Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Briefing Room
3:05 P.M. EDT
MR. STEINBERG: Here we go. Stephanopoulos, eat your heart out. (Laughter.) You have in your hands a statement by the President announcing new sanctions on Haiti. I'm pleased to be able to introduce to you two senior administration officials. This is a BACKGROUND BRIEFING. I will introduce them. [Names deleted].
This is a BACKGROUND BRIEFING. They may be referred to as Senior Administration Officials. And I'd like to introduce -- there is no sound or camera.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. Guess you guys are reading it as I speak, but this is to get it on the transcript. It's a statement by the President on sanctions against Haiti.
One of the cornerstones of our foreign policy is to support the global march towards democracy and to stand by the world's new democracies. Promotion of democracy, which not only reflects our values but also increases our security, is especially important in our own hemisphere. As part of that goal, I consider it a high priority to return democracy to Haiti and to return its democratically-elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide to his office.
We should recall Haiti's strides toward democracy just a few years back. Seven years ago, tired of the exploitative rule that had left them the poorest nation in our hemisphere, the Haitian people rose up and forced the dictator Jean Claude Duvalier to flee. In December of 1990, in a remarkable exercise of democracy, the Haitian people held a free and fair election and two-thirds of them voted for President Aristide. Nineteen months ago, however, that progress towards democracy was thwarted when the Haitian military illegally and violently ousted President Aristide from office.
Since taking office in January, the United States government had worked steadily with the international community in an effort to restore President Aristide and democracy to Haiti. The OAS and the United Nations Special Envoy Dante Caputo has demonstrated great dedication and tenacity. To support Mr. Caputo's effort Secretary of State Christopher, in March, named Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo as our Special Advisor for Haiti.
We in the international community have made progress. The presence of the international civilian mission has made a concrete contribution to human rights in Haiti. Mr. Caputo's consultations with all the parties indicated that a negotiated solution is possible. Unfortunately, the parties in Haiti have not been willing to make the decisions or take the steps necessary to begin democracy's restoration. And while they seek to shift responsibility, Haiti's people continue to suffer. In light of their own failure to act constructively, I had determined that the time had come to increase the pressure on the Haitian military, the de facto regime in Haiti, and their supporters.
The United States has been at the forefront of the international community's efforts to back up the United Nations and the Organization of American States negotiations with sanctions and other measures. Beginning in October 1991, we froze all Haitian government assets in the United States and prohibited unlicensed financial transactions with Haitian persons.
Today I am acting to strengthen those existing provisions in several ways. First, I have signed a proclamation pursuant of Section 2-12-F of the Immigration and Nationality Act prohibiting the entry into the United States of Haitian nationals who impede the progress of negotiations designed to restore constitutional government to Haiti, and of the immediate relatives of such persons.
The Secretary of State will determine the persons whose actions are impeding a solution to the Haitian crisis. These people will be barred from entering the United States.
Second, pursuant to the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the executive orders on the Haiti emergency, I have directed the Secretary of Treasury to designated as specially designated nationals those Haitians who act for or on behalf of the junta, or who make material, financial or commercial contributions to the de facto regime or the Haitian armed forces. In effect, this measure will freeze the personal assets of such persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and bar them from conducting any transactions whatsoever with individuals and entities named.
Third, I have directed Secretary Christopher to consult with the OAS and its member states on ways to enhance enforcement of the existing OAS sanctions program. And I have directed Secretary Christopher and Ambassador Albright to consult with the United Nations and member states on the possibility of creating a worldwide sanctions program against Haiti.
Sanctions alone do not constitute a solution. The surest path toward the restoration of democracy in Haiti is a negotiated solution that assures the safety of all parties. We will, therefore, strongly support a continuation and intensification of the negotiating effort. We will impress on all the parties a need to take seriously their own responsibilities for a successful resolution to this impasse.
