The new US-supported Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue arrived in Washington Tuesday for his visit since the U.S. helped oust President Jean Bertand Aristide. Waters is calling on members of Congress not to recognize the new prime minister. [includes rush transcript]
In February, Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide was removed from power in what he calls a modern kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat backed by the United States.
Now, government officials have brought the new US-supported Prime Minister Gerard Latortue to Washington to meet with members of Congress, top Bush administration officials, international financial institutions and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
This comes as Haiti descends even deeper into poverty and Aristide supporters are reportedly being killed in the streets.
- Rep. Maxine Waters, Democratic Congresswoman 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 Congress member Maxine Waters. Welcome to Democracy Now!
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Good morning. How are you doing, Amy?
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you describe what is happening right now?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, I was very surprised to come to my office today, having been away on a hearing to find out that I had received an invitation to come to a meeting with Gerard Latortue at 10:30 this morning organized for the Black Caucus. I began to inquire about what was going on, to discover that two of our members had traveled to Haiti and had met with Gerard Latortue and had participated with Republicans in an invitation to come to the United States and meet with members of Congress. I immediately got on the phone and started to call the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. As of this morning, I have 22 members who join with me in no recognition of this illegitimate Prime Minister. There have been no elections. He was supported essentially by the United States, with the support of France and Canada, to take over the post of Prime Minister after the coup d’etat, and I believe, as other members apparently believe, that he is illegitimate. He’s but a puppet, and we should not recognize him. And so today, in addition to the non-recognition by some of the members of the Black Caucus, ones that I have contacted, we have some Haitian organization leaders who are coming to the capitol where we will hold a press conference and we will denounce not only his presence in the capitol, but the fact that he is presiding over mayhem and murder in Haiti. Every night, members of the Lavalas party, political party, are being killed. This is the party of President Aristide. They’re finding young men with their hands tied behind them, with bullet holes in their heads. There was even one case where 20 Lavalas members were placed in a big container and dropped into the sea. They’re searching them out. They still have the criminals and the thugs up in charge in Gonaive and Cape Haitien. This is Guy Philippe and Louis Jodel Chamblain and Jean Tatun. These are people who had already been convicted in absentia of murder in the Rabiteau massacres. These were people who were in exile, who were organized to come back in by the opposition, and I believe with a wink and a nod from the United States, Canada and France to create this mayhem. They’ve burned police stations, they’ve killed citizens. These were the ones who were threatening to come into Port au Prince and kill President Aristide. They’re still occupying the northern part of Haiti. They still have their guns. They’re recruiting more soldiers. They’re trying to re-establish the military, and they’re in charge. And this so-called Prime Minister has not denounced it. He has not said anything. As a matter of fact he was on a program with both Guy Phillipe and Louis Jodel Chamblain. He called them freedom fighters and embraced them. Colin Powell has not denounced them. Noriega has not denounced them. They’re roaming around. Mr. Chamblain tried to put together a fake turning-in of himself. Nobody believes that’s going on, and what we think is going to happen is this illegitimate government is going to try and pardon them. But it’s going to be interesting to see what they do with these murderers who they have left alone for all of this time. For all of these reasons we think that no member of Congress should be meeting with these people — with Mr. Latortue. We think it is a sham and it’s unconscionable that we would embrace this illegitimate puppet knowing what’s going on in Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are the U.S. Government officials who brought Latortue to Washington?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, I have to tell you, it was both Democrats and Republicans. As far as I know, it was led by Republican Foley who went to Haiti. Also, Mr. Cummings and Mr. Meeks from Florida.
AMY GOODMAN: Two of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes, from the Congressional Black Caucus, who went with them down to Florida and in a conversation, they’re trying to say that they were interested in humanitarian concerns. And I asked them did they challenge Mr. Latortue about the murders about the killings, about the criminals that are in charge. Of course they did not. I asked them if they challenged him about the fact that the names of Lavalas party members have been read over the radio. They are in hiding. They are being sought out. They are being killed. I asked them if they raised any of those concerns and they did not. So they are guilty of making a sad and serious mistake of allowing this ill-informed, ill-prepared, illegitimate prime minister to be received here in the capitol and I’ve told them so.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. Forces are supposed to leave Haiti by June 1–boy I feel like I’m talking about Iraq–but by June 1 to be replaced by a U.N. Force of some 8,000.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: That’s what I understand has been worked out.
AMY GOODMAN: The poverty deepening now in Haiti...
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Poverty is deepening. Not only do you have the murders. The children are not in school. Lavalas party people cannot feed their families. They’re in hiding. They cannot work. It’s a mess. You know, everywhere we go we seem to be creating a mess. We’ve created a mess in Iraq, and our soldiers are dying every day. Now we find that we are violating the prisoners. We’re treating them worse than so called Saddam had treated them, and then we have the audacity to put Saddam’s military back in charge up in Fallujah. We don’t know what the heck we’re doing and we’re messing up around the world. Haiti is a great example of what is the fault of invasion and doing what we did with the coup d’etat, and of course Iraq is another.
AMY GOODMAN: Maxine Waters, I want to thank you very much for being with us — Congress member Maxine Waters.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Thank you so very much, Amy. I hope all of the folks who support democracy in Haiti will bombard the members of Congress with telephone calls, particularly the members of the Black Caucus, and tell them it’s unacceptable to embrace this illegitimate Prime Minister and they don’t expect that of their representatives and to do the right work and force the investigation of this coup d’etat, force them to tell us the truth and join with CARICOM. The CARICOM leaders are not recognizing this illegitimate government, and we shouldn’t either.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you holding a news conference today?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: We are holding a news conference today Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Where will you be holding it, what time?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, I’m going to be in my office at 2344 Rayburn House Office Building. We’re inviting all of the Haitian organization leadership in the Washington, D.C. area to come to my office at 11:30 am. today. That’s House Rayburn Office Building 2344.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you, Congress member Maxine Waters.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Thank you.