A proposal “to assess and accelerate progress in Haiti after the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 220,000 people, injured 300,000, destroyed 115,000 homes, and displaced 1.5 million Haitians” backed by two Republicans from the Sunshine State is gaining serious traction on Capitol Hill.
In April, Florida Republicans U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz joined U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY, in bringing out the “Haiti Development, Accountability and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act.” Cardin introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate with Rubio as a co-sponsor. Jeffries brought out the bill in the U.S. House with Waltz as a co-sponsor.
“Although the eyes of the world largely have turned away, Haiti has continued to struggle to recover from the devastating earthquake of a decade ago. Its government and economy are rife with uncertainty and corruption, while everyday life for many of its citizens remains a constant struggle,” Cardin said. “I am particularly concerned with reports of grave human rights abuses that must be fully investigated to bring those responsible to justice.”
“Having seen firsthand the devastation caused by Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, I’m proud to join this bicameral and bipartisan effort to ensure we shine a light on human rights violations, corruption, governance and the rule of law in Haiti,” Rubio said. “We must remain firm in our continued commitment to Haiti having free, fair, and democratic elections.”
“Haiti is home to a resilient and entrepreneurial people and has tremendous potential to thrive as a free and fair democracy. However, it faces—and has faced—severe challenges in the wake of natural disasters, food insecurity, the coronavirus pandemic and political instability,” said Jeffries. “I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation with Representative Waltz and Senators Cardin and Rubio to upgrade the U.S. foreign assistance strategy to Haiti. We will always stand with our neighbor in the Western Hemisphere and the Haitian people as they fight for a self-governing, democratic and prosperous nation.”
“For far too long, Haiti has been crippled by poverty, natural disasters, political instability, and corruption. The American people, along with the Haitian-American community, have generously supported Haiti’s efforts to rebuild and recover,” said Waltz. “I’m honored to stand with Rep. Jeffries in his steadfast dedication to promote transparency within Haitian humanitarian assistance programs to ensure that this vital aid is focused on improving the welfare of the Haitian people.”
The bill “requires the U.S. Secretary of State to prioritize the protection of human rights and anti-corruption efforts in Haiti by fostering strong relationships with independent civil society groups, and by supporting the efforts of the Haitian government to identify persons involved in human rights violations and significant acts of corruption in Haiti and hold them accountable for their actions” and “requires a State Department briefing on the November 13, 2018 attack in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline and its aftermath, including an examination of any links between the massacre and mass protests that occurred concurrently in the country.”
The bill would also have the State Department report on American efforts to help security and democratic efforts in Haiti. After recent events in Haiti, the bill has been amended since the House passed it in June. The Senate passed the amended version last week without opposition.
The bill “requires the U.S. Department of State to report on human rights abuses that have taken place in Haiti and the assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse” and “supports the efforts of the Haitian Government to identify persons involved in human rights violations and significant acts of corruption in Haiti and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Rubio’s office noted some of the changes in the latest version of the bill.
“Amended after the assassination of Moïse in July as well as the August earthquake and tropical storm, all of which exacerbated long-term challenges facing Haiti, the bill would measure the progress of post-disaster recovery and efforts to address corruption, governance, rule of law and media freedoms,” Rubio’s office noted.
“For far too long, the Haitian people have endured the hardships of corruption, criminal gangs, civil unrest, and devastating natural disasters,” Rubio said at the end of last week. “As we begin a new year, the U.S. Senate is sending an important message of support to the Haitian people with the passage of our bipartisan Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act. A more secure and prosperous Haiti benefits not just the Haitian people, but also our entire hemisphere. With the Senate’s passage of this important bill, we are one step closer to making it law.”
“The Haitian people continue to face a long list of struggles in their daily lives, as disasters and tragedies mount,” Cardin said. “We are greatly concerned that a Haitian government that is both unstable and corrupt will allow or enable additional human rights abuses. UNICEF has reported that 1.6 million people in Haiti, including 800,000 children, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The United States must act with urgency to help our Haitian neighbors emerge from this ongoing crisis.”
The amended version of the bill was sent back to the House last week.
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