THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 31, 1995
REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR SWING TO THE POOL
Warrior Base Port-au-Prince, Haiti
9:52 A.M. EST
Q Mr. President, why don't you join us for a question or two?
THE PRESIDENT: The Ambassador will do fine. Thank you.
Q Mr. Ambassador, is there any truth to these allegations about the Interior Minister may have been involved in this plot to kill this woman?
AMBASSADOR SWING: What I want to emphasize is that the -- President Aristide asked for help and we're sending a very large contingent of FBI here. We're determined to work with them and find out the facts. -- investigation on the FBI --
Q make sure that this democratic experiment works?
AMBASSADOR SWING: I do. We obviously face enormous challenges -- building a new justice system and a police system -- But they've gotten off to a very good start. He's preaching basically for reconciliation. He's moving toward elections. We're training the police -- and more importantly, the international community support remains very solid. We've got 37 nations in the U.N. force, so, yes, I feel good about --
Q Haitian military police force, can they go after these assassinations, these murders -- are these political? Are they just random robberies? What is going on?
AMBASSADOR SWING: It's very hard to tell at this point. I'll give you a personal perspective on it. Most of the crime in the recent days has been of an economic nature. This does not appear to be of that sort, it would appear to be -- have some kind of a political motive. We don't know what yet.
In a transitional society such as Haiti is, the people often use high-profile assassinations in order to advance an agenda, for instance, to derail a process. So we're looking at it very much from that angle. As you know, it's being investigated now with our own FBI agents, so we'll see.
Q Do you know this Interior Minister personally?
AMBASSADOR SWING: I do not know him personally, no.
Q Is he known as someone who is responsible --
AMBASSADOR SWING: I wouldn't want to characterize him. I do not know him. He's a former military man and he was recently appointed. But as I say, we're in the middle of an investigation now. We'll know more later about the assassination.
Q When do you think the investigation will be over with?
AMBASSADOR SWING: Well, we've just begun it, as you know. We had, at one point, a large pool; we've got more than a dozen people here now. They'll stay as long as necessary to complete the various aspects of the forensics and all the rest, and following up all the leads we can get.
Q Should the multinational coalition have done more to disarm the populace?
AMBASSADOR SWING: I think they've done a very good job of doing -- they're not here to disarm the populace because under the constitution the populace has the right to have a gun for personal protection. What they have done is collected about 30,000 weapons through about two or three means. One is the cash for guns program, about 13,000. And we've got about 17,000 just going after caches based on intelligence reports that we get. We'll continue to do street sweeps at night, roadblocks, and I think the U.N. plans to do that.
But the real key is, even if you pick up all the guns, you've got to have a justice system that works. And we're trying to help them --
Q Is that the key to ending political violence in Haiti?
AMBASSADOR SWING: It's one of the keys. The other is to have an electoral process that works. And the other is to get people jobs so they don't commit crime.
Q Mr. Ambassador, what does the U.S. government know about the possible involvement of the Interior Minister?
AMBASSADOR SWING: I don't want to get into discussion of the actual case under investigation. So if you don't mind, I'd rather not go into that kind of detail now.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.