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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 22, 1994
                        BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY

June 22, 1994

The Briefing Room

3:45 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The purpose of this briefing is to fill in as best we can the details of what the particular measure that was announced earlier does and answer your questions as to the consequence. My colleagues here are experts in this. There is one other person who damn well better get here from OFAC. But we're going to go ahead without him.

Q Couldn't you make the announcement again?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. I will start from the top. This is actually from her announcement. Do you really want me to read it? Okay.

It says: "As part of the Clinton administration's commitment to restore democracy to Haiti, the President has imposed additional financial sanctions to block assets of all Haitian nationals residing in Haiti. The order also reconfirms prior blockings of named persons who have participated in or supported the illegal regime in Haiti."

Is this a comfortable speed, if you're taking it down? Okay.

"And extends to all Haitian family members of already blocked individuals wherever resident. Blocked assets include assets in the United States or subject to U.S. jurisdiction, such as deposits in foreign banks of U.S. banks."

This new executive order is effective immediately. It does not affect property of the United States government, the United Nations, the Organization of American States or foreign diplomatic missions in Haiti. It is also inapplicable to nongovernmental organizations providing essential humanitarian assistance or conducting refugee and migration operations in Haiti.

Q How many people are affected compared to the previous number?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm reverting back to lecture hall techniques here and am watching as the pens go down, and then I'll continue and finish this, and then I'll take your answers.

This executive order is intended to target propertied Haitians who have supported the de facto regime and prolonged the suffering of the Haitian people. We will continue to work closely with nongovernmental groups to minimize the impact of the new sanctions on their operations in Haiti.

This executive order does not affect financing for continued shipments of basic foodstuffs and medical supplies to Haiti, as well as transactions that are associated with such shipments, consistent with previous executive orders and U.N. sanctions.

The new sanctions the President has imposed will amplify our message to the Haitian military leadership and those who have supported them, that we are determined to bring about the return of democracy and President Aristide to Haiti.

Coupled with previous actions, the freeze executed today by President Clinton will make it unmistakably clear to the Haitian elite that it will not escape the consequences of continued rule by the illegitimate de facto regime.

We urge those elites this now and to join in the restoration of democracy to Haiti.

Actually, I have a sets of Qs and As here, which are rather well structured. So, if you like --

Q Did you write your own questions? (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Of course. Of course. Listen, this is an exercise best conducted alone anyway, so -- (laughter) --

Q Is this a new way of --

Q Could we ask how many people are affected, though? This is really --

Q And then, is that one of your Qs?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, you can. It's there, but we can go out of turn if you like. Alright. Hang on. Has my colleague gotten here yet? No? Okay, alright.

The total number of persons who might be affected by this we cannot know. (Laughter.) Wait, just a minute. You have to hear the subordinate clause before you have to decide whether the giggle factor is involved. First of all, we assume that the Haitian poor are not likely to have assets in the control of U.S. banks or subject to this freeze. So, wherever they are, this freeze gets to the wealthy, however many of them there are. I don't think that's laughable, especially if you discover that your property is frozen in Miami, or wherever.

Now, in addition, in order to ensure immediate application against these wealthy elites, more than 250 individuals were specified as being covered by the order in implementing instructions that accompanied the order as distributed to U.S. banks. So this executive order catches any Haitian citizen who has assets within the grip of the United States government. But, in addition, there was a list of 250 named persons to whom this executive order has been explicitly applied.

Q Could you characterize those people?

Q What kind of people? Generically, who are these 250 people?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I see my colleague is here. How is it you managed to run three blocks and not look warm?

The list was prepared for this purpose. I think that we can characterize who was selected to go on it without necessarily providing the names. I don't know if there's a problem about giving the names. Do you think so?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The names have been supplied to the U.S. financial institutions to ensure that in addition to every other covered individual, any Haitian national resident of Haiti -- but these people in particular are, in fact, specifically blocked by banks, and so they have the names so they can immediately take action on these individuals.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the logical question here is, can we provide the list?




SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. When could you provide the list?


Q You said there were 250 names on the first list, and I thought there were 600.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is a new list. This is a list that was associated with the executive order that just went into effect.

