Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2007
I had planned early on to offer an amendment that would have added $20 million for Haiti in fiscal year 2007 in order to restore the funds that were cut from the supplemental appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006. However, I decided not to offer this amendment because I sincerely believe that the chairman and the ranking member have made a tremendous effort to protect funding for Haiti as much as possible in both the supplemental appropriations bill and the bill before us today.
Mr. Chairman, I have paid attention to Haiti, this very small, poor country in our hemisphere, because I think they have been the stepchild of foreign aid and foreign consideration by our own government and other governments in this hemisphere.
The people of Haiti have suffered a lot. The Republic of Haiti held elections on February 7, 2006, and many Haitians walked miles on election day to reach a polling station and waited for hours in line to exercise their right to vote. An overwhelming 2.2 million Haitians, more than 60 percent of registered voters, participated in these elections and demonstrated their commitment to democracy. Rene Preval was declared the winner of the presidential election after receiving over 51 percent of the vote in a crowded field of candidates.
Now, the challenges facing President Preval and the newly elected government are enormous. The people of Haiti have suffered tremendously in past years as a result of this poverty, political violence and natural disaster, and the newly elected government will need the support and assistance of the United States to ensure national reconciliation and sustainable development and to improve the lives of the Haitian people.
So I come today not only to congratulate and thank my friends and my colleagues, but to say that we have an opportunity to really reach out and help this small, poor country, a country where we have sided with dictators in the past, Papa Doc and Baby Doc and others who kept their foot on the necks of the poor, who sided with the elite and who have sided with outside interests to control the economics of Haiti. They have driven this country into the ground.
My greatest desire, I would say to Ranking Member Lowey, is that they will get a water system. They don't have potable water in Haiti. My greatest desire is that we will have education for the kids and health centers. My greatest desire is that we will support a government with a justice system, with trained judges and a supreme court and courts that will be able to deal with the problems of violence and crime, et cetera. This will help so much.
I think what you have done here is sent a message to other potential funding sources. You are saying to IMF and to the World Bank and others that we really do care and we really do want to lend a hand and that we really believe in the possibilities for Haiti. I want to thank you.