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24812: Hermantin (News) Florida hears louder pleas for Aristide
leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Florida hears louder pleas for Aristide
By Alva James-Johnson
April 17, 2005
Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have turned up
the volume on their call for his return to the country, summoning exiled
former government officials out of the woodwork and sparing no government in
On Thursday, the coordinating committee for Fanmi Lavalas party held their
first news conference in Miami since Aristide's departure in February 2004,
calling on the United Nations to release political prisoners, restore
constitutional order and return Aristide to power.
Participants included Angelot Bell, a former official in the Interior
Ministry; Mario Dupuy, a former secretary of state, and Maryse Narcisse, the
former cabinet president.
Protesters have demonstrated at the Canadian, French and Haitian consulates
to denounce the countries' support of what they described as "massive
repression being carried out by the [interim Haitian] regime." They say
Latin American countries participating in the United Nation's stabilization
mission are next.
"Things are horrible in Haiti right now, and something has to be done about
it," said Jack Lieberman of the Haiti Solidarity Committee, a
Pittsburgh-based advocacy group. "We decided to go to the consulates because
we think there's a conflict between what the United Nations claims it's
doing and what it's doing."
In the year since Aristide's departure, demonstrations by his Fanmi Lavalas
party and other organizations have been sporadic in South Florida. But
recent events in the country, including reported attacks against former
Miami priest, Father Gérard Jean-Juste, have galvanized Aristide
"Tragically they're supporting mass violations of human rights, and are
helping to maintain the infrastructure that every day is oppressing the
Haitian people," Lieberman said.
Canadian and French troops were part of the U.S.-led stabilization effort
that began February 2004 when Aristide was forced out of the country during
an armed rebellion.
Ernesto Loignon, the Canadian consul in Miami, said the country pulled out
its troops when the United Nations took over the mission, but Canadian
civilian police still remain to train the Haitian police.
As for the protests, Loignon doesn't understand why the consulate is a
target, and he asked whether the picketers were aware of the $180 million
that his country is pouring into Haiti.
"They have the wrong address," he said. "There's a transitional government
in Haiti at the moment and that should be the address."
The interim Haitian government, meanwhile, has denied the charges of human
Ralph Latortue, Haiti's vice consul in Miami and a cousin of the prime
minister, said the protests don't represent the sentiment of the majority of
Haitian people. He said picketers demonstrating at the Haitian Consulate
have been holding professionally designed signs. Stopping short of directly
blaming Aristide for the demonstrations, Latortue said "I guess these are
very well-financed protests."
But organizers said the picketing is a grass-roots effort, drawing people
who disdain the Latortue government, want Aristide returned to the country
and think the interim government is persecuting his supporters.
Juste, a prominent Haitian activist and Aristide supporter, was arrested by
the interim regime in October and released seven weeks later.
Juste's supporters said he was attacked a couple of weeks ago at Sainte
Claire's Catholic Church, located in the poor neighborhood of Delmas, Haiti.
They said the United Nations Stabilization Mission to Haiti declined to
respond to his call for help after a recent attack.
In the meantime, former Aristide cabinet members such as former Prime
Minister Yvonne Neptune and Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert remain in
Lieberman, chairman of the Haiti Solidarity Committee, said he worked with
Juste at the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami before the priest left for
Haiti. He helped organize a group last year to campaign for Juste's release
from prison, and the group evolved into the new committee.
Alva James-Johnson can be reached at email@example.com or
Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel