Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State Treaty Room Washington, DC April 20, 2011
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It is a great pleasure and an honor for me to welcome the President-elect to the State Department on behalf of the United States Government, and to formally congratulate President-elect Martelly on his victory in the election.
I also congratulate the people of Haiti on the election. It not only affirmed and strengthened the foundations of Haiti’s democracy; it also helped shine light on the work that has been done and the work that still has to be done to recover from the damage of the earthquake and firmly set Haiti on a path to long-term stability and development. And perhaps most importantly, this election offered the people of Haiti an opportunity to give voice to their dreams for their country’s future. And now it will be up to Mr. Martelly and his government to do everything in their power to help achieve those dreams.
This election comes at a critical moment. In the 15 months since the earthquake, there has been progress in important areas. Twenty percent of the rubble, more than 2 million cubic meters, has been cleared, and that was through a program that employed more than 350,000 people that the United States was proud to support. A new industrial park near Cap Haitien, through a joint effort by the Government of Haiti, the United States, and the Inter-American Development Bank has been created. It has its first tenant, the global textile firm Sae-A, which alone is projected to create 20,000 permanent export-oriented jobs. And we expect more companies to be drawn to Haiti because of a very important piece of legislation passed by Congress last year called the Haiti Economic Lift Program, the HELP program, which significantly increased U.S. trade preferences for exports of apparel from Haiti. We also want to acknowledge the successful response by the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population and the international community to curtail the cholera epidemic.
Now these are successes that deserve to be celebrated, but we also know that there is a lot that lies ahead for the new president, for the government, and the people of Haiti. Still, there’s a lot of rubble to be cleared. There are still 650,000 people living in camps. The hurricane season is once again approaching. We want to do everything we can to be a good partner for Haiti as it takes steps that it must take, making it easier, for example, to transfer ownership of state-owned land for affordable housing, to streamline the process for registering new businesses, getting construction permits approved, attracting investment and encouraging growth. We also know that the prisons in Haiti are overcrowded. Eighty percent of those detained have yet to face trial. Updating criminal codes, processing the backlog of demands, and implementing other judicial reforms will go a long way toward creating a functioning and more humane justice system.
We know this takes leadership, which we have seen Mr. Martelly exhibit in his very vigorous campaign. We know it takes political will, which we know he has, a commitment to transparency and good governance, and to getting results for people. I am very encouraged by the campaign that Mr. Martelly ran, his emphasis on the people and their needs, his willingness to be very clear in what he hoped to achieve on their behalf, and now he has a chance to lead. And we are behind him. We have a great deal of enthusiasm. This is not only a goal of our foreign policy, but it is a personal priority for me, my husband, and many of us here in Washington.
Now some of you may know that Mr. Martelly’s campaign slogan was “Tet Kale.” Now I’m told the literal translation of that slogan is “Baldhead,” which doesn’t need any further explanation. (Laughter.) But “Tet Kale” is also an expression that means “All the way.” And the people of Haiti may have a long road ahead of them, but as they walk it, the United States will be with you all the way. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT-ELECT MARTELLY: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. I would like to thank especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for having hosted me and my team. This is the second time that we meet since your visit in Haiti. I would like to extend my thanks to the Obama Administration and to the President himself. Once again, the elections of November and March demonstrated the fierce determination of the Haitian people to build its own democracy.
Now, it is up to me to transform my campaign promises into an action plan. Clearly, I have huge challenges in front of me, but I intend to meet them. In spite of the generous donations of the American citizens, which have reached $1.2 billion received by 53 NGOs, and in spite of the donation by the Government of the United States of $1.5 billion, we still have 1.7 million people who still live under tents after 15 long months of waiting. The cholera epidemic, if it is not contained and if Haitians are not vaccinated, this epidemic threatens to extend itself to the entire country during the upcoming rainy and hurricane season. In addition, starting on June 1st, the country will have to confront up to 16 hurricanes scheduled – anticipated next summer. The reconstruction process is despairingly slow.
These were the complaints that were expressed by a desperate population throughout my election campaign. This is why recovering and restarting the economy is a fundamental necessity for my government. This is why I plan on working relentlessly towards the reconstruction of the framework of international aid, to give new life to the business sector, and to develop the capabilities of government institutions and of civil society.
Madam Secretary of State, I am truly counting on you to ensure that this restructuring of foreign aid be truly effective for Haiti. Bilateral cooperation also involves fighting against drugs and corruption, respect for human rights, the establishment of the rule of law, the increased and necessary role of our Diaspora community, TPS, deportees, good governance, recovering agriculture at a special moment where worldwide prices are drastically increasing, and the establishment of a climate favorable for potential and future investors. Our discussions focused on the urgent need to ensure that the aid will be effective for our citizens and to avoid waste.
