After President Bush rejected Haitian President Aristide’s appeal for immediate security assistance from the international community, members of the Congressional Black Caucus expressed their concern at what they say is Bush’s refusal to preserve the democratically elected government in Haiti. We speak with Black Caucus member Rep. Maxine Waters. [includes transcript]
Today at the United Nations, the UN Security Council is holding an emergency session on the embattled Caribbean nation. Meanwhile in Washington, the House Intelligence Committee is holding a closed door meeting with Roger Noriega, the Undersecretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs and other US officials running Washington’s Haiti policy.
Late yesterday, France called on Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign and said a United Nations-backed security force should be deployed to Haiti to stabilize the country. Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepan said Aristide’s government has lost its legitimacy and should be replaced.
President Bush yesterday rejected President Aristide’s appeal for immediate security assistance from the international community to head off bloody insurrection, saying the US would "encourage the international community to provide a security presence" only after there was what Bush called a "political settlement." That remark confused some observers, given that it is Aristide’s opponents that have rejected Washington’s so-called peace initiative. Aristide accepted the plan. At the White House yesterday, Bush also warned Haitians not to flee to the United States.
Bush’s statements yesterday immediately drew fire from members of the Congressional Black Caucus. At a press conference yesterday, Rep. Elijah Cummings and Congressmember Charlie Rangel addressed reporters.
That was Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland speaking at a press conference yesterday.
Shortly after Bush made his remarks, Black Caucus members rushed to the White House to express concern at what they say is Bush’s refusal to preserve the democratically elected government in Haiti. They first met US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and ultimately demanded to meet with Bush. Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card were there as well. This comes a day after Ira Kurzban, the lawyer for the Haitian government, said on this program that the US is arming and training the paramilitaries currently fighting to topple Aristide’s government.
- 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.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Maxine Waters, who is on the line with us. Can you talk about your meetings yesterday?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes, of course we can. We met with President Bush after we initially had a meeting with Secretary Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Basically, the message was there’s an impending bloodbath in Haiti. The thugs and ex-military people who have come in out of exile are armed, and they have taken over Gonaives and they have taken over Cap Haitien, and they have boldly said to the press they’re going to move into the capital. One leader, so-called thug leader, said they were going to come and arrest the president. Others said they were going to take over Port-au-Prince. We believe if we come in with their rifles and guns, that La Velas will try to defend the city and the capital with their guns and machetes, and it’s going to be a bloodbath. I told the president yesterday this is an emergency, and something has to happen NOW. I reminded him that those of us who watched what happened in Rwanda did not want to ever see again an opportunity to save lives, and not really do something about it. It’s really in our hands. The United States is guiding this policy, and they’re they have decided to wait it out. They want Aristide to run. They want him to leave. He’s accepted the peace plan. The opposition has thumbed its nose at the peace plan. They’re closely aligned with Noriega in the State Department. They wish that Aristide would leave, if not, they’re prepared to play this dangerous game of letting these thugs get to the president, in an effort to get rid of the president. It’s a game that can be stopped tad if the president wants to do it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Your reaction to President Bush’s threat to Haitians that they will be turned back if any of them try to leave the island of Haiti, given how he has never made statements like that for instance about Cuban refugees who attempt to leave Cuba. Your reaction to that statement?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: The statement is so harsh, it’s so unseemly that it’s almost unthinkable that the President of the United States, at a time when Haitians may be fleeing this impending bloodbath would say to him, you stay there, knowing that he’s not sending anything — any troops, any multinational force there to help secure the city and stabilize it. And to say go back into the trap, the death trap, I don’t know what to think about him. We tried to impress on him yesterday, to please send some people in there to stabilize the place. I’m hopeful that he didn’t really mean what he said, and I’m hopeful today we’re going to hear some better news about sending some multinational force in, letting France in, maybe expanding the number of Marines that we have down there, and I’m just going to hold my breath for a few hours here to see if we can get some help. If not, then I think what we’re going to have to do is to challenge the President not only on that policy, but what he said yesterday about the immigrants.
AMY GOODMAN: But France has just called on Aristide to resign…
REP. MAXINE WATERS: That’s part of the well orchestrated game. What has happened is Noriega, who is leading the team, started over a year ago to lock in France and Canada, the Orient, the U.N., everybody, into a unit where one would not move without the other, and that they would both follow the same strategy. This strategy that you see is, number one, taking the plan to Aristide. The opposition disagreeing to the plan, the pressure mounting rebels who are armed with m-16’s, continue to march toward the capital. Then one by one, having the people who are players in the multinational committee that’s put together by Noriega, start to ask them to step down.
JUAN GONZALEZ: For those of our listeners who don’t know Roger Noriega, you can tell us about his prior history?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: All that we know about him is that he was the chief of staff to Jesse Helms, and they have a long history of undermining Haiti. These are the people that started the great disinformation campaign where they tried to paint him as a psychopath. And they had people believing that he was crazy, and then it all got debunked by pros who went in and examined everything that was being said, and how it was being done, and it turned out to be a disinformation campaign that was put on by Noriega. That clique that was basically supporting a coup against Aristide. Some of the same people are involved now that were involved then.
AMY GOODMAN: what about the intelligence committee hearing today, a closed-door hearing with roger Noriega?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: All they’re going to get is what Roger Noriega gives them. He comes up on the hill. He was on the hill yesterday with a Florida delegation. He waves the — weaves the tide. They don’t pay attention to Haiti. Haiti is not important to the members of congress. Those that have been involved, they have only been involved to protect the business interests and the C.I.A. That has their hands in Haiti for years. He comes up here and tells them whatever he wants them to hear. His game, his whole game is to topple Aristide, and that’s what he’s out to do, and he’s successful in having them buy whatever he tells them. He’s wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: Maxine Waters, congress member from Los Angeles speaking to us from Washington. This is Democracy Now!.