Bill Clinton photo

Remarks by U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright and Aid Administrator Brian Atwood to the Pool

March 31, 1995

National Palace

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

1:00 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: And now, it is my great pleasure to produce America's Ambassador to the international community of the United Nations. The Honorable Madeleine Albright, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Madeleine? It's a pleasure to welcome you here today, and several of our friends have questions.

Would you like to --

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Let me start by saying that this has been an amazing day of gratitude, which really began with the President's gratitude to the American forces that have been here and have done such a magnificent job in making sure that we reach this very important phase.

Second, there clearly is great gratitude from President Aristide and the Haitian people for what the American forces have done as part of this multinational force. And this day, we think, in fact, does mark a transition from the period that began with President Aristide's return to Haiti, the initial phases here of beginning to put together a political, economic and judicial program. And in addition to being a day of celebration, it's clearly a day of looking forward and of dealing with the issues that now face Haiti and discussing how that progress can continue.

Q: broach the subject in the bilateral of Tuesday's assassination, and can you tell us some context of that conversation?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, what happened was that there was a photo op where questions had been raised about that issue, and after that, the President commended President Aristide for having asked the FBI to come and investigate it, and President Aristide reconfirmed the fact that he wanted this investigation to go forward. And there was a general discussion about the necessity of creating kind of an all-inclusive judicial system which would be able to not only arrest people, but investigate crimes, and also, then, have a judicial system which could deal with those that had, in fact, been a part -- been indicated or alleged to have committed a crime. That is part of this whole of how to establish a rule of law.

And so both Presidents talked about the necessity of kind of having this full package. They talked about the importance of getting a well-trained police, and also about the need of having courts and judicial training along with a well- trained police, and among the things that AID is helping with is in this training of police -- primarily, this judicial system of trying to get more judges and that kind of thing.

Q: There are allegations that a member of his government was involved in the assassination. Even in the private talks, there was no concern raised by our President?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: -- that we -- clearly, there is -- this is in the middle of an FBI investigation, and I think that you would all agree that it would be totally inappropriate for me to discuss anything further about this. You're probably going to be asking me more questions, but let me just say that I am not going to speak on this, because we're in the middle of an FBI investigation.

And I think what's important here is exactly what President Clinton said, is that President Aristide made a decision very quickly to bring the FBI in, and that is a very important sign of his commitment to deal with this issue.

Q: Do you know where the Interior Minister is today?


Q: Is the President confident that President Aristide was not involved in any way in this plot? He was not aware of it, he had no knowledge?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I said I am not -- I am not --this is in the middle of an investigation and I'm not going to comment on it. Let me talk a little bit about --

Q: Excuse me. But, without being specific, can you say whether or not the conversations on that matter went any farther than the President's talk about in public?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: They were discussing the whole problem of having this kind of an event take place, and the necessity, generally, to deal with how to investigate a variety of crimes, and I'm not going to go beyond that.

Let me say that what I think is very important here is to see the phases of what has happened. We started out here with 20,000 troops that were able to come into this country and return President Aristide to his rightful place as President. Over the months, we have all seen how that has worked, and the multinational force, ceasing operation today is to be turned over to the United Nations, where there will be 6,000 troops, of which 2,500 will be American and they will form the core of this. It shows America's commitment to the continuation of democracy in Haiti, and the importance of rebuilding the infrastructure here.

Second, the third phase of this will come next March, when there will be 4,000 police, Haitian police, that will be able to take over. That is the security aspect of the issue.

Q: When you were talking about the courts, did you mean that, let's say the FBI did find that this Interior Minister was involved, would there not be a proper court to try him in right now?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that this is the issue, that they have a court system, they have a constitution, and I think the issue is not so much for that alleged crime, but I think it's more a matter of the fact that they are concerned in discussions that I've had where people are arrested for crimes of various kinds, and there is not -- the judicial system is not large enough to be able to deal with that.

