Statement on the Haitian Elections, February 21, 2006
Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
February 21, 2006
Our Conference of bishops gives thanks to God that Haiti will soon have a duly elected executive and Parliament. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to the Haitian people and to the president-elect, René Préval. And we pray that the run off election for members of the two houses of Parliament scheduled for next month will be equally successful.
The challenges facing the people of Haiti and Mr. Préval are enormous and will require the cooperation of all sectors of society. It is our hope that the President, members of the legislature and the new Prime Minister when installed will immediately move to bring about significant and early improvements in the standard of living of all Haitians. We believe that this is best accomplished by seeking the active participation of political parties, the private sector, academia, the many vibrant organizations of civil society, the Haitian Diaspora and Haiti's numerous friends throughout the world. We know that the Catholic Church in Haiti will continue to fulfill its essential mission of fostering unity, peace and reconciliation. Statements of the Haitian bishops in recent years as well as the Holy Father's 2006 Lenten Message which addresses development offer sage counsel to those who wish to work so that Haiti can offer a better future to its citizens.
The international community must clearly increase its assistance and partner in the development of capacity for sustained economic growth and social transformation. As political stability, personal security and democratic practices and accountability are strengthened, the largely unemployed and underemployed Haitian workforce must be able to count on continued foreign and domestic investment to create employment opportunities. Specifically, the United States ought to help enable the apparel industry to thrive again. The U.S. Congress ought to act soon in moving stalled legislation that would grant meaningful trade preferences to Haiti, and thereby create thousands of new jobs. It is the least this great country can do to aid a neighbor in need.
The people of Haiti have taken an important step forward in electing a president. Now the United States and the international community must take additional steps to accompany the Haitian people as they walk the long road to a future of democratic and economic re-vitalization.