CNN Interview with President Aristide
from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
March 1, 2004
Rev. Jackson has been in daily contact with Pres Aristide. Monday, March 1 . Rev. Jackson conferenced President Jean Betrand Aristide into AP and CNN-the transcript of the CNN interview is below-which enabled the world to hear his account of the coup. The President indicated that he is virtually banned from speaking to the press by his host, The Central African Republic.
Tonight - transcript of interview with Aristide:
DOBBS: Turning now to our top story, the crisis in Haiti, hundreds of U.S. Marines are now in Haiti, securing, as we reported to you, key points in the capital of Port-au-Prince after President Aristide resigned. The former president joins us now by telephone for one of his first interviews since agreeing to go into exile in Central African Republic. Mr. Aristide, thank you for joining us. Can you hear me?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE, FORMER PRESIDENT OF HAITI: I can hear you, sir.
DOBBS: Mr. Aristide, first, you're in good health, you're in appropriate accommodations?
ARISTIDE: Yes. But my mind is in Haiti, where they are killing people, burning houses, after using (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to push me out. And that's why I call it a real coup d'etat, a modern way to have modern kidnapping.
DOBBS: Mr. Aristide, as you know, are you suggesting that you were then in point of fact taken by force by U.S. military?
ARISTIDE: Of course, from Saturday -- from Saturday night, the 28th, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) military were in progress. And I was told that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I better leave. And under a kind of diplomatic cover, they talked to me. And military talked to me. American agents talked to me. Haitian agents talked to me. And I finally realized it was true, we were going to have bloodshed. And when I asked how many people may get killed, and they said thousands may get killed. So using that kind of force to lead a coup d'etat, it was clear, as I said.
DOBBS: You made then, if I hear you, Mr. Aristide, a difficult choice based on the assessment of those advisers around you, and including American advisers, it sounds like, for the public safety of those -- of your fellow citizens, is that correct?
ARISTIDE: What is very clear is the fact that we have military surrounding the airport, the palace, my house. In the streets, we had some (ph) military maybe from other countries, I don't know, but I know for sure there were a lot of the American militaries with Haitians, well armed (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And they told me in a clear and blunt way that thousands of people will get killed once they start. So I had to do my best to avoid that bloodshed. They used (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to push me out. That's why I call it again and again a coup d'etat, a modern way to have modern kidnapping.
DOBBS: Mr. Aristide, having made that decision, and now in the Central African Republic, is there -- have you received the support of the United Nations, spokesmen -- the representatives of the French government in particular, the Canadian government talked with you and supported your decision to leave Haiti and offer further counsel?
ARISTIDE: Maybe if I add this point, people will understand (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I spent 20 hours in an American plane with military guys. And one (UNINTELLIGIBLE) baby, one year and a half old, whose father is an American agent, and the mother is Haitian. Not even this little baby has the right to get out of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when we had the first step -- the first stop. And when we have to go to the second one, they didn't want to tell me where they were going to meet with me. We didn't have one single phone call, no telephone was used, because they refused.
And this little baby spending 20 hours in an American plane, with American guys. Only 20 minutes before they landed here, they told me, finally, we were coming to land (ph), on the French bases with military -- French military. And fortunately, we had five ministers from the government who greeted us in this very warm way. And we are grateful to them. But who's to say that they did that to a baby one year and a half old. You can imagine how (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was what I call modern way to have modern kidnapping.
DOBBS: I can only guess at the emotion that you must go through through. The emotions in Haiti today from all quarters of Haitian society. Your family, Mr. Aristide, we understand that at least part of your family is in New York tonight, is that correct?
ARISTIDE: Yes. I don't know if the first lady, who is an American lady, is allowed to go to Miami to see her family. And I don't know if I am free to leave where I am to go to New York or elsewhere.
I have three more people with me. We are here after the terrible experience which we had in American plane, in which American military not allowing us to have contact with our people, not allowing a baby one year and a half to get out from the plane when they stopped the first time, when they stopped the second time. And then, that little baby had to go back with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) plane, for how long? It is a tragedy. You need to understand that.
DOBBS: Indeed. Mr. Aristide, do you have, first, any desire to come to the United States, and secondly, what are your immediate plans?
