[R-G] Aristide interviewed by Democracy Now: French client govt. backs down
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Mar 9 03:40:40 MST 2004
Along with much other interesting material, he explains that he still
supports the presence of UN-sponsored US, French, and Canadian troops.
This is clearly not an isolated view in Haiti, but one that cuts across
most political lines in the country. I suspect this reflects not
primarily illusions about the imperialists, but the blows dealt to the
morale of Haitians over the last decade, including by the devastating
effects of economic crisis and imperialist economic and political
Events have shown unmistakably that Aristide is the current president of
Haiti, not the stopgap appointed by the occupation. Unlike the
imperialist pick, Aristide retains the support of substantial sections
of the population although he is opposed by others. The Haitian people
have every reason to resist his removal from office by the imperialists.
Overthrown by a brutal US coup carried out in alliance with the Haitian
far right including invaders from the Dominican Republic, he represents
the battered sovereignty of his country today, in Haiti and before the
world. But it is also a fact that the stagnation of his government and
his own reliance on the US and the UN Security Council as ultimate
guarantors of peace and democracy in Haiti (including in the previous US
intervention which had the cover of restoring him to the presidency,
which had been demanded by the Haitian people) have been contributing
factors in the blows to morale and self-confidence in Haiti, though
There are growing indications, however, that the coup will, slowly or
rapidly, blow up in Washington's face, as has been gradually happening
in Iraq, where Washington also counted on a badly battered population to
give the occupation a free ride. None of Washington's military
occupations in the "war on terrorism" era have gone off smoothly or
failed to set off widespread and continuing resistance in various forms
(which was not the pattern earlier in Grenada, Panama, Serbia, Kosovo,
and Bosnia -- although Somalia was an important exception). I think
Haiti will not be an exception to this new pattern of growing
Monday, March 8th, 2004
ARISTIDE SPEAKS TO DEMOCRACY NOW! IN MOST EXTENSIVE ENGLISH-LANGUAGE
INTERVIEW SINCE HIS REMOVAL FROM HAITI
At approximately 7:20 am EST, Democracy Now! managed to reach exiled
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by cell phone in the Central
African Republic. His comments represent the most extensive
English-language interview Aristide has given since he was removed from
office and his country.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE 30 MINUTE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT
CLICK HERE TO READ TRANSCRIPT
Moments before the Democracy Now! interview, Aristide appeared publicly
for the first time since he was forced out of Haiti in what he has
called a US-backed coup. The authorities in the Central African Republic
allowed Aristide to hold a news conference after a delegation of
visiting US activists charged that the Haitian president was being held
under lock and key like a prisoner. The delegation included one of
Aristide's lawyers, Brian Concannon, as well as activists from the Haiti
Support Network and the International Action Center, representatives of
former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Shortly after they arrived in
Bangui on Sunday, the delegation attempted to meet with Aristide at the
palace of the Renaissance. The CAR government rebuked them.
WEB EXCLUSIVE: Click here to listen to report from delegation member
Shortly after, the country's foreign minister held a press conference in
Bangui. Armed men threatened journalists in the room, warning them not
to record the minister's remarks. Mildred Aristide, the Haitian First
lady, was brought into the room, but was not permitted to speak. The CAR
foreign minister told the journalists that President Aristide would hold
a news conference within 72 hours. Hours later, Aristide was allowed to
In his interview on Democracy Now!, Aristide asserted that he is the
legitimate president of Haiti and that he wants to return to the country
as soon as possible. He details his last moments in Haiti, describing
what he called his "kidnapping" and the coup d'etat against him. He
responds to Vice President Dick Cheney's comment that Aristide had "worn
out his welcome" in Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: I am Amy Goodman from the radio/TV program Democracy Now!
around the United States. We would like to know why you left Haiti.
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Thank you. First of all, I didn't leave Haiti
because I wanted to leave Haiti. They forced me to leave Haiti. It was a
kidnapping, which they call coup d'etat or [inaudible] ...forced
resignation for me. It wasn't a resignation. It was a kidnapping and
under the cover of coup d'etat.
AMY GOODMAN: It was a kidnapping under the cover of coup d'etat?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Who forced you out of the country?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE:I saw U.S. officials with Ambassador Foley.
Mr. Moreno, [inaudible...] at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti I saw American
soldiers. I saw former soldiers who are linked to drug dealers like Guy
Philippe and to killers already convicted, Chamblain. They all did the
kidnapping using Haitian puppets like Guy Philippe, [inaudible], and
Chamblain, already convicted, and basically, this night, I didn't see
Haitians, I saw Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you say that they kidnapped you from the country.
