Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy
October 20, 1993
Violence mounts in the streets of Haiti; dates for compliance with international agreements come and go without evident progress; the economic embargo, now strengthened by naval blockade, has been re-instated; international human rights monitors have withdrawn and many individuals, Haitian and foreign, have fled or gone into hiding. The once bright hope for a peaceful resolution of the civil conflict, and for a serious and sustained effort for economic development in this poorest of American republics, has been dashed.
What can be done by the international community, and especially by the United States? To ignore Haiti is impossible. To counsel retreat from earlier commitments because success is more elusive than previously thought would betray both political weakness and moral ambiguity. But, no more than in the other great trouble spots of this time can the United States, or any other outside force, seek unilaterally to impose by power a desired outcome.
The Church in the United States has, since the beginning of the present crisis, made clear its repudiation of the violent coup d'etat that overthrew the elected government, and has called for the restoration of the constitutional order. A people that had previously been able only to dream of a democratic order have expressed themselves through the ballot; their will must be respected. We have rejected as well the violence and violation of human rights that have been committed both by the supporters and the opponents of the elected president, before, during, and after his time in office. The crimes committed against representatives of the Church in early 1991 are not to be forgotten, but neither can we pass over in silence the hundreds of violent deaths caused over the last two years by allies of the de facto government. The murders in recent days of prominent aides of the exiled president seem especially heinous.
We have repeatedly insisted on the need for a more compassionate response by our government to the pleas of the Haitian boat people for refuge, a safe haven from the danger and persecution they fear in Haiti. We remain strongly committed to a realistic and generous immigration policy that can respond to the genuine needs of such refugees. The continuing internal breakdown of order in Haiti only underscores the need for a more generous U.S. recognition of refugee claims.
We have also advocated generous economic assistance for sustainable development of the world's poor countries, of which Haiti ranks among the neediest. We applaud the commitments made by our government and others to provide significant aid to Haiti upon the restoration of the constitutional order and urge that nothing be done to lessen that commitment, despite the regrettable delay in the start-up date.
Several institutions of the Church in this country, notably including Catholic Relief Services, have for years provided financial and other assistance to the Church and people of Haiti; we look forward to continuing and, if possible, increasing these expressions of solidarity with the Church in Haiti.
At this particularly difficult moment for the people of Haiti, we wish to repeat our expression of support and solidarity, and our prayerful hope that, aided by the constancy of the international community in providing needed help, the Haitian people will be enabled to arrive at a just, equitable and truly Haitian solution.