Q Is it the feeling -- if I can press that question, is it the feeling that this second request covers a larger group of people than the first -- 600 in the first, are you trying to pick up folks who you missed, are you trying to hit a larger category of folks trying to stop? Obviously, there was a -- rush to switch accounts out of U.S. banks, and a first order was implemented. We're trying to get a sense of whether the horse has left the barn, of whether you're catching a small group of people who theoretically fell through the cracks, or whether you acted to get a broad group after the rush to switch assets prompted by the initial order.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This order is more sweeping and decisive.

Q But does it cover a larger group of people?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm -- that was dot, dot, dot. As to who got caught, one must listen to who is screaming in the next couple of days. I expect that we will hear from their attorneys in due course.

Remember, we are not aiming necessarily for vast numbers of persons. What we're aiming for are persons who happen to have assets that are within the grasp of this order. And as I said before, there is no way for us to know, conclusively, how extensive that number of persons might be.

On the other hand, the list of 250 people that was provided in association with this order was carefully devised to be as close to a smart bomb financially as we could get.

Q What indication do you have that you're not simply putting a freeze on a bunch of empty accounts, that there are, in fact, assets there that have not been shifted out somewhere else where you can't get ahold of them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Of course, you would never have that information, but it's broader than just accounts, it's property and interest and property in the United States subject to U.S. jurisdiction and foreign branches of U.S. banks. Moreover, it would prohibit financial transactions as well by the black minority.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd ask you to give a little more detail about the composition of the second list. That is, in terms of whether or not it is restricted to persons supporting the regime, or represents a broader category of persons.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's a broad cross-section of those individuals who, in addition to the standard laid out in the executive order, all Haitian nationals resident in Haiti includes specifically these people by name to ensure, in fact, that financial institutions have caught these people in the net as well. It was a list devised in consultation with those specifically acknowledged of these individuals and names.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Please correct me if I'm wrong; I could be. But this applies not merely to those who are known to be directly in political support of the regime, but to those who are essentially deemed to have profited through their associations and transactions with them. So it is a wider circle of persons, and a broader standard for who shall be affected.

Q Understanding that you don't have a total number of people that this is going to affect, you have an approximate idea. Do you also have an approximate idea of how much money this entails? Millions and millions? A few hundred thousand?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is no way to have an estimate because those numbers are not kept anywhere in the system. The point about this measure is that it severs the ability of wealthy Haitians to hold property and assets in the United States of America, a place where people like to hold property and assets. It is a very severe message to them about the future. So I will say quite bluntly that if you think that you have to know how many dollars are involved in order to assess the punch this carries, you are not quite catching the way in which the message is phrased.

It is telling a community of people who are accustomed to regarding the United States as a backyard that it isn't.

Q But the question about whether it could be empty accounts I don't think has really been adequately answered. Is there --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because it can't be, as I said before.

Q So there's a chance, though, that some of that money could have been put in accounts --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Of course, always a chance.

Q And could you also just explain for those of us who don't always look into this in great detail, generally who those people are? I mean, could it range from factory owners to drug dealers, or who are we talking about?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not sure the drug dealers have that on their business cards.

Q Are they entrepreneurs? Who are these people?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They will be a crosssection, and when you get the list, you'll have a chance to have a look at that yourself. But it will be a cross-section of the Haitian elite.

Q Will countries in the Caribbean be following suit? Have you all been talking to other countries down there who might also be able to freeze assets?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have an earlier executive order, which has stopped dollar transfers out of Haiti. And we are still talking to banks in the region and elsewhere to try to secure their voluntary cooperation with that standard. Of course, at the time that that earlier measure went into effect, the United States accounted for a little bit over 80 percent of the volume by dollar of what was going through there. So, in effect, we had the lion's share; it gave us our leverage; and we used it. But, of course, we would like for others to back us up.

The U.N. sanction that we have does not make that kind of approach mandatory for other banks, though it urges them to consider it. So we are out talking to them about that.

I have not even thought through myself yet or talked to my colleagues about whether this particular measure can be replicated elsewhere or whether it's advisable to try. I think it's sufficient at this point to say what I've said already, which is, it denies the United States as a place of investment to the Haitian elite and costs them what they have invested here. That is a very stern message.

Q Would you explain the legal language that it freezes the assets of Haitian nationals residing in Haiti, and then the families of the 250 named individual wherever they reside? Why not simply freeze the assets of the Haitian nationals wherever?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If you froze the assets of Haitians wherever, you would get a class of persons who essentially are expatriate, who have severed their living ties with Haiti, who live elsewhere, work elsewhere, and who don't deserve to be sucked into this.