Finally, I discussed with the Secretary of State President Barack Obama’s offer to create a partnership with Haiti. My new vision for my country is to engage in all of the useful and necessary reforms to ensure that Haiti will be a full member of the modernity of the 21st century.
Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your very warm welcome. (Applause.)
MR. TONER: We have time for just a couple questions, first one to Jill from CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Secretary. On Libya, you, it was announced today, have decided to recommend the provision to the President – recommend nonlethal aid for the opposition. Why did you decide to do that, and why now? Isn’t this really a tacit admission that right now, this situation is a stalemate and you, in effect, must do this for an opposition that is incapable of doing it itself?
And then just a quick one on Syria – the emergency law is lifted, the killings go on. Where are we going with this? Isn’t it – the situation now going backwards? What just happened?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, first with respect to Libya, we are moving to authorize up to $25 million in nonlethal commodities and services to support the Transitional National Council and our efforts to protect civilians and the civilian populated areas that are under threat of attack from their own government in Libya. Now the $25 million in goods and services will be drawn down from items already in government stocks that correspond with the needs that we have heard from the Transitional National Council. As you know, we have our special representative Chris Stevens in Benghazi, as well as a USAID team. They have been meeting continuously with representatives there as to what is required in order to support their needs and protect civilians.
Now some of the items are medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios, halal meals. There are no new purchases. This is not a blank check. But this action is consistent with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which among other actions, authorized member states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas. The Department of State and the Department of Defense are working closely together with other partner nations in order to coordinate on what kind of nonlethal assistance is most necessary, and who among the international community can provide which goods and services.
Now, I think it’s important to point out that this opposition, which has held its own against a brutal assault by the Qadhafi forces, was not an organized militia. It was not a group that had been planning to oppose the rule of Qadhafi for years. It was a spontaneous response within the context of the broader Arab spring. These are mostly businesspeople, students, lawyers, doctors, professors, who have very bravely moved to defend their communities and to call for an end to the regime in Libya, and we are going to continue to take actions consistent with UN authorization to try to fulfill the international commitment.
Now with respect to Syria, we strongly condemn the ongoing violence committed against peaceful protestors by the Syrian Government. We also condemn any use of violence by protestors. We have been consistent, ever since the events of the last months have begun and have continued, that we are calling for an end to violence, we’re calling for peaceful protests, and a political process that can respond to the legitimate needs, interests, and aspirations of the people of the region. And we regret the loss of life and extend our condolences to the families and loved ones of all of the victims.
We are particularly concerned about the situation in Homs, where multiple reports suggest violence and casualties among both civilians and government personnel. It is difficult to independently confirm these accounts because journalists are not being allowed free access to many of these areas. The Syrian Government must allow free movement and free access; it must stop the arbitrary arrests, detentions, and torture of prisoners; and it must cease the violence and begin a serious political process through concrete actions to demonstrate its responsiveness to the legitimate issues that have been raised by the Syrian people seeking substantial and lasting reform.
MR. TONER: From the Miami Herald.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you for taking the questions. This is for both the Secretary of State and the President-elect. One of the points of contention for the Haitian Government has been very interested in getting U.S. aid, direct aid, to the Haitian Government, and I was wondering if that was talked about, and also if there was any talk during your talk of – the President-elect has suggested some sort of a Haitian military group restarting, and if there was talk of that.
PRESIDENT-ELECT MARTELLY: (Via interpreter) With respect to the first part of your question, I would say that American aid has been coming to my country for decades now in various forms, via USAID or through other structures. We talked about various projects, projects that are underway, projects that are on the verge of completion. And I also talked about my priorities, the priorities that I emphasized during my campaign, which were education, relocation of the people who were living under the tents and, of course, restarting agriculture. So those are some of the priorities that I emphasized during my campaign.
As to the second part of your question, I would say that right now, MINUSTAH is the country, is in Haiti. It is playing an important role. It is safeguarding the peace, maintaining peace in the country. So when the time will come to consider a rebuilding of a new force, we will talk about those issues in a timely fashion.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would only add to what the President-elect has said, that the United States has pledged not only a partnership, but one where we look to assist him in achieving his priorities for the people of his country. We have also suggested that we can work with the large international and NGO community together so that everyone is committed to pursuing in a transparent, open way the priorities that the President-elect has determined will make the biggest difference in the lives of Haitians. He is committed to results, he wants to deliver for the Haitian people, and we are committed to helping him do so.
Thank you all, very much.