Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Speaks From Exile
In a Democracy Now national broadcast exclusive, we spend the hour with ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fourteen months ago, Aristide was flown to the Central African Republic in what he called a modern-day kidnapping in the service of a coup d'etat backed by the United States.
To watch or listen to entire interview:
Two weeks after his ouster, he defied Washington and returned to the Caribbean accompanied by a delegation of U.S. and Jamaican lawmakers. Aristide was eventually granted asylum in South Africa, where he now lives.
In the first extended interview in this country since his exile, we speak with President Aristide about the ailing former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, whether he will return to Haiti, the continuation of the "black holocaust" and much more. [includes rush transcript - partial]
Haiti's former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune remains near death. He has been on a hunger strike for over three weeks. He was imprisoned in June and has yet to see a judge in his case.
Meanwhile, the convictions of 38 Haitian former military leaders convicted of atrocities in 1994 have been annulled. Among them could be Louis Jodel Chamblain, the death squad leader who helped lead last year's coup.
Today, in a Democracy Now national broadcast exclusive, we spend the hour with ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fourteen months ago, Aristide was flown to the Central African Republic in what he called a modern-day kidnapping in the service of a coup d'etat backed by the United States.
Aristide was ousted by some of the same forces involved in the coup against him over a decade earlier. At that time, the leader of the FRAPH paramilitary death squad was on the payroll of U.S. intelligence agencies. The number two man - Louis Jodel Chamblain - was one of the leaders of this current coup.
Two weeks after this latest ouster, President Aristide defied Washington and returned to the Caribbean accompanied by a delegation of U.S. and Jamaican lawmakers. Aristide was eventually granted asylum in South Africa, where he now lives.
I reached him yesterday for the first extended broadcast interview in this country since moving to South Africa. I began by asking him about the condition of Yvon Neptune.
AMY GOODMAN: Aristide was eventually granted asylum in South Africa, where he now lives. I reached him yesterday for the first extended national broadcast interview in this country since he moved to South Africa. I began by asking him about the condition of the ousted Prime Minister Yvon Neptune.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: It is very sad what we have as information about our Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune. He is still in hunger strike. How long he will be able to survive, we don't know. That's why we grasp this opportunity to ask everybody who can do something to not hesitate, because it is a matter of life and death. We need to save his life.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what you believe needs to be done?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I think it's -- mobilization throughout the world, if I can put it this way, in the sense that we need many, many voices to equal the voices of Haiti. The people of Haiti want life and not death. They want peace and not violence. They want democracy and not repression. So Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and So Ann and hundreds of others who are in jail, they all need that mobilization. Whoever can say something, whoever can do something, please do it, because the Haitian people right now are waiting for your help.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission human
rights division, Thierry Fagart, said that Neptune's treatment is illegal. The acting Secretary General of the Organization of American States said the case has serious moral and political implications for the Haitian government and for the international community, and yet the Haitian government has charged Neptune with masterminding an alleged massacre of opposition members during the final weeks of your presidency. Can you respond?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: It's clear that itıs illegal what they're trying to sell. When we hear voices saying, as I just said, that itıs illegal, when they stand that maybe those who refuse to free him would start to do something, but we don't see them moving, that's why I call for a general mobilization, a peaceful mobilization for them finally to start paying attention to that situation. You arrest someone, as they did with Minister Pivert, So Ann and so many others -- there are hundreds who are in jail -- there is no basis, no legal basis for that. But they just put them in jail because they have power with them, weapons with them, support of the United States, France, Canada, some others. And they continue moving their way, the same way when last year they kidnapped me, it was illegal. The same way they keep our prime minister in jail, although he is close to death, it's illegal. But they don't pay attention to that. So I really think itıs a matter of life and death. We need many voices to put that truth out and see finally if they can pay attention to that and save his life.
AMY GOODMAN: The acting Secretary General of the Organization of American States has proposed the formation of a commission including a Haitian jurist, an international jurist and an international forensics expert to break the impasse in Neptuneıs case. Would you support this?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I do, because we are looking for people paying
attention to the case and bringing the help to save his life. But how long? How long? That's the question. How long? By the time we are talking right now, who knows how long he will be alive? So all we can do, we should do it, not waiting for this initiative, which we don't reject, but adding what we can bring. I think itıs really crucial.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. investigator, Louis Joinet, told Reuters that he
believed the alleged massacre that Yvon Neptune is charged with was actually a confrontation between pro- and anti-Aristide forces. Your response, this alleged massacre in St. Marc?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Well, as I already said, they're just lying, trying to put the focus on that so-called massacre which we cannot see anywhere because it doesn't exist. And they continue to keep him in jail, and now he's close to death, so to understand what is going on with Yvon Neptune, I think itıs also necessary to put it within the global context. The global context is clear. The Haitian people voted for democracy, and then last year they removed the elected president, illegally done, clearly. They never had the investigation to prove what they did was legal, because they cannot prove it. It is illegal. And they continue violating our rules, the international law, to have the U.N. in Haiti. Even the U.N. in Haiti is somehow involved in violation of human rights when they support the police killing people or when they don't protect the life of every single citizen, although we know clearly what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, but we don't see everybody through the U.N. moving this way. So hundreds of people are in jail. They already killed more than 10,000 people. We have so many others in hiding and in exile. That's why I said putting Yvon Neptuneıs situation in the global context help people understanding that what is going on right now, this is a matter of using weapons, imposing violence against democracy, against principle, against law, so we need many people to put their voices together and have that mobilization, a peaceful one, to see finally if those who have to do something will do it, for instance, by releasing our prime minister, So Ann, hundreds of innocent who are in jail, and so and so.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, you held a rare news conference in South Africa. What was the message you were putting out to the world?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: The message was very simple and very clear from my point of view. We said that we need to return to constitutional order, and for that we have four steps. The first one is thousands of Lavalas who are in jail and in exile must be free to return home. Second, the repression that has already killed over 10,000 people must end immediately. Third one, then there must be national dialogue. And the last one, free, fair and democratic elections must be organized in an environment where the huge majority of Haitian people is neither excluded nor repressed, as they have been up until today. That was the message.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, you also said that political violence in Haiti is a black holocaust. Are these your words, and who do you think is perpetrating it?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Yes, as I said, the continued peaceful
demonstrations calling for my return and the restoration of constitutional order must be heard, and racism should not maintain a black holocaust in Haiti, where African descendents proclaimed their independence 200 years ago. It's clear. When we had the trans-Atlantic trade slaves, it was millions of people we lost. For some people itıs close to 12 to 13, even 15 million people they transported from Africa to America, Caribbean, etc. For others, like [inaudible] it's more than 100 people they transported as slaves, but in any case, we know more than 13% of those people died in transit. That means we lost millions of people. If from that day to today we continue to lose people, clearly it's a black holocaust. Today, those who kidnapped me and continue to support those criminals while they're killing innocent people, while they keep Yvon Neptune the way he is, clearly they maintain the black holocaust. The United States, France, Canada and so many others should do something to repair, if they can, what they did. Because what they did is a crime. The same way slavery is a crime against humanity, the same way what they're doing against the Haitian people, itıs also a crime. And all of that we can put it in this process of maintaining a black holocaust in Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: Ousted Haitian President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, speaking to us in exile in South Africa. We'll come back, as we continue the hour with Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
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