The President of Haiti is here for the purpose of continuing his struggle to be returned to the pursuit of his constitutional obligations.

Q Can people named in the list move and reclaim control of their assets?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Would you want to amplify?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Once the assets are blocked, they're blocked within the United States. If they fit under the executive order, the standard is any resident, any Haitian national resident in Haiti, their assets are blocked and are subject to U.S. jurisdiction. That is in the United States, in the foreign branch of a U.S. bank, or doing business with a U.S. person would be prohibited because of the blocking order. But once it's blocked, it cannot be removed without a license.

Q So let me understand this. These people have had their assets frozen until, theoretically, Aristide is returned to power and you drop this sanction?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They're frozen until the President nullifies the executive order.

Q There is nothing they can do to regain control of their assets?


Q They cannot pledge allegiance to Aristide? They cannot disavow any association with the military government?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When the President of the United States is ready, they can regain control over their assets, period. Excuse me. That's many, many questions, and there's one person behind you who has had quite a few.

Q Accepting the fact that you can't put a dollar figure on this, could you tell us how you can gauge the scope as large enough to really make it bite? What is the scope of it so that these folks -- you talked in terms of future investment, but what about the property that's here now, and --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All property that is here now is frozen.

Q I hear that. But what's the scope of that property? Why -- if you don't know how much it's worth, how can you tell us it's large enough to make them feel the pain?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Why don't we just find out?

Q What are some of the anticipated next steps, further actions, other sanctions?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm here to discuss sanctions. And typically, you will see me nameless, faceless and odorless -- maybe odorless -- when the government announces what it is doing. I can't speculate in advance what we might do next.

There are some things that I would like to say about our efforts to make sure that these sanctions do not interfere with humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. I'll return to your questions, but it is an important message to get out, if you would care to carry it. (Laughter.)

I'm not sure what's amusing about it, but let me go ahead --

Q I'll tell you, if you'd like to know.


Q You are among the more patronizing officials in this briefing room, I think. Maybe we could have an exchange of information without being treated like three-year-olds.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I apologize -- really, I didn't know I was. Truly. Can we start all over again?

Q That would be nice.

Q Not with Dee Dee's statement.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right. No, not with Dee Dee's statement. Let me just answer the question. The key point that I wanted to make in connection with this is that the freeze specifically exempts nongovernmental organizations providing essential humanitarian assistance or conducting refugee operations in Haiti. We are continuing to work closely with these organizations to ensure that the impact of expanded sanctions on their operations is minimized. The freeze also exempts food and medical shipments to Haiti as well as transactions associated with those shipments.

Mort Halperin has been working closely and so has Mark Schneider, has been working closely with the NGOs as these sanctions take effect in order to explain to them in detail what they are and to talk them through the administrative procedures that have to be set up so that they can continue to function, better fulfilling a very vital function, feeding an increasingly large number of people in Haiti. And we are making every effort to be sure in designing these orders and in executing them that we continue to support their operation.

Q Can I ask a fundamental question here? What's the legal or constitutional basis for this kind of action? Are we entitled at any time, or is the President at any time he chooses to freeze or seize the assets of someone who supports a government we don't like?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think my colleague can answer that best.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which is the authority delegated to the President to take action --

Q When was this law passed?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: 1977 -- it's been used in Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Serbia, Panama, Haiti.

Q I assume this couldn't be used against American citizens in any instance?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is a very complex legal question that we could sit and debate. The point here is that this is any foreign national -- any Haitian national resident in Haiti. That's a much larger question. It doesn't really relate to what we're doing here.

Q But also the rubric is that it's under U.N. Security Council resolution, too, as well as the Act of 1977.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because of the incorporate by reference of earlier executive orders that were indeed part of the U.N. participation act that was included and cited in the preamble, however, this action was taken unilaterally within the United States and is not part of a larger U.N. activity.

Q What happens with a Haitian national resident in Haiti who's covered by this, who shifts legal residence?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If he can demonstrate that for a period of time prior to imposition of the executive order for a continuing period, then he can go forward to the bank or the holder of the assets and make a case that indeed he would not qualify if for that period of time he was indeed not a resident.