Our policy in Haiti is not a policy for Haiti alone. It is a policy in favor of democracy everywhere. To those who seek to derail a return to constitutional government, whether in Haiti or Guatemala, they must realize that we will not be swayed from our purpose.
At the same time, individuals should not have to fear that supporting democracy's restoration will ultimately put their own safety at risk. Those who have opposed President Aristide in the past should recognize that once President Aristide has returned, we and the rest of the international community will defend assiduously their legitimate political rights.
It is my hope that the measures we have announced today will encourage greater effort and flexibility in the negotiations to restore democracy and President Aristide to Haiti.
That's the end of the President's statement. We'd be happy to take questions.
Q: Can you give us some idea of how many people would fit into either of these categories, and give us some idea of who these people are? Are they just people in the government or people who support the government?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think -- well, we have both the visa category and the -- or, we say visas, but it's really barring entry into the United States regardless of people's past visa status. And then the assets control status.
I can say -- and I'll let my colleague amplify on this in a moment -- that what we're looking at initially, we've gone after the top leadership in the de facto regime and in the top of the Army. And those are the names you'll see on the list today, plus some key private sector supporters that have been acting on behalf of these people.
Support -- I should be very clear on this -- that support in sort of a political or ideological sense isn't what gets you on one of these lists. It's material support, acting as an agent, taking specific actions that put yourself in the position of helping the de facto regime to blockade a return of constitutional rule.
I also should be clear that this group that I mentioned initially is just the start. There is a limit to how many names you can punch into a computer at a single time. And we are -- it's an ongoing process. More will be added, both as time permits and as the evidence of activity on their part warrants.
Q: So you've got 100 or 500 or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me comment on the financial sanction side of blocking of assets and prohibiting transactions.
Today, we've issued the general notice number one, which is available at the offices of the Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury in the lobby at 701 Madison Place. They're available after this meeting. It's just right across Lafayette Square --Pennsylvania Avenue and Madison Place -- announcing the name of 35 entities and 83 individuals who have been so determined to fit on this list.
To give you a breakout, of these individuals, of the 83 -- 29 are in the military, 52 are in the civilian organizations, two are private individuals of the entities. There are four banks, 13 ministries, four military entities, and 14 a variety of other government agencies and parastatal organizations.
I would follow up on what my colleague has said. This is the first tranche of names that we're looking at. We are actively working on other names to get the evidentiary material together of individuals who have materially supported the junta economically, commercially, or otherwise contributed substantially to their financial well-being.
Q: How much money or worth in terms of assets are you talking about freezing? In other words, what's there and how often do these 83 individuals or their families come to the United States?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say a number of these individuals have residences located in the United States. A number of these individuals have personal and corporate property. To the extent that these individuals own this private property, that is blocked as well. The residences are blocked. All bank accounts are blocked. We'll have a better fix on the bank accounts after the notice goes out through the Federal Reserve system and all of our traditional banking contacts. That is on the wire. It is out. These assets are blocked.
But it's not just blocking of assets that has to be stressed here. It's the prohibition of transactions. If you will, these individuals and entities are now economically isolated in their individual capacity from conducting any transactions of any nature whatsoever with the United States or with United States persons. So not only are they prohibited from coming to the United States and conducting a financial transaction, all of their property here is blocked, not just their liquid assets -- personal and private property as well; transactions with them are prohibited.
Q: How long does it actually take for the notice to go out for someone no longer to have access to a particular bank account if they're on the list?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, now, when you get this information you'll pick in our lobby, which, again, is right across the street, you'll see the name, the address, personal identifiers and so forth. This information has gone out over wire, through the banking system. We rely on the financial institutions to immediately put that into the computers and to block these accounts. Physically how long it takes I can't tell you. But this is a tested device we've used in other programs like Iraq, Libya, Cuba and Serbia. We've effectively used this and it's our belief -- we're certainly working under the presumption that this will happen today.
