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2004-03-04

Rep. Maxine Waters Says Aristide Is Being Held Like a Prisoner

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Rep. Maxine Waters discusses President Aristide’s treatment in the Central African Republic and her grilling of Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega about the return to Haiti of the paramilitary leaders who led the 1994 coup. [includes transcript]

  • * Rep. Maxine Waters*, Democratic Congressmember from California serving in her seventh term. She is the Chief Deputy Whip of the Democratic Party and serves as Co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee. She is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!. I’m Amy Goodman with Juan Gonzalez. On the line us with live from Washington is Congressmember Maxine Waters. You spoke with President Aristide again yesterday in the Central African Republic. What did he tell you?

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, I did speak with President Aristide. He told me that he had met with the president of the Central African Republic, that he was very nice and he was very kind, but he certainly let him know that he wished not to have all of the attention drawn to their country. They did not want to be bombarded with press, and that they would prefer that he did not make statements to the press at this time.

AMY GOODMAN: Is President Aristide being held prisoner?

REP. MAXINE WATERS: President Aristide is being held under guard, both by African and French soldiers.

AMY GOODMAN: Is he being held prisoner?

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, he cannot move without them — he cannot do what he wants to do. He cannot leave, so I suppose that qualifies. You know, they have said that they were the — the president has said that the call about what to do with him lies with the United States — that they are accommodating the United States.

JUAN GONZALES: Congresswoman Waters. In your —- in the testimony yesterday, I was amazed at how little Assistant Secretary of State, Roger Noriega claimed to know about the principles in Haiti. Were you surprised by how often he said that he did not know about these -—

REP. MAXINE WATERS: I think despite the fact that he denied — we were able to extract from him "yes" on a few of those questions. He tried to avoid answering, and what was apparent was he knew a lot more than he was willing to share with us. That came through. He tried to qualify some of his answers. He tried to shade them, but he could not escape the fact that he did know them before, for the most part. He knew about them before they ever came back into the country. He knew who they were, and he knew that Constant was on the CIA Payroll, even though he tried to qualify the answer on that. So, I think in many ways, in his denials, he revealed himself.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you wrote in "The Daily News" this week in an article called "How Do You Prove or Disprove a Military Coup by Your Own Government Against a Legally Elected Foreign Leader" where you talk about Roger Noriega and Otto Reich.

JUAN GONZALES: Yes, well Roger Noriega was the chief of staff to Jesse Helms who backed the first Haitian coup, who in the Congress was the most vociferous opponent of Aristide. I find it impossible to believe that he doesn’t know intimately the history of all of these figures, since he worked for Jesse Helms. Of course, before Roger Noriega was the Assistant Secretary of State, you had Otto Reich in that position. He wasn’t confirmed and Otto Reich is over at the National Security Council in Charge of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Both of these figures were involved in Venezuela, just a couple of years ago in the situation that happened there with President Chavez, which is very similar — a military coup. The president supposedly resigns voluntarily. Only then a phone call, a telephone call by President Chavez from his captivity — alerts the Venezuelan people that he was seized and arrested by the military. Very similar to what happened here in Haiti in the past few days.

AMY GOODMAN: But he had a military that supported him and in the end brought him back.

JUAN GONZALES: The population came out to the streets and mobilized. Of course, it was the Venezuelan military that was involved, where as here you have the U.S. military directly.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Waters, I know that you have to go. I wanted you to hear this — this is the CEO of the Steele Foundation, Kenneth Kurtz. Steele Foundation being the company that provided the security for Aristide has been in Haiti from 1998. He really did not want to answer any questions about the situation, at least one of Steele Foundation security and their former military men went with Aristide to the Central African Republic, but as we questioned him about how unsafe the situation was for Aristide, this is one of the questions and answers.

TAPE

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the U.S. military could have made a difference at the end?

KENNETH KURTZ: Well, I would probably turn that question around to you and ask — looking at the U.S. military coming in the day after he left, and that in itself insuring some stability, do you think that they would have come in a day before and that would have created stability?

END TAPE

AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Congressmember Waters?

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, that’s the point that we — many of us tried to make yesterday. We had worked so hard to try to get the United States or the international community into Haiti when it was well known by everybody that these former military men were back in out of exile with guns. They were openly, publicly threatening to kill the president. We said to Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush and everybody: You have got to send in some help. You have got to stabilize Haiti. You have is got to protect the people from these thugs. This gentleman is absolutely correct. If they had sent them in a day earlier, all of this perhaps could have been avoided.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Waters, where do you go from here?

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, we have to continue to work. We have got to continue to make sure that President Aristide is safe. And that he is not left to languish in a place that does not want him, and where he does not want to be. We have got to make sure that we unveil through investigations what took place in this coup d’etat led by our own country. We have got to pay attention to the attempts that are being made to reorganize the Haitian government, and we have got lots of work to do to try to help the people of Haiti and to try to get support to the kind of government that is not simply something that’s owned and manipulated by the United States, but something that is organized by the people, and will be looking out for the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Waters, thanks for joining us.

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