Statement at Haiti Hearings


PREPARED STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN CHARLES B. RANGEL AT THE HEARING ON HAITI OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MARCH 3, 2004


 


I want to thank Chairman Ballenger and Ranking Democratic member Menendez for holding this hearing on Haiti.


 


The crisis in Haiti is of great importance for this country and the international community. The situation in Haiti is of deep concern to many members of Congress, particularly members of the Congressional Black Caucus who worked so hard to restore Jean Bertrand Aristide to the Presidency to which he was elected by the people of Haiti.


 


Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including myself, met with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, and President Bush at the White house last week prior to the removal of Haitian President Aristide from power.


 


We thought we were in agreement with the Administration on the importance of pursuing a negotiated agreement between President Aristide and the Opposition that would have achieved power-sharing and the completion of Aristide’s presidential term. This weekend, upon Aristide’s removal, we met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the United Nations to request the engagement of the UN in the Haitian crisis.


 


Thank you for this opportunity to speak to the members of this sub-committee and panel directly to offer my thoughts on the situation in Haiti .


 


In reading the press, it is always interesting to see how easily right wing conservatives disparage the rule of law when it suits their purpose.


 


Those who question the legitimacy of my call for an investigation into the facts and circumstances of the role of the US Government in effecting the forcible removal from office of the constitutionally elected President of Haiti accuse me of just wanting to be negative and critical of the President.


 


I have been accused of using improper and inflammatory language. The truth is that what I am doing, through the use of appropriate and accurate language, is seeking to hold the Government of the United Sates accountable for its actions in Haiti over this past weekend.


 


Isn’t this exactly what President Bush and his administration claim to be doing in Iraq and elsewhere, promoting democracy and the rule of law?


 


Let’s examine the facts and the language I have applied to them.


 


I have asserted that the Government of the United States perpetrated a coup d’etat in Haiti on Saturday night and Sunday morning when the Deputy Chief of Mission went to the home of the President with security forces and informed him that his enemies were at the gates and the United States was not prepared to defend him.


 


As a result, he had two choices: either sign the letter of resignation conveniently prepared for his signature and accept an escorted departure from Haiti or refuse to sign the letter of resignation and face certain death in a matter of hours.


 


What is a coup d’etat? It is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “a violent or illegal seizure of power.”


 


In Haiti on Saturday night/Sunday morning the United States Government used the threat of violence against the constitutionally elected President of Haiti and his family to obtain his resignation and departure from Haiti before the end of his constitutionally determined term of office. That action, I maintain, meets the definition of a coup d’etat.


 


What is a resignation? The Oxford dictionary says it is the act of voluntarily leaving or quitting a position.


 


If, as in Haiti on Saturday night/Sunday morning the United States Government obtained a signed letter of resignation under the threat of imminent violence and death as a consequence if the President did not sign, is that a valid resignation, or was it obtained involuntarily by force and thus invalid?


 


I have been accused of using irresponsible and inflammatory language in describing President Aristide’s forcible removal from office a “kidnapping.” An examination of the meaning of the word again justifies its use. What is “kidnapping?”


 


The Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th Edition, says that “at common law, kidnapping is the forcible abduction or stealing and carrying away of a person from his own country to another.” On Saturday night/Sunday morning the United States Government engineered the forcible removal of the lawfully elected President of Haiti from his own country and arranged that he be carried away to another.


 


I maintain that I have described the role of the United States in the removal of Jean Bertrand Aristide from the Presidency of Haiti in violation of the constitution of Haiti accurately and his forced exile accurately.


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