Haiti: President Aristide requests help for Prime Minister Yvon Neptune
May 10, 2005
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jba01.jpgHaiti: President Aristide requests help for Prime Minister Yvon Neptune

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. 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]

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005
National Broadcast Exclusive: Kidnapped Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Speaks From South Africa

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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.

* Jean-Bertrand Aristide, speaking from South Africa.

This transcript is available free of charge, however donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution. Donate - $25, $50, $100, more...

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 it's illegal what they're trying to sell. When we hear voices saying, as I just said, that it's 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 it's 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 Neptune's 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 it's 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 it's 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 Neptune's 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 it's 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, it's 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.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue our conversation with exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, speaking to us from South Africa. I asked him to talk about what took place in last year's coup and the role of the United States.

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They were the strongest force in the coup. As today, if they want to reverse this decision, they will. They are the super power in the world, we know it. On our side, we always said no to violence, yes to peace; no to violence, yes to democracy. We voted for democracy. We had a democratic process in place. They stopped that democratic process using violence. And today it's a failure. It's a failure because after one year if you spend so much money, if you arm drug dealers, if you armed criminals, if you arm convicted people, former soldiers at the border of Santa Domingo and Haiti, and there those people move towards Haiti, where they created so many problems, they killed so many people, and up to today they continue to do their work as if they were not already convicted by the judicial system, and so and so. Clearly the United States has a major responsibility in moving from that violence to peace, from that violence to a democratic process. And I think, as I said, once they want, they will, because they have the possibility to do it. It's a failure, their coup.

AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, you have referred to your ouster, February 29, as a modern kidnapping in the service of a U.S.-backed coup. Can you tell us what happened on that day? Can you tell us if you still stand by that statement?

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: What I said I meant it, because this is the truth. The details, I already wrote them in a book. The date of the publication is not something that I can tell you, because it doesn't depend on me. But the book is already written and when it is published, people will have the opportunity to see those details in the books.

AMY GOODMAN: Why a kidnapping, and what was the U.S. role? When we flew over the Atlantic, when the delegation brought you and Mrs. Aristide back to the Western Hemisphere to Jamaica, you described the number two man in the U.S. Embassy coming to your home and then being hustled onto a plane with U.S. military and security. Can you elaborate on that?

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Yeah, I think as a good journalist, you ask the same question in a different way. And I apologize for not being able to give you those details, which are already written in my book. And as I said people will have the book, so they will have the answer.

AMY GOODMAN: We have reports that have come out that say that the U.S. government, and the U.S. government has admitted this, giving weapons to Haiti this past year. Can you talk about the history of the embargo and your response to this?

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Well, it's like if what we read in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's only words, empty words for some people. For instance, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article I, says [inaudible], which means everybody, we are born free, equal, with dignity, in front of law, and so and so. But for them I don't think it's the same meaning, because they do what they want because they are the super power. The same Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly says [inaudible], we are all equal in front of law. But it seems, no, this is different for them. When you have weapons, money, when you are powerful or a super power, you do what you want. You don't care about law, because violating law, this is for those who don't have money or weapons. They did exactly what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asked to be like -- they violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That's the point.

So when they give those weapons to these people, it was to destroy our democracy. We were building a state of law, and they give weapons to the folks to prevent Haiti to have a state of law. And it is like if they were telling us they are superior, and black people are inferior, so black people cannot have democracy, although they are preaching democracy or freedom. They were telling that black people should not have democracy. And when we put that in an historic perspective, we can clearly understand. In 1804, black people, African descendants, they fought for freedom, and they became free. From that day to today we continue to pay for nothing. We should be seen as an example, because we fought for freedom and freedom for every single human being. You are white, you are black, you are rich, you are poor. We care about you because you are a human being. So freedom for you, freedom for us, freedom for all of us. But on their side I don't think they put it this way. You are black, you should not be seeing, as a reference, your freedom. So for 200 years they did that, and in 1904 France refused Haiti to celebrate the first 100 years of independence. They did worse. While Haiti was preparing to celebrate 200 years of independence, it's a racist issue, very clear. Very clear.

AMY GOODMAN: During your term as president, there was a full-scale arms embargo imposed on you by the United States. The Graduate Institute of International Studies located in Geneva put out a small arms survey saying that thousands of rifles, a million rounds of ammunition were sent to the Haitian -- the current Haitian government. What is your knowledge of John Bolton as Under Secretary for Arms Control at the Department of State? What is your knowledge of his involvement with this, the man who is now embattled nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations?

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Well, I'm glad that Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote a paper where she asked the Senate to investigate this issue, while Mr. Bolton had that responsibility, and violating their own embargo to send more weapons to Haiti to kill more people, it's clearly the implementation of the opposite of what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asks for. So on our side, we did our best to create a peaceful environment, to protect the rights of every single citizen while our police didn't have weapons, in a legal way to do that. But we managed to save life. On their side, clearly by sending more weapons to Haiti, it's not only a violation of their own embargo imposed on Haiti, it is also one way for the de facto government who already killed more than 10,000 people in one year to keep killing more. So clearly it's time to see people who believe in human beings; people who believe in human rights; people who believe in principle, in justice, to put their voices together and say, "No, it's enough." How can we imagine that yesterday and today throughout the world, millions of people are celebrating the end of the Second World War which happened 65 years ago? That's great. In Zulu, we could say, yes, it's great. [inaudible] That means that you will go far if you move from peace to peace. [inaudible] But on their side I don't think they see it this way. It's a celebration, okay, but not because they care about human beings. When you care about human beings, you do your best to not repress and to not let people to repress and to not arm people to repress. You respect law. If you made a mistake, you correct it. They made a mistake one year ago through the kidnapping. Instead of correcting that mistake, we don't see them moving towards that correction. Let's wish right now, for instance, we would have voices to talk -- to address the issue, and by hearing the voices of the Haitian people, they would do something to save the life of our prime minister, not because he's our prime minister, but because he's a human being, illegally arrested, put in jail and almost passing towards another world.

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