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Congresswoman Waters Leads Delegation to Free Aristide from Central African Republic

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A delegation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s friends and supporters traveled to the Central African Republic (CAR) to escort President Aristide back to the Caribbean. Congresswoman Maxine Waters helped to coordinate a request from President Aristide to his neighbors in the Caribbean. Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, who is also the President of the Caribbean Community of Nations (CARICOM), extended a hand of friendship and invited Aristide to come to Jamaica and stay until such time as he could find a permanent exile home in another country.

Included in this delegation were: Rep. Waters, TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, President Aristide’s attorney, Ira Kurzban, Jamaican Parliamentarian Sharon Hay-Webster who represented Jamaica and CARICOM, and Sidney Williams, former Ambassador to the Bahamas.

President Aristide and his wife, Mildred, were deposited in the Central African Republic by State Department officials and military officers in what has been described by President Aristide as a coup d’etat and kidnapping. He was left there without any explanation about his future. He was not contacted once by the United States or France regarding his well being. This was a cruel, crude regime change orchestrated by the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, and the Ambassador to Haiti, Mr. James Foley, with full knowledge of President Bush.

According to President Aristide, the Bush Administration participated in his ouster as a democratically-elected president who had two years to serve on his five-year term of office. He said that during a visit to his home in Haiti two weeks ago by U. S. Marines, Luis G. Moreno, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U. S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, and other U. S. diplomats, Aristide was told to leave Haiti immediately or he would be killed and thousands of Haitians would die. He was forced onto an airplane and flown to CAR, where the United States has no embassy or diplomatic relations.

Congresswoman Waters said that President Aristide had been the target of U. S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega since he was first elected to office in 1991. President Aristide was first ousted from office in 1991 by some of the same forces that planned his overthrow this year. He was returned to office in 1994 by President Bill Clinton at the urging of the Black Caucus, after the Haitian military strong man Cedras was forced to leave Haiti.

The Bush Administration has steadfastly denied President Aristide’s assertion that he was coerced to resign and forced to leave Haiti, but there is growing doubt on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the international community and the media about the veracity of the Administration’s account of the events in Haiti.

“That’s just a continuation of the Bush Administration policy of regime change and misleading the American people about everything they do,” Waters explained. “They continue to lie about the lies they told to justify their invasion of Iraq, saying they never said what they said about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s imminent threat, and they are trying to make us believe their visit to President Aristide’s home at 3 a.m. on February 29, 2004, was not a forced removal of President Aristide.

Congresswoman Waters and the delegation traveled over 17,000 miles in over 40 hours to deliver a letter of invitation from Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson to CAR President Bozize to release President Aristide for travel to Jamaica. After hours of discussion and negotiation in CAR, the Aristides and the delegation finally boarded their chartered jet and headed for Jamaica. Once on the ground at the Norman Manly Airport in Kingston, President Aristide made a brief statement thanking Prime Minister Patterson for extending him the invitation.

“I am extremely concerned about the Bush Administration’s strike against democracy and its disregard for the rule of law. The Bush Administration must take responsibility, not only for the ouster of President Aristide, but also for the violence, looting, bloodshed and destruction that has taken place and continues to take place in Haiti,” said Waters.

“The Bush Administration could have avoided this crisis—a crisis of its own making—by simply denouncing the so-called rebels who are nothing more than thugs and former members of the Duvalier death squads who returned from exile to join the U. S.-backed opposition to drive President Aristide from office. The Congressional Black Caucus and other Members of Congress asked, demanded, and literally begged the Bush Administration to intervene and prevent the crisis, however the Bush Administration turned a deaf ear to their request.

President Aristide will be reunited with his two young daughters and the Aristides will remain in Jamaica for eight to 10 weeks. After delivering Aristide safely to Jamaica, Congresswoman Waters returned to Washington, Robinson returned to St. Kitts, Kurzban returned to Miami and Williams returned to his home in Los Angeles.

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