Rice Urges Haitians To Vote

Hardbeatnews, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Weds. Sept. 28, 2005: U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice yesterday urged Haitians to vote on election day, November 20, while also reiterating the need for the cases of former Prime Minister Yvonne Neptune and Father Jean-Juste to be dealt with in a timely fashion.

Rice, accompanied to Haiti by Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Mel Watt of North Carolina, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona and Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida, told journalists that while the people of Haiti have a long road ahead of them to prosperity and democracy, the elections that they are about to hold can be a very important, vital and crucial step along that road.

To the Haitian people she said, “I know that many of you have registered to vote. I hope that when the day comes that you will exercise that vote. To those of you who have not registered, please go and register and reclaim your right to choose a democratic leader for Haiti.”

And asked about the continued incarceration without trial of Juste and Neptune, Rice said that she has talked to the interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and President Alexandre Boniface about the importance of the justice system “accelerating the consideration of the cases of high-profile people like former Prime Minister Neptune and now Father Jean-Juste because, as I’ve said to the prime minister, justice has to come in a timely fashion and it should not be the case that anyone can interpret that there is some kind of political motive here.”

Secretary of State Rice also revealed that there were some concerns by the international community members in Haiti about where polling places will be and the registration of those polling places, the registration of electoral workers so that they can be fully trained and the electoral calendar that still needs to be finalized.

But she insisted, “Everybody with whom I spoke focused on the fact that there must be a transfer of power by the 7th of February and that everybody believes that that is necessary for stability here in Haiti,” and urged the interim government to work with the UN, through MINUSTAH, and the OAS to resolve those issues.

Meanwhile, asked about U.S. immigration policy towards Haiti, Rice reiterated that the policy towards Haitian refugees has not changed.

“The United States has to be clear about its policies on refugees, both for the safety of refugees and for the integrity of our refugee policies. And that has not changed,” she said, when asked why is there not parity for the Haitian refugees compared to the Cuban refugees.

The wet foot, dry foot’ policy applies to Cuban refugees landing in the U.S. but not Haitians, who are most often incarcerated and deported back to the strife-torn land.

And on former President, Jean Bertrand Artiside’s possible return to the country, Rice added, “… the international community is of one mind that it would not be a good thing for Mr. Aristide to return.

“I think that is very clear. The Haitian people are moving on.” – Hardbeatnews.com