Published on Monday, March 1, 2004 by Democracy Now!
President Aristide Says 'I Was Kidnapped', 'Tell the World it is a Coup'
Multiple sources that just spoke with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide told Democracy Now! that Aristide says he was "kidnapped" and taken by force to the Central African Republic. Congressmember Maxine Waters said she received a call from Aristide at 9am EST. "He's surrounded by military. It's like he is in jail, he said. He says he was kidnapped," said Waters. She said he had been threatened by what he called US diplomats. According to Waters, the diplomats reportedly told the Haitian president that if he did not leave Haiti, paramilitary leader Guy Philippe would storm the palace and Aristide would be killed. According to Waters, Aristide was told by the US that they were withdrawing Aristide's US security.
TransAfrica founder and close Aristide family friend Randall Robinson also received a call from the Haitian president early this morning and confirmed Waters account. Robinson said that Aristide "emphatically" denied that he had resigned. "He did not resign," he said. "He was abducted by the United States in the commission of a coup." Robinson says he spoke to Aristide on a cell phone that was smuggled to the Haitian president.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Congressmember Waters, can you tell us about the conversation you just had with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?
MAXINE WATERS: I most certainly can and he’s anxious for me to get the message out so people will understand. He is in the Central Republic of Africa at a place called the Palace of the Renaissance, and he’s not sure if that’s a house or a hotel or what it is and he is surrounded by military. It’s like in jail, he said. He said that he was kidnapped; he said that he was forced to leave Haiti. He said that the American embassy sent the diplomats; he referred to them as, to his home where they was lead by Mr. Moreno. And I believe that Mr. Moreno is a deputy chief of staff at the embassy in Haiti and other diplomats, and they ordered him to leave. They said you must go NOW. He said that they said that Guy Phillipe and U.S. Marines were coming to Port Au Prince; he will be killed, many Haitians will be killed, that they would not stop until they did what they wanted to do. He was there with his wife Mildred and his brother-in-law and two of his security people, and somebody from the Steel Foundation, and they’re all, there’s five of them that are there. They took them where-- they did stop in Antigua then they stopped at a military base, then they were in the air for hours and then they arrived at this place and they were met by five ministers of government. It’s a Francophone country, they speak French. And they were then taken to this place called the Palace of the Renaissance where they are being held and they are surrounded by military people. They are not free to do whatever they want to do. Then the phone clicked off after we had talked for about five--we talked maybe fifteen minutes and then the phone clicked off. But he, some of it was muffled in the beginning, at times it was clear. But one thing that was very clear and he said it over and over again, that he was kidnapped, that the coup was completed by the Americans that they forced him out. They had also disabled his American security force that he had around him for months now; they did not allow them to extend their numbers. To begin with they wanted them to bring in more people to provide security they prevented them from doing that and then they finally forced them out of the country. So that’s where his is and I said to him that I would do everything I could to get the word out. …that I heard it directly from him I heard it directly from his wife that they were kidnapped, they were forced to leave, they did not want to leave, their lives were threatened and the lives of many Haitians were threatened. And I said that we would be in touch with the State Department, with the President today and if at all possible we would try to get to him. We don’t know whether or not he is going to be moved. We will try and find that information out today.
AMY GOODMAN: Did President Aristide say whether or not he resigned?
MAXINE WATERS: He did not resign. He said he was forced out, that the coup was completed.
AMY GOODMAN: So again to summarize, Congressmember Maxine Waters, you have just gotten off the phone with President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who said he believes he is in the Central African Republic.
MAXINE WATERS: That’s right, with French speaking officers, he’s surrounded by them and he’s in this place called the Palace of the Renaissance and he was forced to go there. They took him there.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you going to do right now?
MAXINE WATERS: I’m going to get to the State Dept to find out what do they plan on doing with him. Do they plan on leaving him there or are they planning on taking him to another country? We are going to tell them we would like to see him. We are prepared to go where he is NOW and that we are demanding that we are able to see him and go where he is. And to negotiate what will be done with him.
AMY GOODMAN: Did he describe how he was taken out? We had heard reports in Haiti that he was taken out in handcuffs. Did he…
MAXINE WATERS: No he did not say he was taken out in handcuffs. He simply said that they came led by Mr. Moreno followed by the marines and they said simply “you have to go!” You have no choice, you must go and if you don’t you will be killed and many Haitians will be killed. We are planning with Mr. De filliped to come into Puerto Rico. He will not be alone he will come with American military and you will not survive, you will be killed. You’ve got to go now!
AMY GOODMAN: How did President Aristide sound? What was the quality of his voice?
MAXINE WATERS: The quality of his voice was anxious, angry, disturbed, wanting people to know the truth.
AMY GOODMAN: Did he say why he had not made any calls since early on Sunday morning; that people had not been in touch with him for more than 36 hours. Certainly this plane was equipped with a telephone?
MAXINE WATERS: OH, I don’t think they were able to make any calls from the plane. They were only allowed to make calls once they landed. And I think the only call that they had made was to her mother who is in Florida and her brother. But they were not allowed…they had no access to telephone calls… to a telephone on the plane.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the next step…what are you going to do? What do you think the people in this country should being doing about this situation in Haiti?
MAXINE WATERS: First of all I think the people in this country should be outraged that our government led a coup de’tat against a democratically elected President. They should call, write. Fax with their outrage, not only to the State Dept. but to all of their elected officials and to the press. We have to keep the information flying in the air so people will get it and understand what is taking place. And for those of us who are elected officials we must not only get to the President, we must demand that he is returned to claim his presidency if that is what he wants. If you can recall what happened in Venezuela when Mr. Chavez was…they tried to force him out and they had someone step into the presidency and he had not resigned his presidency and he got it back. I did not have that conversation with President Aristide but we must meet with him and we must talk with him and be prepared to protect him.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Maxine Waters I want to thank you for being with us again. Congress member Waters has just spoken with President Aristide who she says said he was kidnapped and is now with his wife and surrounded by security in the Central African Republic.
