Aristide Tells AP the U.S. Forced Him Out
By ELIOTT C. McLAUGHLIN
The Associated Press
Monday, March 1, 2004; 11:14 PM
ATLANTA, Ga. - Jean-Bertrand Aristide said in a telephone interview Monday that he was "forced to leave" Haiti by U.S. military forces.
Aristide was put in contact with The Associated Press by the Rev. Jesse Jackson following a news conference, where the civil rights leader called on Congress to investigate Aristide's ouster.
When asked if he left Haiti on his own, Aristide quickly answered: "No. I was forced to leave.
"They were telling me that if I don't leave they would start shooting, and be killing in a matter of time," Aristide said during the brief interview via speaker phone. He spoke with a thick Haitian accent, his voice obscured at times by a bad connection. It was unclear whether Aristide meant that rebels or U.S. agents would begin shooting.
When asked who the agents were, he responded: "White American, white military.
"They came at night. ... There were too many. I couldn't count them," he added.
Aristide told reporters that he signed documents relinquishing power out of fear that violence would erupt in Haiti if he didn't comply with the demands of "American security agents."
U.S. authorities have dismissed Aristide's claims as unfounded.
Aristide on Monday said he was in his palace in Port-au-Prince when the military force arrived. He said he thought he was being taken to the Caribbean island of Antigua, but instead he has been exiled to the Central African Republic.
Aristide described the agents as "good, warm, nice," but added that he had no rights during his 20-hour flight to Africa.
Aristide's wife, Mildred, initiated Monday's telephone call, said Shelley Davis, a special assistant to Jackson. She said the reverend and the president's family have been close for about a decade.
Also Monday, two Democratic congressmen, California's Maxine Waters and New York's Charles Rangel, said they, too, had spoken to Aristide, and he had made similar claims.
"The president said to me, 'I was kidnapped. I did not go of my own will. I did not want to go,'" Waters said in Los Angeles.
Jackson said Congress should investigate whether the United States, specifically the CIA, had a role in the rebellion that led to Aristide's exile.
Jackson encouraged reporters to question where the rebels in Haiti got their guns and uniforms.
"Why would we immediately support an armed overthrow and not support a constitutionally elected government?" Jackson said.
Aristide, who fled Haiti under pressure from the rebels, his political opponents, the United States and France, arrived Monday in the Central African Republic, according to the country's state radio. He has claimed that he was abducted from Haiti by U.S. troops who accompanied him to Africa.
The White House, Pentagon and State Department have denied allegations that Aristide was kidnapped by U.S. forces eager for him to resign.
© 2004 The Associated Press