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PHONE CALL by PRESIDENT ARISTIDE to Randall Robinson
Amy Goodman talked with Randall Robinson after he had received a phone call from Haitian President Aristide Monday (Mar. 1) morning. Two minute QT mp3 3MB.
MP3 at 3.1 MB
RANDALL ROBINSON: The president called me on a cell phone that was slipped to him by someone - he has no land line out to the world and no number at which he can be reached. He is being held in a room with his wife and his sister's husband, who happened to be at the house at the time that the abduction occurred. The soldiers came in to the house and ordered them to use no phones and to come immediately. They were taken at gunpoint to the airport and put on a plane. His own security detachment was taken as well and put in a separate compartment of the plane. The president was kept with his wife with the soldiers with the shades of the plane down and when he asked where he was being taken, the soldiers told him they were under orders not to tell him that. He was flown first to Antigua, which he recognized, but then he was told to put the shades down again. They were on the ground there for two hours before they took off again and landed six hours later at another location again told to keep the shades down. At no time before they left the house and on the plane were they allowed to use a phone. Only when they landed the last time were they told that they were in the Central African Republic. Then taken to a room with a balcony. They do not know what the room is a part of, maybe a hotel, maybe some other kind of building, but it has a balcony and outside they can see that they are surrounded by soldiers. So that they have no freedom. The president asked me to tell the world that it is a coup, that they have been kidnapped. That they have been abducted. I have put in calls to members of congress asking that they demand that the president be given an opportunity to speak, that he be given a press conference opportunity and that people be given an opportunity to reach him by phone so that they can hear directly from him how he is being treated. But the essential point is clear. He did not resign. He was taken by force from his residence in the middle of the night, forced on to a plane, and taken away without being told where he was going. He was kidnapped. There's no question about it.
AMY GOODMAN: How does he actually know, Randall Robinson, how does president Aristide know that he is in the Central African Republic?
RANDALL ROBINSON: He was told that when he arrived. As a matter of fact there was some official reception of officials of that government at the airport when he arrived. But, you see, he still had and continues to have surrounding him American military.
AMY GOODMAN: You spoke with him and Mildred Aristide up to 10 times a day in the last days before they were removed from Haiti. How did president Aristide sound when you spoke with him today?
RANDALL ROBINSON: They sounded tired and very concerned that the departure has been mistold to the world. They wanted to make certain that I did all that I could to disabuse any misled public that he had not resigned, that he had been abducted. That was very, very important to him and Mrs. Aristide explained to me the strange response to my calls on Saturday night. I had talked to her on Saturday morning and him on Friday. But when I called the house on Saturday night, the phone was answered by an unfamiliar voice who told me that the president was busy, a response that was strange, and then when I asked for Mrs. Aristide, I was told that she was busy, too. As she told me then, that even that early on, before they were taken away and before the soldiers came, they had been instructed they were not allowed to talk to anyone. And so, she said that was the reason she explained this today, a few minutes ago - why she was not able to talk to me and he was not able to talk to me when I called the house on Saturday evening.
AMY GOODMAN: Who did they say was the person that you had actually spoken to?
RANDALL ROBINSON: No, but it was not someone who worked at the house because they know my voice when they hear it and they respond to it because I call so many times. This was something new, a new person, a new voice, with a new kind of tone. That is when we began to be concerned that something was amiss.
AMY GOODMAN: I will ask you the same question I asked Congressmember Waters who also spoke with president Aristide. The issue of whether president Aristide resigned. Did he say he did or he didn't?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Emphatically not.
AMY GOODMAN: He said he did not resign?
RANDALL ROBINSON: He did not resign. He did not resign. He was kidnapped and all of the circumstances seem to support his assertion. Had he resigned, we wouldn't need blacked out windows and blocked communications and military taking him away at gunpoint. Had he resigned, he would have been happy to leave the country. He was not. He resisted. Emphatically not. He did not resign. He was abducted by the United States, a democratic, a democratically elected president, abducted by the United States in the commission of an American-induced coup. This is a frightening thing to contemplate.
AMY GOODMAN: And again, Randall Robinson, you said you spoke to president Aristide by a cell phone that was smuggled to him?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Yes, and I cannot call back because I have no number and the only way they can call out is by a cell phone because they have not been provided with any land line.
AMY GOODMAN: Did they say how long they will be staying in this place that they are, the palace of the Renaissance, they say they believe in the Central African Republic?
RANDALL ROBINSON: They have not been told anything. I told her that last night I spoke to senator Dodd's foreign policy person Janice O'Connell called me to say that she had learned from the State Department that he was being taken to the Central African Republic and she had also been told by the State Department that they had refused, that the South Africans had refused asylum. I told her that I didn't believe that that was true because the South African foreign minister - [Noise] Hello?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Randall, Robinson, we hear you.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Because the South African foreign minister had called me - foreign minister Zuma - from India mid-afternoon on Sunday and she asked how I was doing and I thought I was going to be doing much better and I told her so. And I said because I'm sure that president Aristide has arrived in South Africa. She said no, he hasn't arrived here. We haven't heard anything from him. We don't know where he is and then we became really alarmed. She said there's been no request for asylum. So, you see the State Department is telling an interested public, including members of the congress, that South Africa refused asylum. The State Department knows better. They know that President Aristide was not allowed to request asylum from South Africa or anybody else because he was not allowed to make any phone calls before they left Haiti, during the flight, and beyond.
AMY GOODMAN: Anything else you would like to add from your conversation with president Aristide on this smuggled phone that he got hold of after many hours incommunicado and now saying he believes he is in the Central African Republic with the first lady of Haiti, Mildred Aristide?
RANDALL ROBINSON: The phrase that he used several times and asked of me to find a way to tell the Haitian people, he said tell the world it's a coup, it's a coup, it's a coup.