[R-G] Powell ups pressure on Aristide to resign
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Feb 27 04:52:22 MST 2004
Powell joins the French in pressuring Aristide as US-backed and to some
extent U.S.-organized forces close in on Haitian capital. Note that one
consequence of US stance against boatlift is to make escape harder for
Aristide supporters and others whom the rightists -- and Washington and
Paris -- consider to be enemies.
Powell, Too, Hints Haitian Should Leave
By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS
Published: February 27, 2004
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 Secretary of State Colin L. Powell distanced
himself Thursday from Haiti's president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, saying
the embattled leader needs to make a "careful examination" of whether he
should step down.
Secretary Powell did not call for Mr. Aristide's departure as his
French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, did Wednesday but he
signaled for the first time that Mr. Aristide's resignation might be in
the best interests of Haiti.
"I think it is a very difficult time for the Haitian people," Mr. Powell
said. "And I know that President Aristide has the interest of the
Haitian people at heart. I hope he will just examine the situation that
he is in and make a careful examination of how best to serve the Haitian
people at this time."
Mr. Aristide, in a television interview on Thursday, said he would not
resign, and his Miami-based representative, Ira Kurzban, called
Secretary Powell's remarks "disgraceful."
"The president is not leaving, and he's made it clear today that despite
the rumors and psychological warfare, he's not leaving until his term is
up in February 2006," Mr. Kurzban said.
Mr. Powell's comments were the most pointed indication yet from a Bush
administration official that the administration views Mr. Aristide's
determination to serve out his term as an impediment to a peaceful
resolution of the three-week-old uprising, which has claimed the lives
of about 70 people and left the northern half of the country in rebel
In Port-au-Prince, tensions mounted when rebel leaders said they were
moving closer to an assault. At dusk flaming barricades went up across
the city, and truckloads of armed masked men patrolled the streets.
Bernie Léon, manager of three terminals at the port, said more than a
hundred people had looted shipping containers there. Many gas stations
stopped selling fuel.
At the airport, hundreds of people waited to board flights to the United
States, but late Thursday, American Airlines announced it was canceling
all flights from Haiti until March 3, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Powell, a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, traveled to
Haiti a decade ago with other negotiators at President Clinton's request
and attempted to negotiate the departure of the military leaders who had
ousted Mr. Aristide in his first term. He has been one of the
administration's strongest voices in defense of keeping Mr. Aristide in
office to uphold democratic principles. Several of his subordinates have
privately indicated disaffection with Mr. Aristide, whom they accuse of
The secretary's shift appears to muddle further the status of peace
talks based on a plan backed by the administration and the Caribbean
Community, or Caricom. That plan, which the State Department says it
still supports, calls for allowing President Aristide to continue in a
titular role while a government of national unity takes over under a
politically neutral prime minister.
Mr. Aristide agreed to the Caricom proposal over the weekend, but
opposition leaders balked, saying they could not accept his remaining in
office. Working the phones doggedly, Mr. Powell has been frustrated in
his efforts to persuade opposition leaders to accept the deal, which
would be monitored and enforced by the United States, France, Canada and
In an interview on Thursday with CNN, Mr. Aristide noted that he had
accepted the Caricom's power-sharing arrangement but would not
relinquish the presidency.
"This agreement includes the possibility to have a new government, where
we share power and share responsibilities," he said. "And I think that's
fair, when we can do that with members of the opposition, from civil
Asked pointedly whether he would step aside, Mr. Aristide replied: "No.
We had 32 coups d'état in our history.
"We will strengthen our democratic experience by moving from one elected
president to another elected president, but not from one coup d'état to
Mr. Kurzban, an immigration lawyer who works for the Aristide
government, said Secretary Powell was confusing the issue by focusing on
Mr. Aristide as the problem. He said former members of the Haitian Army
and known human rights violators were fomenting the violence, not the
"If, by this, Secretary Powell is suggesting that a democratically
elected government should give up power, it's disgraceful that that
should be the formal position of the United States," Mr. Kurzban said.
Some specialists in the region's foreign policy disagreed.
Bernard Aronson, who served as the top Latin America policymaker under
the first President Bush, said international leaders were only now
coming to acknowledge Mr. Aristide's failings as a leader.
"You have this real dilemma of how do you defend constitutional
democracy when the democratic leader is part of the problem?" Mr.
Aronson, who is managing partner with Acon Investments, said earlier
this week in an interview. "Finally the international community has
woken up to what he's been doing."
On Wednesday Mr. de Villepin, the French foreign minister, presented a
five-point plan to stabilize Haiti that included Mr. Aristide's
voluntary departure and elections by next summer. He also proposed the
immediate formation of a civilian peacekeeping force "responsible for
guaranteeing the return to public order."
The proposal was discussed at the United Nations Security Council on
With the first signs that Haitians fleeing violence might be taking to
the seas, Mr. Aristide seemed to warn of a growing exodus to Florida.
President Bush has said that he will not tolerate a boatlift and plans
to repatriate refugees as they are intercepted.
"Yesterday, we had more refugees leaving Haiti because of those
terrorists," Mr. Aristide told CNN. Asked if he was posing a threat, Mr.
Aristide replied: "No. I am being realistic. I'm just telling the truth.
Because the more we have those terrorists killing more people, the more
we will be seeing refugees."
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