Joint Press Availability With Haitian President Michel Martelly

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Port au Prince, Haiti
October 6, 2015

PRESIDENT MARTELLY: (Via interpreter) Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary of State, Mr. ministers, ambassadors, distinguished members of the delegation, ladies and gentlemen, members of the press, the Haitian people and myself – we are very happy, Mr. Secretary of State, that you honored our invitation to come and visit Haiti, this invitation that I had given you after you had delayed your visit in December last year, the fact that my agenda had been too full before. I thank you, President Obama, and – for the solidarity and the people of America for the Haitian people. Your presence in Haiti today, Mr. Secretary of State, is a witness to the continuous engagement of the American people on our side.

So speaking of the engagement of the American people on our side, I’d like to mention this investment that both of our countries did in the northeast – Caracol Industrial Park – where we have the possibility today to create more than 7 million jobs. And the dream is to get up to 60 million jobs in the northeast – 60 million means a lot. Thank you for renewing the HOPE, HELP laws, allowing those who are working there to export directly to the United States, avoiding having to pay taxes. Thank you also for having reinforced our national production in agriculture.

I had the pleasure of visiting projects sponsored by your government through different agencies in order to reduce dependency to struggle against unemployment, hunger, and to create wealth. Thank you for your assistance in these domains, for good governance. Thank you also for helping the police. Very often, people speak of security, of stability, and this – for this, we need a capable police force, so thank you for that help. Thank you also for the help that you bring us on electoral issues. You’re helping us now for quite a bit, quite a while, a lot of financing that you have afforded us to get to our goals.

I laud the help the United States gives us for the electoral process, this which must end at the end of this year – that both governments are both attached to the process, and we want to respect the date of October 25th, and we want the presidential power be transferred from elected official to elected official, according to the date requested by the constitution. I say this because at the last elections which were held in May – normally I should have finished my mandate in 2016 – May 2016, but to go back to the proper time, I have myself decided to allow that the new president takes over February 7th, 2016, as foreseen by the constitution.

The democratic exercise of August 9th was far from perfect. Structural problems were made manifest in our political system. The CEP has engaged itself, and we encouraged it to correct everything that can be corrected so that the elections which will take place in 19 days should be better. On its part, the government continues to do everything possible to make sure the process goes better. The help to the Haitian police will be reinforced so that it is more efficacious on the day of the vote. Haiti is already turned towards the future. We are convinced that democratic (inaudible) is the only way possible and the only foreseeable path.

I cannot end without once more renewing to you, Secretary of State Kerry, all my thanks for having honored my invitation to come to visit Haiti – my country, our country. I also wish to thank the United States for their engagement on behalf of the Haitian people. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Mr. President, thank you for the invitation, which I am delighted, obviously, to take you up on and to be here. And I want to thank my additional hosts, in addition to President Martelly. I want to thank Prime Minister Evans Paul and Foreign Minister Renauld, and I just had a chance to say hello to the first lady, Sophia Martelly.

To everybody in Haiti, I say hello, and I am delighted to be able to visit here in advance of the October 25th second round of elections. For more than 30 years, I have followed events here in Haiti very closely – first as a United States senator from Massachusetts where we have many Haitians living, and now as Secretary of State working closely with our ambassador, Ambassador Mulrean and with our special coordinator for Haiti, Ken Merten.

Many of my former constituents have friends and family here, and there is a real closeness that we feel with the people of Haiti. And so when a terrible shock, a disaster takes place like the earthquake, we share your grief and we want to help. I told the president that my daughter, who is a doctor, came down here and spent several weeks working in the hospital right after the earthquake in order to help.

And in the spirit of our closeness, when opportunities arise, we encourage you to seize them because we care about Haiti. We know that you have been through difficult times and you’ve shown great tenacity, and we very much hope and want you to succeed. That is really the heart of the message that I bring to Port-au-Prince today. Since the trauma of 2010, the United States has provided Haiti with more than $4.2 billion in assistance. But in the end, Haiti’s future will not be defined by the external help, necessary as it can be. Haiti’s future depends on the unity of its people and on your ability to develop strong and stable democratic institutions.

We all know that democracy requires a great deal more than elections. But elections are the essential starting point. Haiti needs governing institutions that are legitimate and representative, and those cannot come into being without free and fair elections in which citizens take part without intimidation, without violence. Haiti’s coat of arms says “L’union fait la force,” and that unity has an enormous opportunity to be present and visible and felt in the 19 days from now that the president mentioned.

President Obama and I join together in encouraging all Haitians to go to the polls on October 25th and to be patient and to refrain from any kind of disruption. As President Martelly and I just discussed, violence and intimidation have no place in the election process. The Haitian people I know deserve much better than that. So the United States and other members of the international community will be working with the Provisional Electoral Council to support what we hope will be a smoother and more fully peaceful process than what took place on August 9th.

I want to congratulate Haiti’s government, President Martelly, and his cabinet, for the increased budget support that they are giving to the balloting. And you can be certain that American contributions, more than 30 million for the full electoral cycle, will continue as well.

In closing, I just want to reaffirm the very deep and unwavering friendship that the people of the United States have for the people of Haiti. We want the October elections and later rounds to go well because we want you to take the next big step towards a flourishing economy and the kind of vibrant, democratic system that your citizens need and deserve. And it is important to note that it is only through elections that a legitimate transfer of power can take place.

(In French.)

Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Two questions: one question from the local press, one question from the foreign press. For the local press, (inaudible) of Tele Metropole. He will ask the question in the name of the Haitian press.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) from the Haitian Press. Good evening, everyone. Mr. Secretary of State, we know that the United States are supporting the electoral process. You have just said so. But we are in a context where political parties, important political parties here in Haiti, are demanding or requesting the end of the CEP and they are asking for a transitional government. They asked – they sent a letter to your department. Do you plan to take this into consideration – these demands, these requests? If we would have a transitional government in United States – in Haiti, is the United States ready to work with a transitional government if we were to get to that transitional government instead of the elections?

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re – the United States, as I said, is working very, very closely with Haiti and with the international partners to put in place all of the elements of a credible, free, fair, transparent, and accountable election. And we believe those elections need to be held as scheduled. We are working very closely in order to guarantee that any problems that existed do not exist in the next step.

There’s no question that in the next three weeks there is all the opportunity, or in 19 days there is all the opportunity to be able to take advantage of the election process and make sure that this election is without incident, without violence, without intimidation, and that people go to the polls and vote.

The United States condemns any violence, and we encourage full participation in the election process. Let me be very clear: I said earlier the only way to have a change of government is through the election process. And that is the way to have a legal and legitimate transition which attracts the support of the international community.

And there will automatically be a transition because President Martelly is not running again. So in order to attract business and investment and change the course of Haiti, we strongly urge people to embrace the opportunity of these next 19 days to campaign, to speak out, to organize, and then to go to the vote – to the polls and vote peacefully and with determination to unite for the course of Haiti.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Our second and final question today will come from Brad Klapper from the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Thank you, I have two questions, the first for both of you. How – almost six years after the earthquake, economic growth in Haiti is very low. How important is this election to get the economy really moving again, and what would you like to see from the next government to really accelerate growth in a way that hasn’t quite happened yet with the current government?

And then secondly, only for you, Mr. Secretary – unless Mr. President wants to comment as well – yesterday you mentioned more intensive talks with the Russians about Syria. Have those started yet? What will those talks encompass? And today the Russians mentioned – indicated that you are only interested in talking about de-confliction and not about the shared goal of fighting ISIS, so do you have a response to that? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, I’m very happy to talk about both.

With respect to Haiti – and the president and I talked about this – Haiti needs to come together. And its political system, just like ours, needs to get away from gridlock. Nobody wins when people refuse to take part and be part of the debate and choices for the future, and that’s true for the United States as it is for Haiti. Governing requires compromise. And so I believe that with this election the people of Haiti have an opportunity to be able to define their future, listen to people who offer real plans for Haiti, and come together in the spirit of understanding that to attract investment, to bring jobs to Haiti, people need to have confidence in the political system.

Regarding Syria and Russia, we are going to continue the very specific conversation to make sure that no accident occurs and to see whether or not there is a legitimate focus on Daesh/ISIL in a way that would allow efforts across different lines of cooperation. That’s not clear yet. And so until it is, it’s very difficult to engage in that conversation.

What we have said and I repeat again, that if Russia’s intent is to focus more on shoring up Assad and his regime, rather than legitimately narrowing the focus to ISIL and its affiliates, that will make it impossible to find the political solution that they say they want because it will inevitably wind up attracting more jihadis and creating more destruction, more refugees, more division within Syria itself.

And as I said yesterday, Russia agreed in the conversation between President Putin and President Obama and those of us who were there, and subsequently between Foreign Minister Lavrov and myself, that this had to be done on two tracks – the political and the military against ISIL. And their client, Assad, who wouldn’t be surviving without their current support, has indicated that he believes they will not do two tracks simultaneously. So Russia needs to sort out its own policy, and we stand ready, as we always have, to find a political solution, because there is no military solution to the problem of Syria.


SECRETARY KERRY: That there is no military solution, that we stand ready – that Assad said that there can only be going after terrorists, not two tracks.


SECRETARY KERRY: And so the client – so the Russian client needs to understand – well, Russia needs to work out its own policy difference with its client.

PRESIDENT MARTELLY: (Via interpreter) I can tell you that on the issue of the economy in relationship to the economy – the elections, we can admit that we are not where we want to be. But that’s the macro view, because if you take what happened in the last few years, we can see that there has been progress. Certainly, inflation was able to be held back, and it was at 3.6 percent growth and we are still at 1.7 percent growth compared to 2004, where inflation was at more than 40 percent.

So now today, Haiti – or when I became president, Haiti was not even listed as a country to be visited. One year after I was there, Haiti was in last on the list, but it still made the list. On four years we went up four ranks, so positive things are happening in the country because managing problems, to go from the negative to the positive, doesn’t happen overnight, not even in one term. But we are putting together and we’re putting measures together and we do everything in our power so that things change. And this is the necessity, as the Secretary said, to have elections. If we want to speak about the economy, we have to have the help of the international community and its partners, and they believe only in a legitimate government so that investors come to the country and help the economy move forward.

On the issue of Russia and Syria, now there, Haiti will avoid making comments. We have pressing questions on the issue of elections in the Dominican Republic, but we will simply wish that the actors, the United States and Russia, the main actors and protagonists, will find the middle way to find a solution to the conflicts which help in no way the world. And we are counting on the experience and the know-how of the Secretary, who proved that with the nuclear deal with Iran had the capacity of solving certain conflicts. So we are counting on the major protagonists to be of good faith. Thank you. (Applause.)