Q: Do you really think that this step should be an act for force junta to step down?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think -- I'll let my colleague answer on his part -- I think in terms of what we're doing here, I think they are very significant steps in identifying the junta supporters and economically isolating them from the United States.
Q: But why did the administration wait four months to take this step which would seem quite obvious, I would say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me hit upon that, because I think one point that's made in the President's statement is very important to keep in mind, and that is sanctions are a tactic. They're a tool to try to accomplish a goal. They're not a goal in themselves. And our goal here is a negotiated solution. That's what we've been working on for the last four months. And we have made substantial progress in that area. We've got the U.N.-OAS negotiator track energized even during the transition. We got Ambassador Pezzullo energized to give added impetus to the negotiations. They had a success in setting up the international civilian mission, as is mentioned in the statement.
And what's been happening over the last several months has been steady progress in the negotiations. This is not just a static situation. What, I think, you can see triggered this was that we had reached a point where the framework of a solution was visible and the parties all seemed to, more or less, be on board with it.
The first step of this process was to get the international civilian police and military construction and training personnel into Haiti -- something that had been requested by both sides as a confidence builder in the process of a transition back to democratic government. When it came time to take that step -- and this is what is being referred to in the statement -- the de facto regime and the military backed away from something that they had said that they had wanted.
So the purpose of the sanctions is to -- it's not just that somehow magically by themselves they're going to result in a solution or cause them to step down. What we're trying to cause them to do is to negotiate seriously, to come back to the table, take a serious approach and resolve the issue. But the message here is if you engage in dilatory tactics, if you engage in rhetorical exercise and not in serious negotiations, there is going to be a very strong reaction.
I would note also that we're talked here about the U.S. part of this, the measures barring entry into the U.S. and the very strong measures on the business front. And I think it bears repeating what my colleague was saying: This is not just whatever assets. you happened to have here, but you can't do business with any -- and your companies can't do business -- but also the international stuff. The OIS sanctions -- we're going to Managua tomorrow with the Deputy Secretary. There's a meeting of foreign ministers on Haiti on Sunday that the Organization of American States is holding. And we're going to be making efforts, and we have reason to believe there is support for this, to increase the effort to bring about compliance with the OAS sanctions program. It's a very strong and broad program on paper. There's been some gaps in it and we're going to work to try to tighten that up.
Second, we've already started consultations with the U.N. and member states about a U.N. worldwide sanctions program. So this is the beginning, not the end of this program. And the message is it will get worse unless you get serious about negotiations.
Q: Including an oil embargo?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Could include an oil embargo. That's certainly one of the measures under consideration.
Q: proposed on Wednesday a military blockade of Haiti. On what grounds does this administration refuse such a step, if it refuses?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, he was talking, if I -- this I'm taking from press stories -- about a military enforcement of a U.N. sanctions program. You can't stop other countries' ships on the high seas without some kind of agreed U.N. sanctions program or mandatory sanctions program. So that's another possibility in that context for sure.
Q: What's the position of the administration on that point? Is that a possibility?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a possibility, yes. We're consulting with our friends and allies in the United Nations on the design of a U.N. sanctions program, and that would be one of the possible measures on the enforcement side. The oil the other gentleman mentioned is one of the possible measures on the scope side. I think we shouldn't project or predict what the outcome of that is going to be. That's why we're consulting with our colleagues.
Q: How many individuals are being barred travel?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At the moment it's more or less the same list of names, although I think there will be the same list of names, although I think there will be more added tomorrow. This is, again, an on-going process. So you're probably talking 100 or so at the outset, plus families -- that's 100 principles.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At the moment it's more or less the same list of names, although I think there will be more added tomorrow. This is, again, an ongoing process. So you're probably talking 100 or so at the outset, plus families -- that's 100 principals.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me also mention on the travel side -- not only is there the visa aspect of this, but there are these individuals named on the Treasury list. These individuals not only would need a visa, but they would need a license to conduct economic transactions in the United States. Without it their travel would also be barred.
