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Transcript of Democracy Now's Interview with Aristide
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.
Monday, March 8th, 2004
ARISTIDE SPEAKS TO DEMOCRACY NOW! IN MOST EXTENSIVE ENGLISH-LANGUAGE
INTERVIEW SINCE HIS REMOVAL FROM HAITI
Listen to: Segment || http://stream.paranode.com/democracynow/aristide.mp3
Read Transcript http://democracynow.org/articles/04/03/08/1529222.shtml?tid=25#transcript
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.
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
journalists and 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.
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 address journalists.
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.
Excerpt of transcript is available. Full transcript will be posted shortly.
EXCERPT OF TRANSCRIPT
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 truth.
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 your
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 once again.
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
AMY GOODMAN: This is president Jean-Bertrand Aristide speaking from the
Central African Republic. Did you want to return as President to Haiti now?
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.
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President Jean-Bertrand Aristide: "I call it again and again a coup d'etat. I
called it a coup d'etat because it is a modern kidnapping."
First Lady Mildred Aristide: "The coup d'etat is complete. It has been
Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass: "These people are thugs, they're drug lords,
they're assassins, they're terrorists. To include them in any kind of new
government is morally unconscionable."
``I don't know what's going on, but we are just as much as part of this coup
d'etat as the rebels, looters or anyone else,'' Rangel, D-N.Y., said on ABC's
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said that in a country ``where a true democracy
has recently emerged after decades of autocratic rule,'' the elected president
``has been pushed out by an administration anxious to get rid of him.''
Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson:"We are bound to question whether his
resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of
Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to
provide the requisite support, despite the appeals of CARICOM...The removal of
President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for
democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the
removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces."
"He did not resign," he said. "He was abducted by the United
States in the commission of a coup." Robinson says he spoke to Aristide on
a cell phone that was smuggled to the Haitian president.
UN Diplomats fear their Security Council peacekeeping resolution in effect
sanctions a coup! Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali: "Aristide was a
democratically elected president who responded positively to a political solution
the opposition rejected," (referring to power-sharing deal Aristide had agreed
to but Haitian opposition leaders had rejected) "But the pressure was not
put on the opposition. It was put on him. Today we wonder if we had reliable
information, and enough time to make the right decision."
Rep. Donald Payne, (D-NJ): re UN :``it would be very difficult and
irresponsible for a responsible body and world organization to deal with an illegal
government taking over by force.''