Independent journalist and filmmaker. He joins us on the phone from Port-au-Prince in Haiti.
Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman is with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife Mildred as they makes their historic return to the Caribbean. Aristide has been accompanied by a delegation led by US and Jamaican lawmakers. The delegation includes Rep. Maxine Waters, TransAfrica founder and close friend of the Aristides, Randall Robinson, Sharon Hay-Webster, an emissary of the Jamaican prime minister, as well as Aristide’s Miami-based lawyer, Ira Kurzban. Washington Post reporter Peter Eisner is also with the group. Over the past 48 hours, Amy has filed regular reports from each stop of the journey.
Listen to Individual Reports:
- Monday, 9:30 a.m.: Amy Goodman reports from Barbados on her discussions with President Aristide on the trans-Atlantic flight. [ Listen to MP3]
- Monday, 5 a.m.: Amy Goodman reports from a stopover in Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 8:00 p.m.: Amy Goodman reports from inside the plane that will take President Aristide and his wife Mildred to the Caribbean. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 7:35 p.m.: Democracy Now! talks to Haitian President Jean-Betrand Aristide as he prepares to leave the Central African Republic for Jamaica. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 7:25 p.m.: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Jamaican envoy Sharon Hay-Webster, Randall Robinson talk to Democracy Now! outside the presidential palace in CAR before the delegation heads back to Jamaica. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 7:10 p.m.: Amy Goodman reports that Aristide’s trip back to Jamaica has been approved. Mildred Aristide says she looks forward to be reunited with her two daughters. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 7:00 p.m.: Amy Goodman reports the Central African Republic President and Jean-Betrand Aristide have just met and that it looks like the delegation will be allowed to bring the Aristides back to Jamaica. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 6:20 p.m.: President Aristide has just told Democracy Now!, that he thinks the president from CAR is consulting with the U.S., France and Gabon before he allows Aristide to leave for Jamaica. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 6 p.m.: Amy Goodman reports there is a standoff at the presidential palace in CAR over whether President Aristide can leave for Jamaica. [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday, 4 p.m.: Amy Goodman files 5-minute audio report outside the presidential palace in the Central African Republic. [ Read transcript__ ||] [ Listen to MP3]
- Sunday afternoon: Amy Goodman reports the delegation has landed in the Central African Republic to meet with the Aristides.
Reuters reports that a government official in Bangui said it was unlikely the delegation would leave before Monday as Central African Republic President Francois Bozize would want to see them. Monday marks the first anniverary of Bozize’s presidency.
On Saturday night shortly before 9 p.m. a U.S. and Jamaican delegation left Miami headed to the Central African Republic to return President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife Mildred back to the Caribbean.
Aboard the plane were U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, and attorney Ira Kurzban and Jamaican parliamentarian Sharon Hay-Webster will be representing the Government of Jamaica and Caricom. Accompanying the delegation are journalists Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Peter Eisner of the Washington Post. The delegation is expected to arrive in the Central African Republic on Sunday, March 14, and is expected to arrive in Jamaica, along with the Aristides, on Monday March 15, 2004. Democracy Now! will be providing reports throughout the weekend.
Sunday 4 p.m.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m standing in front of the presidential palace where two guards are at the doors. President Aristide, US Congressmember Maxine Waters and the representative of CARICOM of the Jamaican Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, are meeting with the president of the Central African Republic. This we believe, just before the delegation will leave. At this point it looks like the delegation will go back tonight with Aristide and his wife Mildred Aristide returning them to the Caribbean, they’ll be going to Jamaica for the next weeks. When President Aristide first saw the US delegation, he came out and said he was very happy to see them, very sad to know that those in Haiti are suffering so much, so he said today he has mixed feelings.
I’m Amy Goodman reporting from Bangui, Central African Republic where just an hour or two ago the US delegation landed that was coming to retrieve President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife Mildred Aristide and return them to the Caribbean, to Jamaica where they will spend the next number of weeks. The US delegation was led by Congressmember Maxine Waters and Randall Robinson coming from St. Kitts–founder of TransAfrica. Also, representative of Prime Minister PJ Patterson of Jamaica–representative of CARICOM–came with a letter to present to the president of the Central African Republic saying that the delegation is now taking President Aristide and thanking the Central African Republic for its hospitality. President Aristide has made it very clear in his interview with Democracy Now! that he says he was kidnapped and that this is a coup d’etat backed by the United States. Today we met with his security here who was taken on the plane with him, we’ll have more on that story later. But he reiterated in a blow-by-blow description exactly what happened on that late night, early morning of February 29th, 2004 when US diplomats came to President Aristide’s home and, he said, told them that he was taking them to a press conference. They loaded into a car, instead were taken to the airport with a US jet with an American flag on it. A number of US military piled in, changing their military uniforms into civilian-wear, wearing baseball caps. The security of the Aristide administration also piled in apparently having been told in advance that the Aristides were being taken to the airport and they were flown off like this to Antigua not knowing where they were headed.
Again, President Aristide and Mildred Aristide now about to leave the Central African Republic, we believe within the next hour or so. The delegation will take them back to Jamaica. We made our way from Miami to St. Thomas to Dakar, Senegal and then landed in Bangui and we believe we’ll be taking the same route back so I’ll be filing reports. Reporting from Bangui, Central African Republic, I’m Amy Goodman for Democracy Now!.