Q: Everyone on your list, we can say that applies as well to the people who cannot travel to the United States, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right, yes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And it -- my -- the standards are slightly different for the assets control and the visa, or the entry proclamation, and so the list may roll more rapidly on one side than the other because of the different evidentiary standards.
Q: Over the past 20 months we've heard a lot of arguments that the reason why the State Department and Treasury didn't take these actions beforehand was because of legal concerns that you had. And do you feel confident that you -- you have a legal basis for denying access to the United States and the assets freeze?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Take those separately?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q: If you were a friend of the junta, one people on the list and you've been reading the papers at all, you've probably moved your liquid assets out of the United States or you may have. But you probably couldn't have sold your house. What will actually happen to residences? Will they be seized by U.S. government --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They'll be determined as blocked property. A notice that it's blocked property will be posted on the door. All transactions with that property -- for example, it couldn't be transferred, title couldn't be sold --
Q: They could continue to live there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not without a license from the Treasury Department. And we would take efforts to bring enforcement actions against that particular property, as we have --
Q: And that would happen when -- immediately?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Within the immediate, near future.
Q: Are any of these people presently in the U.S.? And if so, what do you do if you find them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Frankly, that information is still coming in. If we find them, if we have them, they'll be -- their economic transactions will be prohibited without a license -- get a license literally to do all transactions.
Q: What about these economic transactions? Is the administration opening itself up to any charge here that once again the sanctions are being tightened and ultimately it's going to hurt the people of Haiti when you're really trying to get negotiations going in a positive way? I'm thinking now specifically of a possible oil embargo.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, on that sanctions that have been done today, I think you can see they are very much targeted on specific individuals who are not the people of Haiti in general. Oil embargo, yes, as would the existing trade sanctions. Trade sanctions are blunt instrument. Nobody can say that you can be surgical about it. So when you take measures of this kind, unfortunately it does have adverse impact on innocent people as well as on the guilty one. The question is, can you design it in such a way that it brings about the result you're seeking in a rapid manner. This is -- again, it's not a measure that's designed to simply be punitive, it's a measure that's designed to bring about a result, which is a negotiated solution which would end the political crisis and improve the lot of everyone in Haiti.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If I might just follow up on that for one second. In your statement that this has hit a wide net of individuals, this is a targeting of key individuals who specifically are identified as materially or financially supporting the junta -- either working for it, making financial contributions, brokering or arranging deals on its behalf. So if you will, this is the finest tuning of targeting these sanctions to specific named individuals so that it doesn't have that effect you're speaking of -- hitting the wider public.
Q: How long will you be willing to wait for these particular sanctions to take effect before you might consider another shoe to drop?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think, as the statement indicates, we're actively moving on the international front now. So this is -- we're not waiting on some shoe to drop. The consultations with the U.N. on worldwide sanctions are going forward sort of regardless of what happens with the individuals or the unilateral sanctions we've taken today. We're also moving in the OAS to torque up their sanctions. So I think the message there is the sanctions are going forward. The way to stop them is to negotiate seriously and bring about a result. It's not time for talking about the possibility of negotiating anymore, it's time to do it.
Everybody knows what it's going to take to bring this crisis to an end, but people have to take the decisions and they have to take the steps to carry it out. And there's not going to be --and I think what this shows, and it goes back in a way to the legal question, the President took a very significant step here in that he made this proclamation which has opened up a whole new legal area at least on the entry side that didn't exist before. I think that reflects both the depth of his own personal commitment to making this work and the sense that now is the time when if we can let people understand that there is no way out of this crisis other than to do what they all realize needs to be done in terms of a negotiated solution that brings back a constitutional government and President Aristide. That's the message and --
Q: You said this worked before in what Syria, Cuba, Iraq and Libya?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've said we've used naming of names in a variety of countries: Panama, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Serbia.
Q: What were the results?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are -- those are on -- mostly are ongoing programs, and we believe the results are significant in terms of identifying key individuals responsible for financial transactions.
