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Aristide in Jamaica as U.S.-backed thugs take charge
Haiti under Washington's thumb

By Elizabeth Schulte | March 26, 2004 | Page 2

U.S. OFFICIALS were infuriated to learn that they don't always get their way when Jean-Bertrand Aristide ignored Washington's instructions and flew to Jamaica last week. Aristide is the democratically elected president of Haiti who was ousted from power less than a month ago.

U.S. Marines confronted Aristide at his presidential residence in the early morning hours of February 29 and told him that he could stay and be killed by right-wing rebels whose uprising in northern Haiti was spreading toward the capital of Port-au-Prince--or resign and go into exile. The U.S. hustled Aristide out of Haiti that night and flew him to the Central African Republic. There, he managed to contact supporters in the U.S. and elsewhere, and said that he was effectively being held prisoner.

But last week--accompanied by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and left-wing radio host Amy Goodman, among others--Aristide returned to the Caribbean, landing in Jamaica. He says that he isn't seeking asylum and only plans to stay for eight to 10 weeks to reunite with his wife and children.

But that's too much for the Bush administration. "We think it's a bad idea," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told NBC's Meet the Press. "We believe that President Aristide, in a sense, forfeited his ability to lead his people, because he did not govern democratically." As if the U.S.-engineered ouster of Aristide is an example of democracy!

"Haiti is moving forward," Rice added. But like Iraq, the country is "moving forward" with leaders handpicked by the U.S.--such as interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, who quickly announced that he was suspending diplomatic ties with Jamaica. He also said that he was reconsidering Haiti's relationship with the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which has called for an investigation into Aristide's removal from Haiti last month.

So far, Jamaica and CARICOM have rejected U.S. requests to contribute police to an international force make that is made up of 1,700 Marines and another 1,000 troops from France, Chile and Canada. CARICOM leaders will discuss whether to recognize Latortue's government at a summit on March 25.

Two days after Aristide landed in Jamaica, Latortue was already swearing in his new cabinet. At first, Latortue--a businessman who has been living in Florida since the late 1980s--promised that Aristide's Lavalas party would be included in the government. But Lavalas was left out of the "unity" government.

Latortue did remember, however, to nominate Herard Abraham as interim interior minister. Abraham is in favor of bringing back Haiti's brutal armed forces, which he headed when they were dissolved in 1995.

Last week, Abraham met with Guy Philippe, the ex-soldier and leader of the uprising against Aristide that left dozens dead, to discuss disarming Aristide supporters. Washington is delighted. "Latortue chose wisely," said U.S. Ambassador to Haiti James Foley, who was on hand for the swearing in of the new administration.

On March 20, Latortue flew to Gonaïves in a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter to appear with right-wing leaders who have controlled of the city since the uprising began on February 5. He took the stage with Philippe, Wynter Etienne and Jean-Pierre Baptiste, who earlier was serving a life sentence for his role in the massacre of some 30 Aristide supporters in 1994. People in the U.S. "thought the people in Gonaïves were thugs and bandits," Latortue told reporters. "But they are freedom fighters."

While these brutal thugs are taking charge of Haiti, international forces led by the U.S. and France are out to disarm Haiti's people. Last week, "peacekeeping" troops launched a disarmament campaign with a ceremony in the slum of Cite Soleil, while residents demanded Aristide's return. Right-wing thugs in charge of the government and terror by U.S. forces in the streets--this is the real face of the Washington's mission to restore "democracy" to Haiti.

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