DEMOCRACY NOW!: Amy there’s a report on Reuters that the delegation won’t be leaving until tomorrow because the president of CAR wants everyone to attend the celebrations marking the first anniversary of the coup.
AMY GOODMAN: The delegation says that they have to leave tonight. It is true that tomorrow is the first anniversary of the coup here in the Central African Republic. Interesting that Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a coup and brought to a country that had just undergone a coup. But the president returned from a military ceremony on the eve of this coup anniversary and apparently they are finalizing plans to leave tonight and I will let you know further details in just a little while because I’ll be on the plane with them.
DEMOCRACY NOW!: Amy can you describe where President Aristide is being kept?
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide and Mildred Aristide are being kept in a wing of the presidential palace. It is well guarded, there are soldiers around, they are in side wing of the palace and they are not free to come and go and it is clear that they very much want to return to the Caribbean, unclear where they will end up after Jamaica. Shortly before the delegation left, Amy Goodman filed this report:
AMY GOODMAN: I am Amy Goodman reporting from Miami Florida at a private airfield right next to the Miami international airport, where a delegation of five people has gathered to go to bring President Aristide and his wife Mildred Aristide back from the Central African Republic to Jamaica. I am going to bring you the different people who on this delegation and they will describe the purpose of the delegation and introduce themselves. We begin with the representative from Caricom.
SHARON HAY-WEBSTER: Hi I am Sharon Hay-Webster, I am an emissary of Prime Minister Patterson, chairman of Caricom. As you are aware Jamaica has responded to Mr. Aristide’s request for us to grant him space to stay as family so he may bring his family together so he can arrange for a final home that they can occupy together.
AMY GOODMAN: Will Jamaica be the place where President Aristide and Mildred Aristide stay, how long will they stay and where will they go?
SHARON HAY-WEBSTER: As the chairman of Caricom indicated, it is anticipated that the longest they will stay is 8 to 10 weeks. We hope that before that they will have had a chance to complete their arrangements.
AMY GOODMAN: And has Jamaica received any pressure for accepting Aristide back into the Western Hemisphere. I understand that people like Gen. Colin Powell are rather concerned about his return.
SHARON HAY-WEBSTER: Concern may have been expresser, however, there has also been an expression of understanding to Caricom’s response.
AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined by Congressmember Maxine Waters who was one of the leaders of this delegation who really pulled it together. Congresswoman Waters can you talk about why you have done this? Why you are flying on a chartered plane to the Central African Republic.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: I have been involved with making sure that President Aristide and his wife Mildred are safe and secure and that they could reasonably plan their future. He was dropped into the Central African Republic without anybody talking to him from our government or the French government telling him what he could expect or where he would be taken or whether or not he could leave. And so my involvement has been to help clarify that and I am very pleased that it is clarified and that Jamaica has responded to his request to come to Jamaica where he will be temporarily until he settles permanently some place else.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there any word yet where he will settle?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: No. We don’t have any knowledge of his plans following his stay in Jamaica.
AMY GOODMAN: And have you Congressmember Waters been under any pressure for this trip? It certainly runs counter to U.S. government policy. What level of government are you speaking to right now?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, there has been a lot of difficulty just working out the details of the trip. I have not been impeded in any way by my own government or the French government and I talk with them directly because I wanted a clarification, I wanted to know whether or not they were holding President Aristide against his will. They have assured me that they are not and I have talked to them and I have no problems at this point with either government.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Maxine Waters we are just about to get in the van to go to the plane and I will see if Randall Robinson will wrap up this short report from Miami as we head off to the Central African Republic. Why are you here, Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica and author of the book "Qutting America."
RANDALL ROBINSON: We are here to go to the Central African Republic to bring president and Mrs Aristide home to the Caricom community. We expect to arrive in the Central African Republic tomorrow in the afternoon and leave shortly thereafter, hopefully arriving in Jamaica on Monday morning at about 9 o’clock. That’s our mission and we are optimistic that it will go well.
AMY GOODMAN: And that was Randall Robinson and three of the members of the delegation, Sharon Hay-Webster, Jamaican parliamentarian, representative of Caricom, the Caribbean community which came out with a fierce statement last week. Caricom, headed by the head of Jamaica PJ Patterson [called] for an investigation into the ouster and coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide with very harsh words for the United States; Randall Robinson, coming in from St. Kits, and Congressmember Maxine Waters. We are headed now to the plane. We’ll be reporting soon. I am Amy Goodman in Miami...
[A few minuters later]
AMY GOODMAN: We have just gotten on the plane which will take us to the Central African Republic. We’ve been told we have two stops, one in Saint Thomas and one in Dakar, Senegal. When we arrived at the private airport security guards said the delegation that is headed to pick up President Aristide and his wife would not be allowed to hold a news conference, that they did not have permission for that and after some back and forth, the delegation decided it would walk off the airport property to hold their news conference because press was here to ask why they are going and to get the update on the situation with President Aristide, they agreed that they’d be able to hold the news conference on the property of the airport.
And so now we are inside the plane. everyone has just sat down. We’ve been told what the itinerary is and we are ready to go. I have to go. The plane is about to take off on this historic mission to bring back the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and his wife, Haitian-American Mildred Aristide. Reporting on the tarmac in Miami, I am Amy Goodman for Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! * View more Democracy Now! special coverage on Haiti*