Let me, if you don't mind -- we also -- we talked about the whole issue of economic phases here, and that was a major part of what the Presidents talked about, and a sign that they were really looking forward. They talked about the need for jobs, they talked about the need for building infrastructure, the need for energy here, and the hope that there would be additional American investment that would come to Haiti, and the hope, in fact, that President Aristide might come to the United States to talk about investment in Haiti, and the necessity to get on with it. Because I think that they are concerned that the people have had a great deal of patience.

And, finally, there was the whole political context of the need to get on with the elections and to get a proper political climate here. So we have talked about it, and the Presidents did, in terms of all the work that needed to be done.

And let me say for myself, personally, as I sat on that stage and watched the faces of the people who were so intent on listening to the two Presidents, all I could think about is that those very same people, those same faces might have been on boats, drowning, or trying to find a place to be, had it not been for the actions of the United States, the American military forces and President Clinton and President Aristide.

Q: Isn't Aristide likely to come to the United States soon, and --

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I don't know. Well, we did not talk about that, specifically, but clearly, the relationship between Haiti and the United States will continue to be very, very strong and, clearly, there will be visits back and forth of a variety of officials.

Q: From your observation a moment ago, it sounds like you're speaking in favor of more peacekeeping and nation- building operations involving the U.S. and other U.N. nations.

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: No. I'm saying that, here, there has been a major success of having -- that we worked out a system which I think is an example of how things could be done, which is a two-phase system where there is a multinational force that goes in and deals with some of the first phases of restoration of democracy here, and then, in fact, in a very seamless way, can turn it over to the United Nations.

I think that what you will all note here is that the amount of work that has already gone into the preparation for the United Nations mission and the cooperation between the military forces that have been here, some of whom will stay, and how it will work in a seamless way when UNME takes over.

Q: Why is it not too early to say that this is a success, what with political assassinations and the nation still an economic basket case?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I think that the issue here is that there are major successes. You have a president that was elected by two-thirds of his people back. You have people that are clearly in the better economic phase than they were before. You have to compare the violence of the last few days to the violence that existed here before. Nobody condones death and violence. But I think you have to keep this in context.

Let me also say this job is not finished. Nobody thinks the job is finished. But I do think that we can all --we, the United States and especially the Haitian people -- and President Aristide can take great credit for what has happened here, and President Clinton today expressed his great pride in the American military and also in the cooperation of the U.S. and the Haitian people.

Q: Would the U.S. appreciate to get more nations involved -- European nations, for example, more than the Netherlands --

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, I think, you know, the more, the better. Because I think the issue here is that the United Nations, as it gathers forces for its peace-keeping operations does, in fact, very much like to have multinational forces.

Q: Ambassador Albright, there's been a real increase in crime here in Haiti in the last few weeks. Do you think the United Nations will have the mandate and the will to combat this crime?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I think the United Nations knows its mandate; it is to sustain the secure and stable environment, and as we've constructed this mandate, we believe that it is able to do the job.

Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Let me -- we're going to do one other thing. The President, after the transition ceremony, is going to meet with members of the electoral council, and I've got Brian Atwood, who is the Administrator of AID, who will kind of talk to you about some of the things the President's going to raise in that meeting, and we'll just do that real briefly, and that will serve as a readout for that meeting --

Brian? Come up.

Q: How long was the meeting with Aristide?

DIRECTOR ATWOOD: It ran just over 20 minutes. It went a little longer and then --

Q: Twenty minutes?

DIRECTOR ATWOOD: Twenty minutes, one-on-one, and then Boutros-Ghali joined the meeting after that.

Q: A longer session with Boutros-Ghali?

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: No, it was just a photo.

MR. MCCURRY: That was about 15 minutes. I think you all know Brian Atwood, who is the Administrator of the Agency for International Development, who has been doing a lot of work down here. Brian is going to tell you a little bit about what some of the concerns the President will raise when he meets with the electoral council this afternoon, and also -- if you're interested, some of the work that AID has been doing in preparation for the June 4th parliamentary elections.

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: Let me just say that some of you may know that I used to do elections for a living. I used to work for the National Democratic Institute. And we were here in 1987 when the election went very bad. We are this time taking every precaution, as are the Haitians. They have an electoral council that is going to be using the most modern safeguards that can be mounted. The United Nations is here to advise them. The United States government is providing $11.6 million for all of the ballots and the other safeguards that are necessary to run a free and fair election. There will be something like 400 monitors from both the OAS and the United Nations that will be monitoring this, and of course, the UNME force will be here as well.