Let me follow up on that for a second. As far as the results here, this is the first step of naming key individuals who are materially or financially contributing to the junta. We anticipate the results will be felt. We anticipate that this is a significant step toward tightening this sanctions program.
Q: But did it get these people to be more cooperative in these other countries?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just say generally yes, it has been a very effective tool in continuing to wage economic sanctions.
Q: These steps are aimed basically at the military junta who backed away from the idea of the 500-man international police force. But President Aristide also backed away from that idea. Is there any thought of any kind of measures to increase the pressure on him to be more flexible in negotiations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think it's inherent in the situation that for a negotiated solution, both sides have to be willing to compromise, both sides have to be willing to be reasonable. But in this case, the parties who created the problem in the first place are the military and the de facto regime who broke the constitutional process and acted illegally. If they wanted to increase the pressure on President Aristide, they have it in their power. All they need to do is start behaving reasonably and come to the table. But I think the pressure is on them to come forward.
Then if there's something found wanting on the other side, obviously -- I think that, though we want to keep our focus where it belongs, which is on the people who created this problem in the first place and the people who have perpetuated the problem by not coming forward, rather than to getting into whether or not one party before the other accepted a particular position in a negotiation. Our problem is not President Aristide. Our problem is the illegal regime that has blocked a return to constitutional rule.
Q: Why do you believe the regime backed away from the agreement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I guess I would ask them. It's a good question, and one that should be put to them. They didn't have much of an explanation for it. So we're dealing with what they do rather than what they say.
Q: Do you doubt their overall seriousness of these negotiations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You have to doubt the seriousness of someone who tells you that certain types of guarantees and processes are important to them and to their constituents to make a process work, and then when you produce those, they run away from it -- another reason for being more concerned with their position than with that of the President. This was something that was their -- or where they had the prime interest. The President also was interested in the subject as well. But when someone backs away from their own proposal, you do have to doubt their seriousness.
Q: You mentioned specifically of barring sales of residences and things of that sort. Beyond that, can you give us some examples of the kind of transactions you're talking about blocking here, and the kind of individual -- type of individual that would be making --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, assets of these named individuals within the United States are blocked, as in our other programs that I mentioned earlier. Not only are the assets blocked, transactions by U.S. persons with them, organizations which they own in their personal capacity are prohibited. So for example, if sales of goods are being made to businesses owned by these individuals, that is now prohibited. Any outstanding licenses will be reviewed as to who's the beneficial or actual owner of these companies, and those will be revoked.
The bottom line here is that as a financial matter, all financial relations between these named individuals and the United States -- this is a country that had a major trading relationship with the United States going into this coup -- are now prohibited. These individuals, from a financial standpoint, are cut off.
If I might, let me read a few of the key names that are here --
Q: I was going to ask you for that, and I was going to ask you what rough estimate of what sort of dollar volume in flow you're talking about.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say to go out and poll with every conceivable financial institution before taking such action would pretty much be a tipoff that we're taking this action. We have a notification system in place that's sophisticated enough that I believe that by today all relevant financial institutions in the key areas where these individuals may have property will be notified and will be -- have a duty to block these entities.
As far as residences and addresses, I can tell you our phones are very busy of information coming in, our analysts are working to develop this information as far as personal residences. That's something that is going to emerge. We will take action when it becomes available. I think the key here is the additional steps that will be taken. As a practical matter, these individuals are paying a very real price for the support of the junta.
Q: It's that price that I'm trying to get towards a little bit here. I would assume that you all wouldn't have done this without having some idea as to what sort of dollar flow in trade you're blocking. You wouldn't do it for a couple of thousand dollars worth of flow back and forth, you'd do it for something significant. And I'm trying to get an idea as to what it is.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think you're right about that. I believe these are significant. But also, I think the importance here is the long-term economic relationship or the possibility of an economic relationship is no longer there for these named individuals so long as they're in support of the junta.
