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Rubio: Haiti Is A Vital Interest To Florida, U.S., Entire Western Hemisphere
Washington, D.C.– Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues, held a hearing to review U.S. policy toward Haiti prior to their August elections.
In his opening remarks, Rubio addressed the importance of the upcoming elections, the recent reports that public and private aid to Haiti has been mismanaged, the possible migration crisis between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the vital interest Haiti holds to Florida, the U.S., and the Western Hemisphere.
In his exchanges with Mr. Thomas C. Adams, the State Department’s Special Coordinator For Haiti, Rubio asked about the status of planning for the upcoming elections, reports that humanitarian aid wasn’t reaching the people of Haiti, the implementation of the recently passed Girls Count Act to increase birth registration in Haiti, the specifics of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive policy toward Haiti, what is being done to combat the culture of the exploitation and trafficking of children, and the role Venezuela is playing in the Haitian elections.
A video of Rubio’s opening statement and the full exchanges is available here.
A transcript of Rubio’s full opening remarks is available below.
Senator Marco Rubio: “The hearing today is intended to provide the committee with an overview of U.S. policy towards Haiti prior to the upcoming elections in August, and we have one witness from the Administration today which is the Honorable Thomas Adams, Special Coordinator for Haiti.
“Mr. Adams was named Special Coordinator in 2010 and his career in the United States Government has spanned 35-years, with much of it focused on managing foreign assistance. I would like to thank Mr. Adams in advance for the testimony he will provide us today.
“The hearing will focus on a review of U.S. resources, priorities, and programs currently underway in Haiti and look at some of the challenges that are currently facing the Haitian people in the run up to the elections.
“Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, extreme poverty, and underdevelopment.
“On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a massive earthquake that devastated much of the capital of Port-au-Prince.
“Although Haiti is recovering, poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity is wide. It continues to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and yet, Haitians that have immigrated to the United States have demonstrated the ability to assimilate and to prosper.
“In South Florida, where I live, the Haitian American community has established small businesses and investments, as well as elected numerous Haitian Americans to local and state office, including the current chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission.
“Unfortunately today in Haiti, the conditions of this type of success have not been present.
“I was frustrated by the suspension of the October 26 elections in Haiti last year. And by the announcement by President Michel Martelly that he would rule by decree was very concerning to me.
“With the scheduling of the first round of Haitian elections for August 8th, I am now cautiously optimistic that a new democratically elected government will be inaugurated.
“Elections in Haiti have usually been a source of increased political tensions and instability. Many Haitians are skeptical that the polling will take place as scheduled, which could lead to further unrest.
“There is still much to be accomplished in the democratization of Haiti. Some parts of the government are not fully independent, the judicial system is weak, and corruption and political violence still threaten the nation’s stability. Haitian governance capacities, already limited, were considerably diminished by the earthquake, and it is my hope that free and fair elections in Haiti will lead to a government that is responsive to the Haitian people.
“But there are other concerns beyond elections.
“Americans have donated millions of dollars to Haiti toward recovery from the 2010 earthquake, and the U.S. government has provided more than 6 billion dollars in aid.
“While there is no question that Haiti has improved in the last 5 years, recent reports that private and public aid has been mismanaged are incredibly disturbing.
“The simple question is how has the aid for the recovery and reconstruction been spent? Where has the money been spent? Has the Haitian population benefited from the massive amount of worldwide aid aimed at helping Haiti recover and prosper?
“Currently, thousands Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian decent living in the Dominican Republic face possible expulsion due to a recent Dominican court ruling.
“I am concerned that a possible mass migration between these two countries will create a humanitarian crisis which Haiti lacks the resources to cope with. My office has been in contact with State Department on this issue and has continues to receive regular updates to ensure the human rights are protected.
“The United States is one of Haiti’s principal trading partners. Almost 84% of Haitian exports went to the United States in 2013. Florida has the largest number of people of Haitian heritage in the United States. Well over 250,000 Haitians call Florida home.
“U.S. trade preferences for Haiti have contributed to some 32,000 jobs in the apparel sector. According to USAID, U.S. programs have helped over 70,000 farmers increase their crop yields, doubled agricultural incomes from certain crops, and provided over 54,000 agricultural loans to increase access to credit for small and medium enterprises.
“I believe Haiti is of vital interest to Florida, the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere.
“When Haiti is stable and prosperous, America benefits. When Haiti is unstable, unsecure and lacking in opportunity for its people, it creates vacuums where criminal gangs – or worse – can operate. And it can lead to migratory pressures in the U.S. – or disastrous and deadly tragedies on the high seas.
“I would also like to enter into the record a letter from Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, my friend from Florida. She represents the district with the largest Haitian population in the United States.
“With that, I will recognize Ranking Member Boxer. I look forward to continue to working with you on these important issues that affect the Haitian people.”