because they had some kind of agreement with the French and also because the United States had brought him there. But we were able to convince them after many hours up in that country that they should let him go.
As a matter of fact, they did not want us to leave. They had said we could not leave the night we came in. We basically said to them we had to leave and we had to leave with him and that if I was not back in Washington by the next day or so, then they would consider that he had kidnapped me also and that he was holding Aristide prisoner. And they did not want that reputation. They were negotiating at the World Bank at the time, and they did not know what it all meant, but we finally got him out of there.
We took him to Jamaica where they kept him for 6 weeks. P.J. Patterson, the president there, gave him refuge until President Mbeki could be reelected in South Africa. After his reelection, he gave him asylum in South Africa, and that is where he is now, and now he is working with the university. But the fact of the matter is he is alive and he is well.
I hope that he gets some joy in understanding that the Lavalas Party did win, even though there was an attempt maybe to deny them the win. The people rose up. The people went into Port-au-Prince, and the people went to the Montana Hotel, and they were basically nonviolent, but they went in numbers. And they had no choice but to work something out.
I think Congresswoman McKinney is telling you about the ballots and we will be talking about that a little more. I yield back and thank you very much, Congresswoman.
CONGRATULATING RENE PREVAL, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF HAITI
Ms. WATERS. Mr. Speaker, I really came to the floor today to congratulate Rene Preval, the President-elect of Haiti. Rene Preval was just declared the winner in Haiti's presidential elections this morning with 51.15 percent of the vote. President-elect Preval has said that his first priority as president will be to provide relief to the two-thirds of Haiti's population that is living in extreme poverty. His plans include universal public school education and at least a free meal a day for all of the poor children.
A little bit about him. He was first elected President of Haiti in 1995 as a member of the Lavalas Party, the party that represented the poor majority. He succeeded President Aristide and served until President Aristide's reelection in 2000. President Aristide, of course, as we have just talked about, was forced to leave Haiti 2 years ago in a coup d'etat that was planned and implemented and orchestrated by the United States, France and Canada.
This election that took place on Tuesday, February 7 was very interesting. At first, the early results showed an overwhelming victory for Rene Preval. Many polling stations posted their results the day after the election, and Preval won between 60 and 90 percent of the vote in all of these polling places. But then something happened. By Thursday, the election officials, the one heading the CEP, reported that, well, no, at that time by Thursday they reported that he had 61.5 percent of the votes counted thus far.
Then Haiti's anti-Aristide elites who opposed him, Rene Preval, they were opposing him because they believed that he was influenced by President Aristide and he would carry out President Aristide's policies, policies that benefit Haiti's poor. These elites, of course, are the same people who helped to organize the coup d'etat in 2004 and the same people who have been responsible for oppressing the people of Haiti for decades in order to continue to operate the sweatshops and to profit from cheap labor and keeping the living standards low.
Well, the elites reacted to the news of Preval's decisive victory and we believe that there really was something in play, an attempt to steal the election. And there was evidence of election fraud. It was abundant. Just yesterday hundreds and possibly thousands of burned ballots marked for Preval were found in a garbage dump.
The counting rules used by Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council seemed to be rules that were designed to deny Preval a victory. About 125,000 ballots, or 7.5 percent of the votes cast, were declared invalid because of alleged irregularities. And another 4 percent of the votes were allegedly blank, but nevertheless they included them in the vote count, thereby pushing Preval's percentage below 50 percent.
When they announced that he was allotted 47 percent, I mean, not only did I, I simply could not believe my ears, the people of Haiti, the Lavalas Party, people normally referred to as shemeres, they said, oh, no. Not only do we want our President. These are people who were denied polling places in Cite Soleil and Bellair and other poor places.
Ms. McKINNEY. I would like to point out that there were certain Members of Congress who actually traveled with Condoleezza Rice and they came back and said that Condoleezza Rice had promised that there would be some ballot access in Cite Soleil; isn't that correct?
Ms. WATERS. I am told that they were given assurances that there would be an election and there would be polling places in all of the provinces and that the rumors that we were hearing about the CEP not having the polling places in Cite Soleil and Bellair would not happen. So when they said it I was suspicious, and I thought that perhaps she was saying that to try to appease them at the time.
But we know that the Secretary of State has not paid any attention to Haiti. This is not on her radar, and I did not expect that there would be any follow-through to ensure that the people would have access to the ballot.
As a matter of fact, they did have the polling places. But people got up in the wee hours of the morning, and they walked for hours, and they stood in line and they demanded that the polling place be open. When they got there, the polling places were supposed to be open. They were not. They demanded they open them. They stayed in line, and they voted in record numbers. They voted in record numbers. And that is why, when the announcement came that somehow his majority had fell below 50 percent, we were all upset, and I fired off a press release that was not too nice at all.
The Haitian people have suffered tremendously for decades. Haiti has been ruled by brutal dictators such as Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier. They really were doing the bidding of the elites there. They kept their feet on the necks of the people so that the elites could profit from the cheap labor and from slave labor. These dictators controlled a brutal army that protected the interests of the wealthy elite and foreign visitors while oppressing poor people.
Haitians worked in sweatshops for foreign investors, receiving just pennies a day. Those who protested the exploitation and demanded better living conditions were arrested or killed by the army. The U.S. Government trained the army and supported the elite. After all of this suffering it would have been outrageous for the U.S. government to allow of the anti-Aristide elites to deny the Haitian people who have withstood so much pain, poverty and disenfranchisement and who persevered on election day, walked for miles, and waited for hours, the right to be governed by the president of their choice.
Well, the people have spoken, and I think it is clear, and this interim government that was put in, Mr. Latour from Boca Raton and the others, they should pack up their bags and go home. They should get out of the way and allow this new President to do everything in his power to really exercise democracy in Haiti. They stole it and they took it from President Aristide.
He was a priest who came from Cite Soleil, who was of the liberation theology, who preached for the least of these and who fought for the poor and fought for them, became a voice for them, speaking to them in Creole, in ways that had never been done before because the elite spoke in French to keep the poor people from even knowing what they were talking about. They never had a responsive government. Now they have got to give Preval a chance.
My message today is, Mr. Andy Apid of the Group of 184 that helped to implement the coup d'etat, Mr. Apid, get out of the way of Mr. Preval and allow him to preside.
To the Group of 184, to the elites who have profited so mightily on the backs of these poor people, they have to get out of the way.
To Mr. Wolfowitz over at the World Bank, you need to meet with Mr. Preval right away.
The International Monetary Fund, the funding agencies, USAID, let us get the resources in there to put in a water system so that people can have clean water. Let us support a health care system. Let us deal with the poor. Let us make sure that they have an opportunity to live and to grow and to have a decent quality of life.
I am optimistic.
And for all of those who have denied the people the right to just have a decent quality of life, I am not personally, and I think you, Congresswoman, we are going to say, okay, let bygones be bygones. If you do not try to oust this president, if you do not try to kill him, if you do not try to jail him, we are willing to work with you. We are willing to work in every way that we can to involve our country and our government in a way that it should have been involved before, for the people, on behalf of our neighbors in this very poor country.
So my message today to all of those who have undermined Haiti for so long, who have profited on the backs of the people for so long, give Haiti a chance, give this President a chance. We look forward to working with everybody, but we are certainly going to work with Mr. Preval. We are going to be there with him. We are going to back him up. We are going to stand with him. Now is an opportunity for a new day in Haiti.
Mr. Speaker, I would yield back the balance of my time, and I thank you so much, Congresswoman, for sharing this moment with me.