ARISTIDE: If they allow me, I will be very delighted to go to the United States whenever it's necessary or possible, meet people, tell the truth, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what they want to create. They want to create confusion. And I want to tell the truth, not confusion.
DOBBS: Mr. Aristide, we thank you very much for talking with us, and thank you again, sir.
ARISTIDE: Thank you.
Anderson Cooper 360 - transcript of interview w/ Aristide: ...But first, breaking news. Ousted leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide has said he is the victim of a coup d'etat in Haiti. He joins us now on the phone from the Central African Republic.
Mr. Aristide, thank you for being with us. There have been some very strong allegations made by representatives of you. I want to try to get to the bottom of it. Are you alleging that you were kidnapped by the United States and sent to Africa?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE, FMR. PRESIDENT, HAITI: As I said, I called this coup d'etat in a modern way, to have modern kidnapping. And the way I described what happened...
COOPER: Who are you saying has kidnapped you?
ARISTIDE: Forces in Haiti. They were not Haitian forces. They were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Americans and Haitians together, acting to surround the airport, my house, the palace. And then, despite of diplomatic conversations we had, despite of all we did in a diplomatic way to prevent them to organize that massacre which would lead to a bloodshed, we had to leave and spent 20 hours in an American plane. And not knowing where we were going with force, until they told us that 20 minutes before they landed in Central African Republic.
COOPER: Mr. Aristide, Mr. Aristide, the night you left, you signed a document in which you said, "For that reason, tonight I am resigning in order to avoid a blood bath. I accept to leave with the hope there will be life and not death."
This is a document you have signed. I have a copy of it here. Are you saying -- did you, in fact, sign this? And what does it mean?
ARISTIDE: Well, I should see what they give to you, because these people lie. And when they lie, I need to see the paper before saying this is exactly what I wrote. And in what I wrote, I explained that if I am forced to leave to avoid bloodshed, of course I will leave to avoid bloodshed. But as I said, I should see the kind of paper they give to you, because they lied to me, and they may lie to you, too.
COOPER: Well, I have it in French, the document. I could read it to you if you'd like, but it basically, says that "I took an oath to respect and have the constitution respected. This evening, February 28, I'm still determined to respect and have the constitution respected."
It goes on. Are you saying that you wish you were still -- that if it was up to you, you would still be on the ground in Haiti, that you did not leave of your own free will?
ARISTIDE: Exactly that.
COOPER: I have a statement from Secretary of State Colin Powell, who earlier today said, in regards to you, he says, "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him on the airplane. He went on the airplane willingly. And that is the truth."
Are you saying that Colin Powell is lying?
ARISTIDE: He said what he wanted to say. And I told you the truth. If you pay attention to all what I described, you'd see the truth. You will see the huge difference between the two versions.
COOPER: Are you going to seek refuge in the Central African Republic?
ARISTIDE: Well, I am here. So far, I don't have contact with the highest authority in the country. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ministers to meet with me, and I'm very delighted the way they welcomed me here. But I need to have contact with him to know exactly what I should be doing.
COOPER: Why did you go with the Marines? If you are saying you did not go of your own free will, you had your own security detail, quite an extensive security detail. I've seen it up close myself. Why did you leave?
ARISTIDE: I made that point for you. I had 19 Americans providing security to the government, and that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They were all told and forced to leave based on what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on February 28.
They were supposed to have the day after 18 of 25 American agents to reinforce (ph) them, based on an agreement which was signed with the Haitian government. They told me that night the U.S. prevented them to go to Haiti.
So on the American side, as on the Haitian side, we all have the same picture. People, foreign people with arms in the streets in Port-au-Prince, surrounding the airport, the palace, my residence, and ready to attack, which would lead to the bloodshed. And we would have thousands of people killed.
We couldn't let that happen. We had the responsibility to protect lives and not to let people kill thousands of people. When now you compare Haiti to what they told me before, they still continue to burn houses, my house, killing people, and waged what they intended to do.
COOPER: Mr. Aristide, was your departure in the best interest of Haiti?
ARISTIDE: Of course not, because no one should force an elected president to move in order to avoid bloodshed. Why they are still killing people, burning houses? And the contradiction in talking is very eloquent.