Secretary of State Powell said that that is ridiculous. Donald Rumsfeld
said that is nonsense. Your response?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Well, I understand they try to justify what they
cannot justify. Their own ambassador, ambassador Foley said we were
going to talk to the media, to the press, and I can talk to the Haitian
people calling for peace like I did one night before. And unfortunately,
once they put me in their car, from my residence, a couple of days
later, they put me in their planes full with military, because they
already had all of the control of the Haitian airport in Port-au-Prince.
And during the night, they surrounded my house, and the National Palace,
and we had some of them in the streets. I don't know how many are --
were there. So it's clearly something they planned and they did. Now, if
someone wants to justify what I think they cannot justify and that's --
my goal is to tell the truth. This is what now I'm telling you -- the
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, did you resign the Presidency?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: No, I did not resign. I exchanged words through
conversations, we exchanged notes. I gave a written note before I went
to the press at the time. And instead of taking me where they said they
were taking me in front of the Haitian press, the foreign press, to talk
to the people, to explain what is going on, to call for peace. They used
that note as a letter of resignation, and I say, they are lying.
AMY GOODMAN: When you went into the car from your house, did you
understand you were going to the airport and being flown out?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Not at all. Because this is not what they told me.
This was our best way to avoid bloodshed. We talked with them somehow in
a nice, diplomatic way to avoid bloodshed, we played the best we could
in a respectful way, in a legal and diplomatic way. Because they that
told me that they were going to have bloodshed. Thousands of people were
going to be killed, including myself. As I said, it was not for me,
because I never cared about me, my life, my security. First of all, I
care about the security and lives of other people. I was elected to
protect the life of every single citizen. So, that night I did my best
to avoid bloodshed and when they took me, putting me in their plane,
that was their plan. My strategy was then all I could [do] to avoid
AMY GOODMAN: Are you being held in the Central African Republic against
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Actually, against my will, exactly. Let me tell you,
this past twenty hours on the American plane with American soldiers,
including nineteen American agents who had an agreement with the Haitian
government to provide security to us. They were also in that plane,
maybe, to keep the truth in the plane, instead of having one of them
telling the truth out of the plane. Because one of them had a baby, one
year and-a-half in the plane - he was an American guy - and they
wouldn't give him a chance to get out of the plane with the baby. My
wife, the first lady, who was born in the United States, her father and
mother were Haitians, with me. She didn't have the right to even move
the shade and look out through the windows. Which means, they violated
their own law. Until twenty minutes before I arrived here, I knew where
they request going to land, which means clearly, clear violation of
international law. Unfortunately, they did that, but fortunately, I pay
tribute to the government of Central Africa for the way they welcomed
us. It was gracious, human, good, and until now, this is the time kind
of relationship which we are developing together. I thank them for that
AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to happen now?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: I always call for peace. Those who realize their
kidnapping cannot bring peace to the violence in my country. CARICOM,
which means all of the heads of the Caribbean countries, call for peace
and restoration of Constitutional order. In some way we heard the voice
of Americans - American Senators, American members, U.S. members,
members of the U.S. parliament. They're all -- they're all U.S. citizens
and the Haitians are actually calling for peace for the restoration of
Constitutional order. This is what I also call for. Allow me to give you
a very simple example. Peace means for us, in this time, education and
investment in health care. In my country, after 200 years of
independence -- we are the first black independent country in the world
- but we still have only one-point-five Haitian doctors for its 11,000
Haitians. We created a university, we founded a university with the
faculty of medicine that has 247 students. Once U.S. soldiers arrived in
Haiti after the kidnapping, what did they do? They closed the faculty of
medicine and they are now in the classrooms. This is what they call
peace. This is the opposite of peace. Peace means investing in human
beings, investing in health care, respect for human rights, not
violations for human rights, no violations for the rights of those who
voted for an elected President, and this is what it means. It means
that, for humans in the world, today this is their day, [inaudible] men
in the world, all together, we can all work hard to restore peace and
constitutional order to Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: This is president Jean-Bertrand Aristide speaking from the
Central African Republic. Did you want to return as President to Haiti
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: If it's possible now, yes, now. Whenever it's
possible, I am ready because this is what my people voted for.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you being held -- do you see yourself as being held as
a prisoner in the Central African Republic?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Here I say it again, the people and government and
the President, President Bozize, they are gracious, the way they treat
us. I just paid public tribute to them, and if you have citizens of
Central Africa listening to me, allow me to tell them [inaudible], which
means thank you very much, because their country is a country called
zo-quo-zu, in the language which means every human being is a human
being. All that is to say, we I am grateful to them. But when you living
in a house or in a palace that is their palace, which is a good sign of
respect for us, and we are living in their conditions, although it's
still good because of the way they welcome us, we also feel that we
should be in Haiti with the Haitian people doing our best to keep
investing in education, health care, building a state of law. Slowly,
but surely, building up that state of law.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, at least five people were killed in
Haiti on Sunday. Opposition leaders say it was pro-Aristide forces that
opened fire. Also including journalists - a Spanish journalist based in
New York was shot dead. Another was also shot. Your response?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: First of all, I wasn't there, and I don't have many
pieces of this information to comment, but the respect that I have for
the truth, I will make some comments but I say it again, I wasn't there.