Q: Are you saying you don't have a dollar figure or you don't want to give a dollar figure?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have a rough dollar estimate. I cannot give you a dollar figure this afternoon.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have that figure that I can give you. We will go out and we will do a census immediately. The banks will report back to us instantly, within the next several days when they have bought an account. They have a duty to give us a report from it. Let me say, within a period of a week or so we will begin developing the amounts that are blocked here. But again, I fear that you're focusing on the asset side more than the transaction side, and it's the loss of possibility of future financial relations that's really key here. Businesses owned no longer can conduct transactions with any U.S. persons. So if you're in the business --
Q: I think I understand that but --
Q: We sell them petroleum products, we sell them tires. And we're trying to get at that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I can't give you an exact analysis as to what we have. I don't have it right now.
Let me give you the names, and I think perhaps that will help you define it. Marc Bazin, prime minister; Clifford Brandt, president and director general, Banque De L'Union Haitienne; Raoul Cedras, chief of staff, Haitian Armed Forces; Bonivert Claude, governor general, Central Bank; Yonel "Son Son" Elysee, businessman. And then two banks in particular: the Banque De La Republique D'Haiti, which, of course, is the central bank; and the Banque de L'Union Haitienne, which is a private bank.
Q: Do you have any indication that any of those individuals you just named have assets in the United States that will be affected?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q: Which ones?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say, any answer I'd give you right now is complete. What I'd like to be able to do is get a call-back from you within the next coming weeks and be able to give you a more precise answer. Traditionally, that's not the way we do it. We take the blocking action, and the legal responsibility is on the holder of those assets. In our experience of blocking assets for all of the programs, we do not do a survey of what we're blocking before we do it lest we tip off the holder and the party that is the named party on the account.
Q: any consultation or negotiations going on with other countries, specifically France and Canada, which has direct financial links with Haiti, to undertake similar blocking actions or transactions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Before he starts, let me say we have routine consultations with all of our allies on economic sanctions matters. Should that come about, we certainly have that mechanism in place.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Let me say, each country, of course, has different powers or lack thereof, but we have been in consultation with, or begun consultation with the countries you mentioned, as well as others, in the sense of creating an international structure which would give everyone more authority to take similar measures. So we are urging other countries to do what they can unilaterally as we are doing, but many of them don't have the legal capacity to take the kinds of steps we do. Some of them find it easier to take some of the steps; some of them aren't able to.
Q: Specifically, does France and Canada have the sort of legal mechanism that would allow --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not so much on assets, although with -- you know more about it than I do.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me comment on that. We have worked through many of these multilateral sanctions programs with allies -- France and Canada, among the many -- who are developing the kinds of mechanisms we have. Should it come to pass that a program would be in place here, I am confident that other countries could take actions as mandated by the U.N.
Q: But you don't have it at the present time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In other programs, yes, we do. And we routinely consult on a regular basis with our financial counterparts in various governments. For example, on the Serbia program, there are routine consultations. On the Iraq program, there were routine consultations. On the Iraq program there were routine consultations. And to the extent of multilateral sanctions on Libya, we routinely consult. Should we have multilateral financial sanctions here, I am assured we will begin those similar consultations.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would say, too, you might speak to the government's concerns -- I hate to speak for them -- but we have discussed these kinds of things. And as I say, some of them have some possibilities, for example, on the visa side where it's easier for them than it is for us. They don't have to take the extraordinary measures that the President took today. On the other side, they have treaty obligations and so on that may be more constrictive on the personal assets. But the key there is, if you get into a U.N. mechanism that will give them a lot -- or put them in a position to take steps they may not have been in a position to do already.
