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Rubio Gives Opening Remarks at Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing on Haiti

Jul 27, 2023 | Press Releases

Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave opening remarks at a hearing on the international response for Haiti.

Click here for video and read a transcript below.

“Haiti right now is a complete disaster. This is as bad as it’s ever been. I have followed it, not just because South Florida, where I live, [has] an enormous Haitian-American community. 650 miles from Miami, everything that happens [in Haiti] is both heartbreaking and has a direct impact on the state of Florida, and ultimately on the country. It’s about as bad a situation as any on the planet. It doesn’t get the attention I believe it deserves, but I know of few places on Earth right now that are confronting the challenges that they’re facing. Despite Haiti’s long history of problems and challenges, this is probably as bad as it’s been in a long time.

“60 percent of the country is controlled by gangs. When the most powerful person in your country is nicknamed Barbecue, that’s not a good thing. 75 percent of [Haiti’s] major cities are controlled by gangs. I think it was last year that they seized the Varreux port. People couldn’t get water, they couldn’t get fuel, they couldn’t get medicine…. They haven’t had an election since 2017. There isn’t a single democratically elected leader in the entire country.

“Think about the impact it’s had on migration. I think in 2023 alone, the Coast Guard has intercepted 7,400 people [from Haiti], and those are the ones that live long enough to be intercepted. We don’t know how many people have died in that path, but we know many have. And that doesn’t count those who are stranded in the Bahamas and other places. Since 2020, [there have been] 146,000 migrant encounters [with Haitians], albeit [with] some coming from third countries where maybe they were working construction, the work dried up, and then they made their journey here. [That is] also a very dangerous voyage.

“The talk has been about an international force. The truth of the matter is, the last one that was there didn’t end very well. They brought cholera. They were accused of abuses against the population, including sexual abuse. I understand the reluctance of countries from around the world in getting engaged in this endeavor. We [in the Senate] have spent a lot of time thinking about [what to do]. We have the Haitian Criminal Collusion Transparency Act that Senator Menendez and I have filed. Senator Warnock and I introduced the Haitian Economic Lift Program Extension Act to ensure that trade benefits are extended to 2035. But I don’t want to pretend that I have an answer in my back pocket about how to solve this problem. This is a really difficult Rubik’s cube to line up.

“There are a lot of problems going on. Some are historic and long-standing, some are more recent. There’s the whole structure of the government. It’s not on us to structure the government, but they tried to [create] this French and American system and ended up with a system of government, constitutionally, that I think is flawed by design and has contributed somewhat to this [breakdown]. Security is something everybody agrees you have to have before anything else is possible. But a significant percentage of the national police are applicants currently waiting for the parole program that the Biden Administration has created. That’s never a good sign, when the people that are supposed to be [establishing security] believe their best option is to leave the country.

“It’s an unfair question in many cases, but what is the Biden Administration’s plan or view of what the solution here is? I know there’s been some efforts at the UN Security Council. Frankly, I’m at a loss for understanding. This is not a blame assignment. This is a testament to the intricacy of this problem, how difficult it is. What’s the way forward? Because it is having an impact on the United States. This is not halfway around the world. This, as I said, is not far from Florida and the southeast United States.”