I don't have yet any information so, I cannot go too far in my way to
analyze the situation. I do believe because for the past years, each
time drug dealers like Guy Philippe, people already convicted like
Chamblain kill people, we heard exactly what I just heard. They blame
the non-violent people and they blame the poor. When are poor, they are
violated in their eyes, like the way they did. When you are already
convicted, you are not violating human rights. So, I think or I suspect
they are lying when they talk like that, accusing my followers.
AMY GOODMAN: What message do you think the United States is sending the
people of Haiti and the rest of the world in their actions with you?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: I think the citizens of the United States supporting
democracy in Haiti, the Haitian People, and Haitians in Washington,
Brooklyn and Milano, in Boston and elsewhere, calling for my return to
Haiti and the constitutional order, I think all the citizens of the
United States [inaudible] are a sending a very strong, critical signal
to all of the countries in the world willing to work in a peaceful way
for democracy. But those who [inaudible] me are sending a very wrong
signal because if we don't reach the result of democratic elections and
then we cannot be elected and then you do that here and elsewhere, the
signal you are sending is "No to democracy," while you are talking about
democracy. So, that's why I wish they would connect - they did realize
that they are wrong and they have a new approach, which will be
protecting the rights of humans in the world. Because in the world, what
do we mean, meaning peace. What do we mean, meaning democracy. What do
we mean, we need to invest in human beings. Therefore, to go back, we
should not send wrong signals as they did. They went to Iraq. We see how
is the situation in Iraq. They went to Haiti. We see how is the
situation in Haiti. Pretending they are imposing democracy with people
killing people. Why don't they change their approach to let democracy
and the constitutional order flourish slowly, but surely. After imposing
a criminal embargo on us being, from the cultural point of view, very
rich from a historic point of view very rich but from an economic point
of view, very poor because we are the poorest country in the western
hemisphere, after imposing their economic embargo upon us, because the
people wanted one man, one vote, so equality among us. Then they use
drug dealers, they use people who are already convicted, pretending to
lead the rebellion, while they went to Haiti killing people in Gonaives,
killing people in Cap Hatian and killing people in Port-au-Prince and
elsewhere. And now they continue in the face of the entire world,
blessing impunity supporting those killers. My god, I have said it's
really ugly that image they project in the face of the world. Now it's
time for them to change, to respect them but we will also respect the
truth. That's why respectfully, we are telling them the truth. I said,
when someone is wrong, the wrong way to behave is to continue to be
wrong. The right way to behave is a move from wrong to being right. Now,
it's time to move from being wrong on their side to become right by
supporting the constitutional order.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, Vice President Dick Cheney said you
wore out your welcome in Haiti. It's time for you to go. He also said --
can I get your response to that?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: How can someone, after the kind of elections they
had, now talk like that regarding Haiti where you had fair, democratic
elections regarding the elected president. I think someone can have
power, but that does not mean, we cannot see the truth and say the
truth. I respect the rights of every single citizen in the world to
talk, and we have to be tolerant because this is also about democracy.
That's why I have respect for him, I respect the way his way to talk,
but at the same time I have respect for my people and for the truth. I
say it, and I say it again, the Haitian people are a non-violent people.
They voted for democracy. They will continue to fight in a peaceful way
for democracy, and I will continue to be faithful to them doing the
same. The peaceful approach, fighting peacefully for the restoration of
the constitutional order.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you still consider yourself President of Haiti?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Yes, because the people voted for me. They are still
fighting in a peaceful way for their elected President. I cannot betray
them. That's why I do my best to respect their will.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, how would you describe the situation in Haiti today?
U.S. and French forces and Canadian troops are in Haiti. It is something
you called for before you left, to support you, and to protect the --
and to protect you there, then?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Yes. I called for them before they forced me to
leave the country. Now, unfortunately, they are in Haiti. They don't
have the elected President with them to move with the constitutional
order. But despite of that, I wish the United Nations in Haiti through
peacekeepers can help keeping peace in the country, protecting all the
Haitians, every single Haitian, because the life of every single man or
woman is sacred. You have to respect that. So, I wish they will protect
the lives and the rights of every single citizen by the time we continue
to work hard, peacefully to restore democracy in Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: Vice President Cheney said, 'I have dealt with Aristide
before when I was Secretary of Defense. We had a crisis involving Haiti.