Q What I'm trying to figure out is if someone looks at this order that comes out, someone who -- official, whatever, and says, all right, I've upped stakes, I move out, ship my legal residence to another country wherever it is, establish whatever may be -- another citizenship, which can certainly be done. Can they be avoided that way? I'm just trying to find out how --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, if the assets were blocked underneath the standard I've just mentioned, they will remain blocked.

Q So under -- if I may ask yet another question, under the '77 law, any foreign national who places assets in the United States leaves himself open for this kind of thing.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: These kinds of executive orders are not issued lightly; it's in extraordinary circumstance. It took us a long time to get to this point. There are very few examples of instances where we have done something like this. Any foreign person who invests in the United States in good faith can expect his investment to be honored. This is, I think everyone would agree, a fairly unique set of circumstances.

Q Unless his government does something we don't like, even if he is innocent of involvement in that government.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are lots of governments that do things we disagree with. One has to get to a fairly intense threshold before something like this can happen.

Q Why is this happening at this particular point? Is it an indication that nothing seems to be working and you must try one more time? Or has there been some progress, as Dee Dee indicated, but I wasn't quite clear on exactly what kind of progress we're talking about?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the second question, I have to beg off because I don't know exactly what she said. As to why it is happening in this fashion, essentially the hope is that at lower levels of the sanctions, people who are running Haiti would get the message that they need to get out of the way of constitutional authority. Since that hasn't happened, we have moved to a sanction at a higher level of intensity. And you can't tell for sure whether they will get that message, but the intent of the sanction is to be a more powerful message than before.

Q Is there any appeals process here for Haitians who are affected? And, second of all, does this include all assets, such as automobiles, mutual funds? Is it all-inclusive?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To the second question, yes, everything. The first question, there's a technical answer and then there's the answer which my colleague gave you, which is the political answer.

The technical answer is, anyone can always petition, send a letter, request to have a license; so the mechanism is there. The question then would be, should we do it?

Q So the operating assumption is that every Haitian with assets in the United States for the moment is a supporter of the military regime.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This applies not to every Haitian in the universe, but to --

Q I didn't say that. Is every Haitian with assets in the United States -- your operating assumption initially is that their support is of the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. Let's qualify what we're talking about.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The standard is resident in Haiti -- Haitian national resident in Haiti. If they have assets in the United States and they're resident in Haiti, they're blocked. If they have refugee status, if they've been out of Haiti for a period of time --

Q My question was, your operating assumption is that every Haitian living in Haiti with assets in the United States is assumed to be a supporter of the Cedras regime.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Is assumed either to be a supporter or to be in a relationship to that regime which enables them to profit from it. Okay? I think that's right. I'll be right with you, I'm just checking. Isn't that right? Okay.

Q In your theory, are there any remaining sanctions you could take against the military or anything left now in terms of economic sanctions?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's a good question. I am not sure, as I stand here before you, that there would be any left. But in any event, in terms of direct sanctions to freeze property, we have basically done it with this sanction. There are other possible sanctions, measures, but not in this family, not in this group.

Q I think that's what the question is -- whether there are more things you can do -- whatever.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, there are other possibilities, but as I said before, I'll come before you to talk about them if there's a decision made to carry them out. I can't speculate about them in advance.

Q How much is the expected impact, or hoped-for impact of these sanctions diminished by the possibility or likelihood that a lot of the money that these -- the people that you're targeting here has is not in the United States, but in places like the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, which I gather are outside the ambit of these--

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You can't know. All I can tell you is that by their nature, these sanctions are blunt, they're not scientific. So you take a step of this sort and it's empirical. We --

Q What is your knowledge of the disposition of the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We do not know the disposition of assets in places like the Caymans. And so there is no way that I can provide a --

Q Do you have any sense or estimate of whether these people have tied their money up here, or there, or what?


Q Just flat don't know?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Would you like to qualify that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is correct. However, it would apply to deposits in U.S. banks which have branches in those locations or any branch around the world. If there was a bank in Paris or a bank in the Cayman Islands, that would apply. We will, however, be getting reports over a period of time as to the amount.

Q I'd like to ask you about the commercial airline instructions. I understand American Airlines stops flying in two days.


Q And how effective have you been with other countries in getting them to stop -- France, Canada?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I haven't checked as of this morning about the French. But everybody else who had flights going in and out has voluntarily decided to go along with that, and we're hopeful that the French will go along, too.

