Media Center



March 29, 2006 - Washington, DC

Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives and
Alternate Representatives to the OAS
Permanent Observers
Secretary-General, José Miguel Insulza
Assistant Secretary-General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin
Special Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Today I feel particularly honored and privileged to welcome Haiti’s President-Elect, Mr. René Preval to this distinguished Organization, the house of the Americas, a place where the name of your country was called incessantly, a place where the political, social and economic situation of your country were hotly debated and most importantly, a place where the work of promoting, preserving, protecting and consolidating democracy throughout the hemisphere so that its benefits can be attained and maximised by all member states of the hemisphere, continues relentlessly.

Mr. Preval, on behalf of the Council, let me welcome you to the Headquarters of the Organization of American Sates – bien vini, Missié Pwesident-Electé, bien vini.

Mr. René Preval, however, is no stranger to the Organization for he graced us with his presence in March of 1996, neither is he a stranger to the issues of Democracy and Governance. In 1996, Mr. Preval, who holds a degree in Agronomy, was elected President of Haiti for a five-year term, with 89% of the popular vote. He had come a long way, and had weathered many political storms before he became the second democratically elected head of state in the country’s two hundred year history.

Raised in a political family, it was not surprising that Mr. Preval became immersed in the politics of his country. With the fall of the Duvalier regime in 1986, Mr. Preval became active in several civil groups, particularly the “Respect for the Constitution”, group, and the “Family is Life Orphanage” which was managed by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In 1991, Mr. Preval served as Prime Minister and Defense Minister in the government of President Aristide, until he was forced to leave the country following the September 30, 1991, military coup. Unable to be kept away from his country, he returned to Haiti in 1994, and served as the director of the internationally funded Economic and Social Assistance Fund, until he was elected President of the country.

As President, Mr. Preval’s record demonstrated his ability to deliver within the concept which sees democracy, in the words of Mahatma Ghandi as “Something which gives the weak, the same chance as the strong”. Mr. Preval also demonstrated that he understood that good governance is forged from a combination of visionary and competent leadership which delivers what it promises. Throughout his presidency, Mr. Preval espoused the need for a dynamic engagement between government and the people it represents.

He was, however, forever mindful and was often quick to point out that, and I quote “Democracy was not an easy thing. It is a process that must be built. It is a struggle that cannot be achieved overnight without problems”; [March 21, 1996, interview with Charlayne Hunter – Gault].

As President, Mr. Preval launched his “Democratisation by Capitalisation”, a programme which privatises government enterprise through joint ventures with private capital. This programme, although it was not wholly popular, was a move steeped in political and economic realism and which consequently brought about the release of $226 million in foreign aid to Haiti through the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As President of Haiti, Mr. René Préval was a strong supporter of investigations and trials related to human rights violations committed by military and police personnel, and we look forward to his continued efforts in this regard. The importance of a fair and credible judicial system is a basic condition for a democracy and we all know that there are currently matters in this regard that need urgent and immediate resolution.

In spite of the many incidents that marred his presidency, Mr. Preval earned the reputation for trying to stamp out corruption. He advocated that the government must be answerable to the people that ushered it into power, and that there was a need to keep the government free of taint and greed.

Mr. Preval’s return to the political arena in 2005, after a low key absence, during which his bamboo cooperation on his family farm became a model for rural development, have again brought to the fore the many principles, which he espoused during his presidency of 1996-2001.

His plain talking style, his modest campaign pledges, and realistic promises to school age children, peasants and those in need of urgent health care, have won over the many who appeared to have given up hope within the past few years. His recent statement to a reporter captures the essence of the man which the people of Haiti have chosen to lead them, and I quote “This is not a victory for René Preval, this is a victory for the Haitian people. The Haitian people did not vote for René Preval, they voted for a change and they have given René Preval the responsibility of leading this project to achieve a change in their lives” unquote. Therefore, the President-Elect concluded, and I quote again “it is not my victory, it is the victory of the people” unquote.

Missié Pwesident-Electé, nous ni confiance ou pas kai dé sa pwenté pep-ou, pis yo, ka sipporté-ou, bien fort. Oui, Missié Pwesident-Electé ou, sé l’espwa Ayti.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most important moments in Haiti’s history and your visit to the OAS is quite timely. The people in Haiti need it and deserve it. They have suffered, in my view, far too long from the lack of political stability and economic opportunity. It is time to stop this trend and you, President-elect, have a unique and historic mandate in this regard.

Excellency, as you well know we have been attentively and actively following the developments in your country. We will continue and will be there accompanying your people and the new government authorities in the immense undertaking which Haiti now faces. More than ever the international and the hemispheric community need to demonstrate in political, economic and financial terms, its long term commitment to the social and economic reconstruction in the Republic of Haiti.

Again, let me welcome you to the House of the Americas.

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome with the warmest OAS spirit, His Excellency René Préval.

Thank you.

May I now offer the floor to His Excellency Mr. René Préval, President-Elect of Haiti.