He left of his own free will. He signed a resignation letter on his way
out. He left with his security detail on an aircraft we provided, not a
military aircraft, but civilian charter. Now, I suppose he's trying to
revise history. But the fact of matter was, he'd worn out his welcome
with the Haitian people. He was democratically elected, but he never
governed as a democrat. He was corrupt, and he was in charge of many of
the thugs that were committing crimes in Port-au-Prince. The suggestion
that somehow the United States arrested him or forcibly put him on an
aircraft to get him to leave, that's simply not true. I'm happy he's
gone. I think the Haitian people are better off for it. I think now
they'll have an opportunity to elect a new government, and that's as it
should be. '
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Well, as I said before, he has the right to talk,
and I respect his right, as I have the right to say the truth, and I
will be saying the truth. I disagree with him, and I will continue to
believe that the Haitian people will continue to fight in a peaceful way
to restore democracy, and when the day will come to have elections, of
course, they will have the ability to vote. Unfortunately, they didn't
want a coup d'etat, and they never wanted the Haitian people to keep
moving from election to election. They preferred the Haitian people to
move from coup d'etat, to coup d'etat. We celebrated 200 years of
independence. We had a [inaudible] coup d'etat. We know, usually, who
can choose to be behind the coup d'etat. So, now that we just had a
kidnapping which they call a resignation, which others call coup d'etat,
it's clear that some people will be do their best to justify, but they
may not be able to justify, and I will continue to be on the side of the
truth, on the side of the human rights, on the side of all of those who
knew about what happened, and stand firm with the Haitian people. The
heads of the Caribbean countries stand firm for the restoration of the
constitutional order, for peace. We have senators in the United States,
members of the U.S. House, citizens in the States standing firm for
peace, for democracy, for constitutional order, and I join them.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think that the United States government does not
want you to be the president of Haiti?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Maybe, if you could just one single example, it can
tell the world a lot. I know I have already told you that, but I will go
through it again. In 200 years of independence, making Haiti the first
black independent country of the world, we still have 1.5 Haitian
doctors for each 11,000 Haitians. Then we have a university who the
faculty of medicine had 237 students. [inaudible], they are now in that
faculty of medicine, they closed it. And the students are out, and this
is not what they decided to do. If, have a government or a President
willing to invest in health care, apparently they don't want that. If
you have a president or government willing to invest in education, maybe
they don't want that. I will continue to believe that we must invest in
human beings. We must invest in education and health care. This is what
will bring peace. Because peace is not an empty word. It has to be full.
Investing in education and health care, bring the real peace to the
country, and what they call peace is not the real peace. It is violence.
It is kidnapping. What we call peace through education is telling the
world that we are right.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide in your news conference, did you say
that your country is now in the midst of an unacceptable occupation?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: It's an occupation, and the last example I just gave
says it is an occupation. How you can imagine that you come to me, you
want to be in peace, and you close my university and you send out 247
students of medicine in the country where you don't have hospitals and
you don't have enough doctors. God, this is an occupation. When you
protect killers, when you protect drug dealers like Guy Philippe, like
Chamblain, when you protect the citizens of the United States in
violating the law of the United States, Mr. Andy Apaid is a citizen of
the United States, violating the Neutral Act, the way with this act will
destroying our Democracy, and once we do that, then this is an
AMY GOODMAN: Is true that -- did you say that your security force around
-- that protected you in Haiti, from the Steele Foundation--that they
were told by the U.S. government they could not send in reinforcements?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Yes. As a matter of fact they blocked them, to stop
providing security, and twenty-five [inaudible] did come the day after,
they were prevented to come. So it was a clear strategy did to move
their way according to their plan. Now, time is gone. Unfortunately I
need to stop because they just asked me to leave.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that you will ever see Haiti again as
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: I will. I will once the Haitian people and the
international community continue to work hard. It's not impossible.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think people can do in the United States?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: I think they can continue to mobilize human
resources to help bring peace for Haiti--democracy for Haiti. This is
what the Haitian people want: Peace and democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you be leaving the Central African Republic? Do you
want to leave?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: No, no, no, no. They are not asking me to leave the
country, they are asking me to end the...
AMY GOODMAN: I understand. I understand. I understand, but do you want
to leave the country? Do you want to return immediately to Haiti?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: If I can go today, I would go today. If it's
tomorrow, tomorrow. Whenever time comes, I will say yes, because my
people, they elected me.
AMY GOODMAN: What is stopping you from returning today?
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Because it means to clear the way, and that's what
we are doing now.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much for joining us, President Aristide.
PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Thank you so much for you and wishing that we can
meet again in Haiti.
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