WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) as well as U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced the reintroduction of the Haiti Development, Accountability and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act. Originally passed by the House in November during the 116th Congress, the bipartisan, bicameral legislation would assess the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid to Haiti over the past ten years and update strategies to reduce corruption, promote good governance, encourage freedom of the press, protect human rights and improve economic development in Haiti. The island nation is at a critical juncture, as Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has been ruling by decrees since January 2020.
“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 Rep. 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 Rep. 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.”
“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,” said Sen. Cardin. “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,” said Sen. Rubio. “We must remain firm in our continued commitment to Haiti having free, fair, and democratic elections.”
Eleven years ago, Haiti was hit by a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 220,000 people anddisplaced 1,500,000 people. Since then, the country has experienced additional challenges, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016, food insecurity, political unrest, corruption and like most nations, the coronavirus pandemic. As of November 2020, at least 4.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Haiti.
Specifically, the legislation will:
- Encourage the Secretary of State to address concerns of impunity for the orchestrators of the La Saline massacre that tortured and killed dozens in 2018.
- Advocate for increased protection for the press and the freedom to assemble, work to ensure that attacks against journalists are investigated and develop protection measures against police violence.
- Prioritize curtailing corruption in Haiti, including by supporting demands for accountability in the Petrocaribe oil scandal and assessing the impact of presidential decrees on the health of Haiti’s democratic institutions.
- Facilitate a report to assess post-earthquake, post-hurricane and COVID-19 recovery by creating a collaborative, detail-orientated and transparent development plan.
Rep. Jeffries originally introduced the legislation in January 2020, and it was passed out of the House of Representatives in November 2020.