Q: You don't know how many of these hundred or so people have assets here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do I personally know that? No. I think, though, the reason I suggested giving some of the names is that you see on there people who have major business interests in Haiti. You see on there banks and so on. It's hard to conceive that those people and banks don't do transactions in the United States and that it won't be a serious constraint on their financial and economic well-being to have this kind of a penalty put on them. But how much they might have made had this not happened, I have no idea.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But let's not be misleading about this. I will tell you, we have a very good idea, we have focused on the bank accounts of the individuals, their whereabouts, and that becomes an investigative question which we are following up on. And in the coming days and weeks we will certainly have a handle on it.
Q: Two questions. Have you found any evidence that U.S.-based Haitians have been supporting the coup and will be affected by this measure? And --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say on that we're looking at all possibilities, and if that should come to pass we will deal with that. But I can't reveal anything that may be under investigation at this --
Q: Are there any U.S.-based Haitians on your list today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, they're all Haitian-based, but some may have property in the United States. Some do have property in the United States.
Q: And also, what do you see the effect of this will be on the assembly industry in Haiti, which the Bush administration carved a special exemption to protect?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say, to the extent that these individuals are importers, to the extent that these individuals have a financial stake in the assembly sector, to the extent that these individuals routinely trade with the United States, that is now over. Those economic transactions and that economic possibility is no longer there. Again, as we move down, there may be others who are providing financial support, material support, commercial support. We will look to them as well. So it may indeed have an effect on the assembly sector. However, the assembly sector is not being targeted. Supporters of the junta are the individuals being supported.
Q: But it's likely to have a devastating effect on the assembly sector if that's a U.S.-oriented industry.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. It could have an effect on the assembly sector, but it's not my knowledge or belief that the assembly sector, per se, is providing the material support to the junta that we've been talking about today.
Q: What could you reply to a human rights group or people like Reverend Jackson who said that the President should have done more and faster than what he did?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think I mentioned earlier that a lot has happened over the last several months and have moved the negotiations forward and have moved the human rights situation forward. The presence of the International Civilian Mission, which was one of the early accomplishments, has done a lot towards improvement of human rights by increased monitoring. But now is the time that we feel we need to give that extra push in the negotiations that the sanctions will provide. I think everything has its own pace and you have to look at what was done, what was the problem confronting the administration at the beginning, what steps did it take, how much progress was made. And when we ran into a serious snag, when things stopped moving forward, that's when you got these kind of actions.
Q: These groups seem to think that it was a very slow pace -- and that you could have been more forceful.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to characterize what other groups think. But I would go back to say that sanctions are not an end in themselves. They're a tool. And you use them to try to move forward a negotiating process. You don't do them just for the sake of doing them. So the idea that we should have done sanctions at some earlier point just to do sanctions, if that's connected with some step that someone was proposing, then it's a debatable subject.
Q: Maybe not just to do sanctions, but to apply more pressure earlier, to force these people to negotiate earlier, because, in fact, they have been buying time constantly and they're dragging their feet. And other than the briefings we had in Little Rock in January announcing a breakthrough and this is May -- end of May -- this is June now and -- while this is more or less the same situation.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Every negotiation has its ups and downs. I think, though, at the time you were talking about there were -- concrete achievements have been made. The International Civilian Mission is a concrete achievement. It got people on the ground, it got more protection for people in Haiti. There were achievements in the negotiation itself which stalled out not long ago and provoked this kind of action. You also have the fact that -- your willingness to take these kinds of steps as a form of pressure itself.
It's not always the best tactic to use all of your tools all at once at the beginning. You use them in some kind of measured way to try to keep driving the process forward. I think the commitment is there to make this thing move as rapidly as possible and I think you can see from the statement that the President has reiterated his own personal commitment to that and taking concrete steps today to further it. But it's not necessarily the fastest way to move a negotiation to drop the atomic bomb at the beginning. You have to measure your steps to what's going on in the negotiations and into what your assessments of different people's attitudes and your own interests are. And, you know, obviously that's a subject that's endless debatable, but in this case, I think we feel very, very comfortable that we've moved this thing very rapidly, and when we hit a snag you're seeing the determination not to allow it to stall out. This is a sign that the administration intends to keep this thing moving.
