Maxine Waters: on "Kidnapping"         Mar 1 2004


Congresswoman Maxine Waters' Statement
on Kidnapping of Haitian President Aristide

"I spoke to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by telephone this morning and he told me that did not resign. He said he was kidnapped by American military and U.S. diplomats and military officials and was being held in the Central African Republic.

"Mr. Aristide said that Luis G. Moreno, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, came to his home in the wee hours of the morning with other diplomats and with U.S. Marines. He said he was told to leave and leave now or he and many Haitians would be killed.

"He told me, 'The world must know it was a coup. I was kidnapped. I was forced out. That's what happened. I did not resign. I did not go willingly. I was forced to go.'

"Mr. Aristide told me he was being held under guard in Central Africa's Palace of the Renaissance and felt like he was in jail.

"I also spoke with President Aristide's wife, Mildred. The first thing Mildred said was, 'The coup d'état is complete. It has been completed.'

"I talked to the president and his wife for about 15 minutes. He was anxious to get the word out that he did not leave voluntarily, that he was kidnapped, that he was forced out.

"President Aristide told me he had not been abused, but he sounded angry, stressed, determined; really anxious that people know he was kidnapped, that he did not go willingly, that he was forced out.

"I am deeply saddened that the United States government appears to be complicit in the overthrow of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. The Bush Administration refused to lead an international peacekeeping force to end the violence in Haiti and allow President Aristide to finish his term in office; then the Administration forced him out of the country in the dark of night.

"Last Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus had an emergency meeting with President Bush, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. We laid out a very clear case for intervention and asked the president to lead an international effort to keep the peace, stabilize the volatile situation and preserve the government of Haiti's first democratically elected president.

"I have visited Haiti three times since the first of the year and was able to provide first hand information about what was going on in that country. I explained that the so-called opposition was a conglomeration of former supporters of the dictatorial Duvalier regime. Andre Apaid, an American citizen in charge of the Group of 184 started this coup three weeks ago. Guy Philippe, who was exiled to the Dominican Republic after he tried to stage a coup in 2002 was leading a band of exiled military criminals, thugs and murderers-some convicted in absentia for killings they committed in ousting Aristide from office when he was first elected. These were the people pursuing a coup d'état to return Haiti to the corrupt dictatorial rule of the past.

"The CBC asked the president to intervene immediately to stop the bloodshed in Haiti. Scores of Haitian people had been killed and thousands of others held hostage as Philippe and his army of thugs seized town after town as they advanced toward Port-au-Prince. We pointed out that the obstacle to a peaceful solution was not Aristide. I was in Haiti when Aristide signed off on a peace proposal worked out by CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) and others in the international community. It was the opposition that rejected the proposal and refused to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

"However, we did not go to the White House to ask for help in Haiti solely for humanitarian reasons. We went there because the United States government was actively involved in the creation of this crisis and had an obligation to do something about it. For several years, the United States blocked $145.9 million in development loans to Haiti by the Inter-American Development Bank. These loans were supposed to fund health, basic education, rural road development, potable water and sanitation programs. Blocking those loans further impoverished the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Our government prevented the money from going to Haiti until the Congressional Black Caucus intervened last year.

"We tried to impress upon the president that the situation of Haiti was extremely critical and immediate action was needed. We did not need a massive military presence in Haiti and it did not need to be a lengthy occupation. All we asked was that the United States and other countries provide immediate assistance to Haiti to strengthen the Haitian police so that they could restore law and order. We could have been in and out in a short period of time, but the president asked for more time to think about it. He was holding out for a political solution to the crisis.

"Now we know the political solution for which he was holding out.

"The thugs and military criminals have accomplished their mission of deposing Aristide with the overt approval and support of the Bush Administration. Now, other members of the Aristide Administration are seeking asylum in other countries.

"This should have been prevented and could have been prevented if the Bush Administration had acted to help stabilize the situation in Haiti.

March 1 2004