Amy Goodman on CNN speaking from the aircraft returning Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the Caribbean after a coup.
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Haiti’s former president is now on the ground in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica, little more than 100 miles away from Haiti. This has caused some concern in some quarters.
In the meantime, as a matter of fact, the current president of Haiti, Gerard Latortue, has recalled the Haitian ambassador from Kingston ending diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, Mr. Aristide is on his way to the prime minister’s house in Jamaica.
Joining us on the line right now is radio host Amy Goodman who was on the airplane from the Central African Republic, I believe, to Jamaica with Mr. Aristide.
Amy, just describe the scene there as Mr. Aristide arrived.
AMY GOODMAN, RADIO HOST: Yes. We just completed the round trip, the delegation who went to retrieve the Aristides from the Central Republic of Africa, traveling two-thirds of the way around the world.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife, Mildred Aristide, descended the steps here at the Norman Manly Airport in Kingston, Jamaica. President Aristide made a statement thanking the prime minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson, for inviting him to be here in Jamaica.
On the flight from the Central Africa Republic, President Aristide reiterated to Democracy Now, the radio and TV program I host, that he was kidnapped, that he did not go willingly, that he said basically he was kidnapped in the force of a U.S.-backed coup.
He has said, as well as the delegation with him lead by U.S. congress member Maxine Waters. She says he is the Democratically- elected president of Haiti.
There was good deal of consternation and anger expressed on the flight by the delegation that included Waters as well as Randall Robinson, the Founder of TransAfrica when they heard that the U.S. administration was saying that Aristide should not return to the Western Hemisphere. Randall Robinson says he’s the Democratically- elected leader of Haiti and he has just a right to be in this hemisphere as well as anyone who lives here.
Reporting from Kingston Airport...
O’BRIEN: Amy, before you get away, he’s acting not like a deposed leader but as a head of state. Does he intend to return to Haiti? Has he made any statement in that regard?
GOODMAN: Well, I asked him that. He said that they are taking it a day at a time. First they are here in Jamaica. They will reunite with their family. The Aristides have two daughters 5 and 7. And then they will assess the situation.
To me, President Aristide said it really depends on the Haitian people. But they are going to weigh circumstances as they present themselves and in consultation with others, with supporters and the people who helped Jean-Bertrand Aristide return to the Caribbean.
O’BRIEN: Give me a sense of the level of that consultation. How much contact does he have with his supporters inside Haiti right now?
GOODMAN: I’m not privy to his private communications with the people of Haiti. But I can only report that in the last election, he won overwhelmingly the democratic vote.
And it’s something that U.S. congress member Maxine Waters said to the delegation when she heard , for example, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, James Foley, saying that the Aristides could not return to within 150 miles of Haiti, she said that if people are concerned about violence in Haiti, they should be concerned about the so-called rebel leaders, people like Gerdell Chenlend (ph), who was convicted of murder in absentia, murdering the justice minister of Haiti during the coup of ’91 to ’94.
O’BRIEN: Amy, one final thought here. Have you heard anything officially or unofficially from the government of Jamaica, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, why Jamaica would offer asylum, if that is the case here, at least a visit, for Mr. Aristide at this time?
GOODMAN: Well, one of the people on the delegation was Sharon Hayes Webster. And she is a Jamaican parliamentarian. And she carried a letter from the Jamaican prime minister, P.J. Patterson, to the president of the Central African Republic asking them to release Aristides so that they come home to the Caribbean.
He has not been granted permanent asylum here in Jamaica. The Aristides, though, have been invited to stay here and then make their next decision.
It’s important to note it’s not just P.J. Patterson. It is also — he in his position as head of the 15-member (UNINTELLIGIBLE) community, the Community of Caribbean Nations, that released that very critical statement soon after the coup in Haiti calling for an international, independent investigation into the circumstances under which Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from Haiti.
They were also very critical of the United States.
O’BRIEN: ... we are running out of time, unfortunately. I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now. She’s on the aircraft with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, his wife, Mildred, and their delegation as they arrived in Jamaica.
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