COOPER: Mr. Aristide, I am having trouble reconciling the two statements, the statements that you have made and the statement the U.S. government has made through Secretary Colin Powell, who, again, has said that you were not kidnapped, that we, the United States, did not force you on to the airplane, that you went on to the airplane willingly. And they say that is the truth. You say -- your story is categorically the opposite of that.
ARISTIDE: Of course, because I am telling you the truth.
COOPER: Why do you believe the American government -- or why are you saying the American government is lying about this?
ARISTIDE: You could ask them the same question, and you can find the answer of your question through the answers I cautiously shared with you.
COOPER: We also want to welcome our international viewers. This is now being aired on CNN International. Mr. Aristide, I want to read a statement. The document I have, which is a signed document, it's in Creole with your signature on it, I'm going to read a translation to you. And I want you to tell me if this is the document that you signed.
This is what I have as the translation from the original Creole: "Jean-Bertrand Aristide" -- it is the letterhead -- "February 7, 2001. I took an oath to respect and have the constitution respected. This evening, 28th of February, 2004, I am still determined to respect and have the constitution respected."
"The constitution is the guarantee of life and peace. The constitution cannot be drowned in the blood of the Haitian people. For that reason, tonight, I am resigning in order to avoid a bloodbath."
"I accept to leave with the hope that there will be life and not death. Life for everyone, death for no one, in respect for the constitution. And in the fact of respecting the constitution, Haiti will have life and peace. Thank you." With your signature.
Did you, in fact, sign this document?
ARISTIDE: No. That's not right. They took out the sentence where I said, "If I am obliged to leave in order to avoid bloodshed." They took that off the document. That's why they are lying to you by giving to you a false document.
COOPER: Well, I'm reading from a translated document. We will have this -- we have the Creole document as well, that we will have it translated as well.
ARISTIDE: Read the Creole. Please, please, please tell the truth. Read the Creole if you can, because they took off the Creole version, exactly what we refer to falsely use...
COOPER: So you are saying on Saturday evening, Marines came to your compound. You did not know they were coming. What exactly happened?
ARISTIDE: Should I say this story again and again? Because I think that I already answered that question.
COOPER: I still am not clear, though. And we have many viewers who have just joined us from around the world. And it is still unclear.
What did you say to them? Did you say, no, I do not want to go? No, I refuse to go? And did they force you into a vehicle? What happened?
ARISTIDE: I will try to answer your question to help people to understand it, but I do believe if you refer to the document you just read, when I told you they refused to translate the central part of it, where I said, "If I am obliged to leave in order to avoid bloodshed." You see, they doctored (ph) the document you have, and the version which you have, because they don't want people to know the kind of forces which were used to make that coup.
COOPER: Well, we can't make any sort of allegations. It is simply a translation of a document. The translation just could be incorrect. I don't really want to go down the road of saying that somebody has altered this document, because we don't know that.
ARISTIDE: OK. They gave you a false document, obviously. When you have a false document in hand, you should not use it, because it is a false document.
COOPER: But again, could you please try to explain what exactly went on? How was it that you were, in your words, kidnapped?
ARISTIDE: OK. When I said that Friday night American military, foreign -- Saturday night, February 28, American military, foreign military, Haitian, well armed, accompanied those foreign forces, surround (ph) the airport, to the palace, my residence. Most of them were in the streets.
And when I could see with my own eyes, it was when I was on my way to the airport and I saw them. The American plane who came straight -- we were in that American plane because Americans had the total control.
When we spent 20 hours in that plane, without knowing where we go, without having the right to contact our people -- and the first lady is an American lady, she didn't have the right even to look through the windows. They told her, "You don't have that right."
When we were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the plane, we spent 20 hours on the plane. You can't imagine this kind of terrible situation. And that's why, again and again, I am telling the truth. I call it a coup d'etat in a modern way to have modern kidnapping.
COOPER: And Mr. Aristide, you join us from the Central African Republic, where you are staying in the capital in Bangui. Apparently South Africa has said that they would counteroffering you entry to that country as well. Obviously, the future at this point is very unknown.
We appreciate you joining us on CNN and CNN International. Thank you very much, Mr. Aristide.
And again, the statement from Colin Powell earlier today at odds with what Mr. Aristide has just said. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him on to the airplane. He went on to the airplane willingly. And that is the truth." Certainly in the coming days we'll be hearing more and more about this as the details emerge.