So I think what the President will be anxious to hear from the Chairman of the Election Council is, what is the state of their preparations at this point, what additional assistance can we give them. As I indicated before, we're going to take every precaution. The election is June 4th, by the way. They then have to prepare for presidential elections later in the year, November 25, I believe. That's in '95.

There will also be, possibly, a runoff, there will be a runoff in June, June 26th, I believe. So those are the kinds of issues I think they'll raise.

Q: Are there going to be members of other political parties at this meeting, opposition leaders at this meeting with the --

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: Let me just say, there are 70 political parties in this country. We have been urging the Election Council, and they have agreed that they should have weekly meetings with these political parties. We would like to see them actually enter into an agreement on a code of conduct for this election; that would be, obviously, very helpful.

There will be representatives of political parties, I believe, at this meeting. Is that correct, Larry?

U.S. AID OFFICIAL: No, not this afternoon. There are too many -- too many political parties to have to choose seven -- there's not enough room for seven -- eight representatives.

Q: Who is going to be in this meeting, then?

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: This will be the electoral council, the CEP. That's right.

Q: The electoral council, not any opposition leaders or members?


Q: Does he see them later, then, or not?

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: I don't think that we were able to work that out this time.

Q: Was it because there were too many, or --

AMBASSADOR ATWOOK: well, that's always part of the problem when you have 70 political parties. The question is, how do you select those that should meet with the President and how many representatives and that sort of thing. I guess we weren't able to work that out.

Q: Was there a request by Aristide that the President not meet with any opposition leaders?

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: No, absolutely not. No. President Aristide, of course, is staying out of politics. He's the President of the country. He's trying to stay above it all and we're certainly supportive of that posture.

Q: I thought that was on our schedule, though?

ADMNISTRATOR ATWOOD: I think we tried to work it out. I don't think it was worked out. This has been a very compressed schedule, so we weren't able to work that one out.

Q: So he's just seeing representatives from Aristide's party?

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: The electoral council is made up of individuals that were selected both by the parliament and by President Aristide, and I think there are some private sector representatives as well. So it's an even distribution. They're not just Aristide's party.

Q: Are you concerned that the rising cost of living and unemployment could cause instability for the elections?

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: Well, we're concerned with the economic development of the country. And when we had meetings this morning, we emphasized the importance of continuing to make progress on the privatization front, continuing to try to find employment and jobs. They, in this country, cannot really afford a hiatus in moving forward on economic development. They can't just sit back and wait because there's an election campaign going on, and I think the Haitian government very much understood that and supported that.

I've been in a lot of developing countries, obviously, in this job and in my previous experience. There has been a remarkable amount of progress made here. Things always, I suppose, are frustrating for Americans because we're so impatient, but I think there's been a remarkable amount of progress in passing laws that are needed to create the right kind of economic policy structure.

Q: How delicate is this system? How easily could it come apart?

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: I'm not going to tell you it isn't delicate; it's fragile. This is a rather classic transition here, and we're talking about a country that has lost 30 percent of its gross national product in the last three years. And we're trying, obvioulsy, just in initial stages, to restore that, to restore the jobs that were lost and the like. And we're doing a lot of humanitarian assistance, still. We're still feeding a lot of people, almost a million people.

I think that it is a fragile situation, but I also think that tremendous progress has been made, and each day that goes by, we create, I think, irreversible change, and this visit, I think, symbolizes the success we've had to date, and certainly launches us to work harder for the future.

Q: what his personal ambitions are for the time after the elections -- presidential elections. President Aristide's ambitions.

ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD: President Aristide is primarily concerned with making sure that the democracy that will be experienced during a political campaign is matched by the progress in economic development. He is primarily concerned with jobs for his people and wants to create the right environment so that investment will come back into Haiti. That's his primary concern.

Thank you very much.

END1:18 P.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Remarks by U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright and Aid Administrator Brian Atwood to the Pool Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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