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RANDALL ROBINSON: The president called me on a cell phone that was slipped to him by someone - he has no land line out to the world and no number at which he can be reached. He is being held in a room with his wife and his sister's husband, who happened to be at the house at the time that the abduction occurred. The soldiers came in to the house and ordered them to use no phones and to come immediately. They were taken at gunpoint to the airport and put on a plane. His own security detachment was taken as well and they were put in a separate compartment of the plane. The president was kept with his wife with the soldiers with the shades of the plane down and when he asked where he was being taken, the soldiers told him they were under orders not to tell him that. He was flown first to Antigua, which he recognized, but then he was told to put the shades down again. They were on the ground like this for two hours before they took off again and landed six hours later at another location again told to keep the shades down. At no time before they left the house and on the plane were they allowed to use a phone. Only when they landed the last time were they told that they were in the central African republic. Then taken to a room with a balcony. They do not know what the room is. Outside they say they are surrounded by soldiers. So that they have no freedom. The president asked me to tell the world that it is a coup, that they have been kidnapped. That they have been abducted. I have put in calls to members of congress asking that they demand that the president be given an opportunity to speak, that he be given a press conference opportunity and that people be given an opportunity to reach him by phone so that they can hear directly from him how he is being treated. But the essential point is clear. He did not resign. He was taken by force from his residence in the middle of the night, forced on to a plane, and taken away without being told where he was going. He was kidnapped. There's no question about it.
AMY GOODMAN: How does he actually know, Randall Robinson, how does president Aristide know that he is in the Central African Republic?
RANDALL ROBINSON: He was told that when he arrived. That there was some official reception of officials of that government at the airport when he arrived. But, you see, he still had and continues to have surrounding him American military.
AMY GOODMAN: You spoke with him and Mildred Aristide up to 10 times a day in the last days before they were removed from Haiti. How did president Aristide sound when you spoke with him today?
RANDALL ROBINSON: They sounded tired and very concerned that the departure has been mistold to the world. They wanted to make certain that I did all that I could to disabuse any misled public that he had not resigned, that he had been abducted. That was very, very important to him and Mrs. Aristide explained to me the strange response to my calls on Saturday night. I had talked to her on Saturday morning and him on Friday. But when I called the house on Saturday night, the phone was answered by an unfamiliar voice who told me that the president was busy, a response that was strange and then when I asked for Mrs. Aristide, I was told that she was busy, too. As she told me then, even that early on, before they were taken away and before the soldiers came, they had been instructed they were not allowed to talk to anyone. So, that is - she said that was the reason she explained this today, a few minutes ago - why she was not able to talk to me and he was not able to talk to me when I called the house object Saturday evening.
AMY GOODMAN: Who did they say was the person that you had actually spoken to?
RANDALL ROBINSON: No, but that it was not someone who worked at the house because they know my voice when they hear it and they respond to it because I call so many times. This was something new, a new person, a new voice, with a new kind of tone. That is when we began to be concerned that something was amiss.
AMY GOODMAN: I will ask you the same question I asked Congressmember Waters who also spoke with president Aristide. The issue of whether president Aristide resigned. Did he say he did or he didn't?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Emphatically not.
AMY GOODMAN He said he did not resign?
RANDALL ROBINSON: He did not resign. He did not resign. He was kidnapped and all of the circumstances seem to support his assertion. Had he resigned, we wouldn't need blacked out windows and blocked communications and military taking him away at gunpoint. Had he resigned, he would have been happy to leave the country. He was not. He resisted. Emphatically not. He did not resign. He was abducted by the United States, a democratic, a democratically elected president, abducted by the United States in the commission of an American induced coup. This is a frightening thing to contemplate.
AMY GOODMAN: And again, Randall Robinson, you said you spoke to president Aristide by a cell phone that was smuggled to him?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Yes and I cannot call back because I have no number and the only way they can call out is by cell phone because they have not been provided with any land lines.
AMY GOODMAN: Did they say how long they will be staying in this place that they are, the palace of the Renaissance, they say they believe in the Central African Republic?
RANDALL ROBINSON: I haven't been told anything. I told her that last night I spoke to senator Dodd's foreign policy person Janice O'Connell called me to say that she had learned from the State Department that he was being taken to the Central African Republic and she had also been told by the State Department that they had refused, that the south Africans had refused asylum. I told her that I didn't believe that that was true because the South African foreign minister - [Noise] Hello?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Randall, Robinson, we hear you.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Because the South African foreign minister had called me from India Mid-afternoon on Sunday and she asked how I was doing and I thought I was going to be doing much better, and I told her so. And I said because I'm sure that president Aristide has arrived in South Africa. She said no, he hasn't arrived here. We haven't heard anything from him. We don't know where he is and then we became really alarmed. She said there's been no request for asylum. So, you see, the State Department is telling an interested public, including members of the congress, that South Africa refused asylum. The State Department knows better. They know that President Aristide was not allowed to request asylum from South Africa or anybody else because he was not allowed to make any phone calls before they left Haiti, during the flight, and beyond.
AMY GOODMAN: Anything else you would like to add from your conversation with president Aristide on this smuggled phone that he got hold of after many hours incommunicado and now saying he believes he is in the central African republic with the first lady of Haiti, Mildred Aristide?
RANDALL ROBINSON: The phrase that he used several times and asked of me to find a way to tell the Haitian people, he said tell the world it's a coup, it's a coup, it's a coup.
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