Aristide: US forced me to leave Haiti

Haiti’s president Jean-Bertrand Aristide said that he was “forced to leave” the Caribbean country by US military forces who said they would “start shooting and killing” if he refused.

Haiti’s president Jean-Bertrand Aristide said that he was “forced to leave” the Caribbean country by US military forces who said they would “start shooting and killing” if he refused.

Mr Aristide was put in contact yesterday with The Associated Press by the Reverend Jesse Jackson following a news conference where the civil rights leader called on Congress to investigate the president’s departure.

When asked if he left Haiti on his own, Mr 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,” he said during the brief interview via speaker phone. He spoke English with a thick accent, his voice obscured at times by a bad connection.

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.”

Mr Aristide told reporters that he signed documents relinquishing power out of fear that violence would erupt in Haiti if he refused to comply with the demands of “American security agents”.

He said he was in his palace in the capital 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.

He described the agents as “good, warm, nice”, but added that he had no rights during his 20-hour flight to Africa.

Mr Aristide’s wife, Mildred, initiated yesterday’s telephone call, said Shelley Davis, a special assistant to Mr Jackson. She said the reverend and the president’s family have been close for about a decade.

Mr Jackson said Congress should investigate whether the US, specifically the CIA, had a role in the rebellion that led to Mr Aristide’s exile.

Mr 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?” he said.

Mr Aristide, who fled Haiti under pressure from the rebels, his political opponents, the US and France, arrived yesterday in the Central African Republic, according to the country’s state radio. He has claimed that he was abducted from Haiti by US troops who accompanied him to Africa.

The White House, US defence officials and State Department have denied allegations that Mr Aristide was kidnapped by US forces eager for him to resign.

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