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24868: Hermantin (News) Aristide ally blasts U.S. policy, officials
leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Sat, Apr. 23, 2005
Aristide ally blasts U.S. policy, officials
Haitian priest and former Miami activist the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste said two
top U.S. diplomats need to resign amid reports the United States sold arms
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
Saying the Haitian people need food, not bullets, the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste
on Friday demanded the resignation of two top U.S. State Department
officials he accused of helping to arm Haiti's interim government.
The demands by the popular Haitian Catholic priest came at a time when he
faces increased pressure by Haiti's Roman Catholic Church to tone down his
political rhetoric. It also comes amid speculation that he will be a
candidate in the country's Nov. 13 presidential elections.
Well-known in Miami circles, Jean-Juste is quickly becoming a prominent
presence on Haiti's political scene, wielding considerable influence with
loyalists of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and being a thorn in
the side of the current U.S.-backed Haitian government.
''The Bush administration is secretly and illegally arming the de facto
Haitian government,'' Jean-Juste said at a news conference in Little Haiti.
To Washington's consternation, several nations, including the Caribbean
Community, refused to recognize the installation of interim Prime Minister
Gerard Latortue following the 2004 ouster of Aristide as a rebellion
threatened to engulf Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. Jean-Juste insists
Aristide is Haiti's legitimate president. Now in exile, Aristide himself
insists he never resigned, as claimed by Washington.
Jean-Juste called for the resignation of Roger Noriega, assistant secretary
of state for Latin America, and John Bolton, undersecretary of state for
arms control. Bolton is the Bush administration's nominee for United Nations
Officials at the U.S. State Department could not immediately be reached by
phone for comment late Friday.
Jean-Juste's accusations about illegal arms sales came a day after The
Associated Press, quoting anonymous State Department and U.N. officials,
reported that the United States has quietly sold 2,000 used firearms to the
Haitian police force.
State Department officials are preparing to ask Congress to lift a 14-year
arms embargo against Haiti, the AP said.
''They have enough arms,'' said Jean-Juste, who wants to meet with U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss Haiti's deteriorating
security. ``They are killing Haitians who are demonstrating peacefully.''
In recent weeks, police backed by U.N. peacekeepers have clashed with armed
gangs in the sprawling Port-au-Prince slum known as Cité Soleil.
Speaking at the Little Haiti headquarters of Veye Yo, the pro-Aristide
grass-roots group he founded, Jean-Juste showed a video of an April 12
funeral he presided over in Cité Soleil.
Thousands of mourners attended the service for victims of recent political
''Cité Soleil is becoming a concentration camp,'' Jean-Juste claimed. ``The
U.N. troops and Haitian police have surrounded Cité Soleil . . . harassing
the population, shooting over their heads.''
On Thursday, Jean-Juste and other Haiti-based clergy were issued a sharp
warning by the church hierarchy.
The Episcopal Conference of Haiti prohibited priests from political
activities and warned that sanctions -- including defrocking -- could result
if they disobey.
The firebrand Jean-Juste acknowledged that he is walking a fine line as he
ministers in a nation where people die almost every day of starvation and
The ''church should be on the side of the oppressed,'' he insisted.
''It's not a matter of being involved in politics,'' he added. ``It's a
matter of, as Dr. Martin Luther King would say, if we don't help these
people, what is going to happen to them?''