Originally: Liberal Says He Was Fired for Criticizing Aristide, Black Caucus
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writers
March 16, 2004
(CNSNews.com) – The co-founder of a left-wing foreign policy think tank has told CNSNews.com that he was forced out of his job two years ago for complaining about the think tank’s growing support of then-Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the financial connections between Aristide and the Congressional Black Caucus.
James R. Morrell, executive director, Haiti Democracy Project
In 1975, James Morrell helped create the Center for International Policy (CIP), a Washington, D.C.-based group that pressures the U.S. to consider a foreign government’s human rights record when it hands out foreign aid.
But in 2002, Morrell said, he grew increasingly unhappy over the CIP’s support for Aristide, who was facing growing criticism at home and abroad for failing to enact promised reforms in his poverty-stricken country; for the fraud that attended the Haitian elections of 2000; and for the violence that was allegedly being committed by the president’s supporters.
Morrell told CNSNews.com he believes he was fired at a time when his CIP colleagues were seeking Haitian government money to advocate on behalf of Aristide.
The CIP’s attorney, Paul Reichler, was “one of the people on the [Aristide government’s] payroll,” according to Morrell, “and was telling [CIP president] Bob White at that time that he could also resume that advisory relationship with Aristide through the center.”
Morrell had already taken his frustrations to the press, granting an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he criticized the payments the Aristide government was making to Ron Dellums, a former U.S. representative from California and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. But just before the interview was published, Morrell said, Dellums came to the CIP “and really charmed the pants off of all of them.”
When the Wall Street Journal article was published, Morrell said, it sealed his fate.
“Aristide had told [Reichler] that there was an enemy at the Center … and that was me,” Morrell said. “So when my article came out in the Wall Street Journal, they kind of called me on the carpet and forced me out.”
William Goodfellow, the CIP’s executive director, told CNSNews.com that far from doing Aristide’s bidding, the organization closed its Haiti project in June 2001, about nine months before Morrell left.
Goodfellow said it was Morrell who continued to focus on Haiti even after others at the CIP concluded that none of the parties in Haiti or the Bush administration were listening to anything the CIP had to say on the subject.
“Mr. Morrell continued to work on Haiti, and we told him that we did not have a Haiti project because we had no income … and he came back to us with a proposal to get funding from very conservative Haitian businessmen who had a particular internecine fight with Aristide,” Goodfellow said.
Goodfellow added that the CIP had no interest in taking money from people “with an axe to grind,” and after telling Morrell that he could no longer focus on Haiti while working at the CIP, Morrell eventually left. He had been with the group for 28 years.
Morrell “got too deeply involved in the personalities rather than focusing on U.S. policy, which is really our job as a research center,” Goodfellow said. “He became involved in a family squabble inside Haiti.”
As for Morrell’s contention that the CIP wanted a place on Aristide’s payroll, Goodfellow said the charge was “simply not true.”
“Dellums may well have been getting funding from the Haitian government. He was a consultant or lobbyist” and “the Haitians had a number of people on the payroll,” Goodfellow acknowledged. However, “the [CIP] was not cozy with Aristide. [CIP President Bob] White had criticized Aristide in a number of press interviews and in a book.”
Morrell is still taking aim at the Congressional Black Caucus, which he faults for continuing to support Aristide. That support, Morrell said, may be the result of past financial dealings.
“After being here in D.C., for a while, I can’t explain the vociferousness [of the Black Caucus’s support of Aristide] any other way,” Morrell said.
Dellums has received almost $500,000 to lobby on behalf of Aristide, Morrell said, and “is constantly up there (in Washington), jawboning.”
Morrell’s account of his ouster comes as Aristide arrived back in the Caribbean Monday, accompanied by one of his most vocal supporters, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, who is also a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Aristide arrived in Jamaica after flying from the Central African Republic, where he had taken temporary refuge following his resignation. He insists he was “kidnapped.”
To Aristide’s opponents in Haiti, Aristide’s arrival in neighboring Jamaica is too close for comfort. “It’s very unfriendly on the part of Jamaica. We cannot accept this,” said Haiti’s new Prime Minister Gerard Latortue Monday.
The Bush administration, which provided for Aristide’s safe departure from Haiti on Feb. 29 amid a growing rebellion, is also critical of his return to the area.
The administration has been accused by Aristide’s supporters at the Congressional Black Caucus as well as by black activists Jesse Jackson and Randall Robinson of kidnapping Aristide and taking him out of Haiti. But Morrell believes Aristide’s supporters in Washington are doing a disservice to democracy and to the Haitian people.
“I cannot see the possible justification for taking this money to argue some Haitian dictator’s case against his domestic opposition,” Morrell said. “That is essentially what it was.
“It would be a lot cheaper if instead of all the money [the Haitian government] spent on foreign lobbyists, if they would just correct the elections (of 2000),” Morrell added.
Other Haitian activists have criticized the Congressional Black Caucus for its support of Aristide.
“President Aristide’s way of governance has been less than desirable and the Black Caucus’s support of him has been repulsive to a lot of Haitian Americans,” Francois Guillaume, Jr. told CNSNews.com. Guillaume is a spokesman for the League of Young Haitian Professionals based in Florida.
“We are organizing a protest in downtown Miami, doing as much as we can to get truth out because their version of [the] story is not representing the Haitian views,” Guillaume said.
Guillaume believes the Congressional Black Caucus is ignoring Aristide’s true record of corruption and of trampling human rights.
“Most Haitians deplore [Aristide]. He armed regular thugs and known criminals, he [gave] them arms to promote his ideas,” he said.
Guillaume wrote an open letter to the Black Caucus last week, expressing his “deep disappointment among Haitians and Haitian-Americans concerning the actions of certain Democratic congressional members who are using the plight of the Haitian people for their own political agendas.
“At this point in our history, where we are presented with a real chance of building a true democratic country, we find the accusations of certain members of the Black Caucus counterproductive and even inhibitive to the Haitian national unity initiative,” read Guillaume’s letter addressed to the “representatives of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Kidnapping and ‘coup d’etat’ charges emanating from lobbyists and Democrats looking to use this issue as a ‘ticket item’ against the Bush administration in this electoral year is perceived within the Haitian-American community as unimaginative and conniving,” he added.
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, blames the Bush administration for Aristide’s downfall and for the chaos in Haiti that preceded it.
“We are just as much a part of this coup d’etat as the rebels, looters or anyone else,” Rangel said.