Q I'm a little confused about the effect --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Excuse me just a second. This was her first --

Q confirm reports that the U.S. is considering buying off the military leaders, paying them off to leave the country.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't confirm, deny, or even comment about those reports.

Q Didn't earlier executive orders restrict the asset movement of family members of the 600 or so named evil doers with -- is this new order filling a loophole about family members of those earlier named people, or were they named -- family members not named originally as being on the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Those earlier orders established a series of standards by which factional information would be applied as to the degree of obstructing the implementation of the Governors Island Accords, contributing to the climate of violence, obstructing the implementation of the U.N. resolutions, and so forth.

Several weeks ago there was a transfer prohibition from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, or through the United States to Haiti. This goes still one step further and blocks all assets to a Haitian national resident of Haiti. So it's a progressive step. The 650 are still in place. Any Haitian national resident of Haiti is in place, and these names now meet the standard Haitian national resident in Haiti.

Q Was there anything before about every Haitian national in Haiti, or is that new?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's new. That's new today.

Q to include the main people and that's new.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That 250 name is inclusive of the names who might meet the standard. It is a portion of those names who might meet the standard, but who are likely to have accounts.

Q They weren't on the first list?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Some of them may have been. There may be some overlap, but substantially, no.

Q the last time the United States invoked this, and with whom against whom?

Q Iraq.

Q Yugoslavia.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This was not done against Iraq. Vietnam in 1975; it was done in the north in 1963.

Q I'm sorry -- what was done in --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Blocking of individual private assets.

Q Not since then?

Q I thought you said this was done under a '77 law.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: Those actions were taken on an earlier statute that has similar authority but has not been used since the new law was passed, but was grandfathered in. That was called Trading With The Enemy Act.

MR. MITCHELL: Could we just take one more question. If you have some detailed questions, we can do this afterwards.

Q In a political context, this is a policy, it's a broadly-framed order. And I think one of the questions we have been touching on around the borders is, don't you run the risk of alienating a substantial part of the middle class population in Haiti, those people who are not supporters, don't you run the risk that they will be clearly not on our side at some point down the road, because we've been taking a significant bite out of their assets?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To this point, and has been possible for such persons, to find a relationship with the people who are running Haiti that is a workable and presumably comforable enough for them. The purpose of this order is to focus their attention on the fact that that relationship now leads to conditions that aren't workable and aren't comfortable, so that hopefully they will come off the fence and become a source of pressure for the restoration of constitutional rule in Haiti.

I can take two more, if that's okay with you.

Q I'd like to ask you how effective has been the original order for the 600. I mean, has it really turned the screws on the military?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not only does it block individual accounts, it prohibits transactions, so the blocking order locks in place what is there and prohibits contacts with the United States. For those names, 650 people heretofore, financial contacts with the United States, were also prohibited.

Q I wanted to follow up on what he was saying. Why is it appropriate for the United States to say that you must take sides? It is not appropriate for you to not take sides in this.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's up to these persons to decide for themselves what they want to do. But unless they become a force for restoration of constitutional government in Haiti, democracy is not going to be able to live there. I think it's legitimate for the President to use his legal authority to underscore that point.

Now, of course, if they still wish to remain on the fence, so to speak, that's a choice that only they can make. But a choice that we can make is whether to allow them to do so and still enjoy their ability to operate financially in the United States.

Q But what we were saying is if you don't take sides, we will punish you. Why is that appropriate?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One could say that what we are trying to do here is to bring an end to the suffering of the largest part of the Haitian people, which we think is a process that begins when constitutional government is restored and given a chance to exercise the promise it had before it was kicked out by the de facto regime.

Q I wanted to ask you, you've been using -- you and Dee Dee used the words wealthy elite. Is there a cutoff among -- let's say a Haitian who is wealthy or elite has managed to save $10,000 and has some in the United States and resides in Haiti, will he be affected? Is there a cutoff quantity that divides the wealthy and elite from normal amount?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The order applies to all Haitian nationals resident in Haiti.

Q Regardless of the amount.


Q But what is the population of Haiti -- about 4 million? Six million.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. I think we're done. The lady in the second row, whom I offended, can we talk and make peace on the side?

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END4:20 P.M. EDT