Q: How soon would you say we could be able to see a Security Council resolution be introduced on helping sanctions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to try to put time frames on things, but I just would say, this is moving rapidly. As I mentioned, the consultations that the President was calling for here have already begun, and we're not talking endless consultations. I think you'll --
Q: Are you talking days, weeks, months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're talking moving as rapidly as we possible can. And I don't mean that -- I don't want to see some story saying, therefore I was evasive and it's going to be slow. I just learned long ago that when you start saying it's days and then it's a week and a half, everybody says, gee, you misled me. So this is a process that you'll be seeing out in the open very soon in the U.N. and you can chart its progress there. But the effort is to move forward with the consultations, see what the feasibility with this is, and move out smartly.
Q: What specifically would an individual have to do to get his name removed from the list?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I guess it partly depends on the list, but Rick can talk about the assets.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He would have to cease his activities in support of the junta.
Q: What specifically does that mean?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think -- let me say this issue comes up in our other programs and it's something that's reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but we would have to be convinced that he has materially altered course of behavior, such that that support is not longer with the junta.
Q: And would have to come to you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q: On the visa sanctions, are we going to send anyone out of the country -- if you're a student, if your children are a student here or medical care?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll have to -- obviously, humanitarian considerations is the kind of thing where you look to exceptions. If there are people here -- and, again, because we don't keep record of the visas, it takes a while to find who is here -- it depends -- it gets into immigration law. If you're a legal permanent resident, you have more due process rights than if you're not -- if you're here on a tourist visa or something. But it becomes an enforcement action for the INS. If you find somebody here who's on the list, out they go as rapidly as the process allows, absent some humanitarian reason that might prevail in that case.
Q: How would it work if you're trying to, like, bar the sale of a house in Miami? How would that work?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The property would be blocked to sell the house. A license would be needed. If we did allow the sale of the house, the proceeds would be placed into a block to count. This has, in past instances, this is something that we have dealt with. But that's basically how it would work.
Q: Where would you intercede? At what level would Treasury intercede -- at the real estate agent, or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, a notification to the fact that the property is blocked -- we would intercede at the property with a sign on the door with penalties imposed for anyone removing the sign.
Q: Excuse me, I would like to know if you have confidence that this procedure of sanctions is going to obtain the goal of getting the restoration of democracy in Haiti? I am a little pessimistic because I came to this country in 1959 from Cuba. There have been a lot of sanctions, a lot of pressure of Fidel leaving -- very good -- and by people suffering and dying in Cuba. I think the only thing that I think in my 34 years in this country that have been effective is Johnson when he went to the Dominican Republic; Reagan, when he went to went to Grenada and Bush to Panama. In the Western Hemisphere, it doesn't work -- that happened. The record is there. Sanctions for Fidel and the missile crisis. You know, something has to be done because these people in Haiti hate people who don't respect the law and don't care for the humanity.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think, as I mentioned earlier you have to look at sanctions as a tool and it's not necessarily, it's not the only tool and it's in and of itself, it doesn't produce a result. The other method you imply of military action is one that I think President Aristide himself has said he doesn't want to see tried at this point. So, the effort now is to try to produce a serious negotiation that sanctions are one tool to try to press in that direction, but no one is saying that is a guaranteed result. We're saying we're determined to get to that result and we're going to use every tool we possibly can to accomplish it. But, again, sanctions alone is not a policy, it's a tactic that you use in the course of carrying out a policy and a strategy.
Q: Will commercial air traffic continue?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: For the time being there's no alteration in that. As I mentioned, it's not that we haven't looked at it; but for a unilateral effort on air traffic you're simply making people make one stopover in the Dominican Republic or something on their way to Miami; it doesn't have much impact in its -- the inconvenience would be primarily on the American citizens that travel that route and not on the people who are creating the problem. So, that's the current state of that. Obviously, in a multilateral context that might be something you would look at once again.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END3:50 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269096