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Remarks in a Telephone Conversation With President Rene Preval of Haiti

February 07, 1996

President Preval. Good evening, Mr. President.

President Clinton. Hello?

President Preval. Good evening, Mr. President.

President Clinton. Good evening. I wanted to call you and offer you my congratulations on your inauguration. As you know better than I, this is the first democratically elected transfer of power in Haiti in the history of your nation, and it's a real advance for democracy in our hemisphere and a great opportunity for your country, and I'm proud that the United States has been supporting you.

Interpreter. You can go on, Mr. President. He understands English.

President Clinton. Well, I just wanted to say those things and also to assure you that we are aware that you still have a lot to do, a big agenda ahead of you, but so much has been accomplished. You've had these peaceful elections. You have restored democratic institutions, including the Presidency and the Parliament. You have dismantled the repressive FAd'H. You have shown some economic growth last year.

You have 5,000 people in the national police force, and there has been a dramatic decline in deaths due to political violence.

So for all those things, even as we look to the challenges ahead, I know you are proud, and you should be proud. And I'm very glad that Ambassador Albright and Deputy Secretary Talbott and others from the United States delegation were able to be there. General Sheehan was at your inauguration, and he's already back here visiting with me, and he brought me a new baseball made in Haiti with "Operation Uphold Democracy" on it, so it's my souvenir from your inauguration, Mr. President. And it's a great day for you and a great day for all of us who believe in freedom and who support you.

President Preval. Mr. President, on behalf of the Haitian people, I thank you very much for this call. I know that you are so much busy that I appreciate very much this gesture.

[At this point, President Preval spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter as follows.]

I'm going to be more comfortable if I continue in French, Mr. President.

President Clinton. Please do.

President Preval. As you yourself said, you played a very great role amid the U.N. effort to help restore democracy in Haiti, and we thank you for that. We have been independent for 193 years, and this is the very first time that one President transfers power to another democratically elected President.

But as you very well know, the challenges before me are enormous, because democracy cannot take place without economic development. And on the economic front, we are going to make every effort that we possibly can to give satisfaction to the Haitian people. And in particular, we would like to invite American investors to come to Haiti to invest. Our police is yet weak, and we certainly want to strengthen it to consolidate it still further in order to safeguard security in Haiti.

Mr. President, I know how terribly busy you are, and as disappointed as the Haitian people were that you weren't able to be here, when they hear that you have called, they will, I am sure, be truly delighted.

Merci beaucoup.

President Clinton. Merci, Mr. President. You tell them that I'm still supporting them and their freedom, and the United States is still supporting them, and we will do what we can to encourage investment, to get the economic development going and, as you know, we want to continue to provide some support through civil engineering and infrastructure projects and some other things that we can do consistent with the ongoing partnership that we want to have with our two countries. So we will be there with you, and we're excited for this day and ready for the work ahead.

President Preval. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

President Clinton. Have a wonderful evening. It's a great day for you.

President Preval. And I hope that we'll have the pleasure to meet very soon.

President Clinton. Yes, I do, too. I'm looking forward to that.

President Preval. Thank you very much.

President Clinton. Thank you, and goodbye. Thank you.

President Preval. Thank you to your family.

President Clinton. Thank you.

NOTE: The conversation began at 4:16 p.m. The President spoke from the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gen. John J. Sheehan, USMC, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Command. He also referred to the Forces Armees d'Haiti (FAd'H), the Armed Forces of Haiti.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in a Telephone Conversation With President Rene Preval of Haiti Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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