Originally: Powerful friends

The Nassau Guardian
Friday, May 7, 2004


Powerful friends

Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide obviously has some powerful friends in Washington, D.C., who are not prepared to give up the fight to have him restored to power. The big difference is none of them apparently is in the White House or the administration of President George Bush, which is just as determined to ensure that Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue is recognised and accepted as Haiti’s new leader.

Mr. Latortue met with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on Wednesday and did the rounds on Capitol Hill, but his visit drew a blistering attack from influential Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of U.S. support for Mr. Latortue.

At a press conference after she and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Secretary of State Colin Powell, no doubt to verbally voice their opposition to Mr. Latortue’s Washington visit, Rep. Waters did not mince words in describing Mr. Latortue as “a mere puppet installed by the supporters of the coup d’etat that ousted the democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”

The California congresswoman claimed that Mr. Latortue “is totally controlled by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, the former chief of staff for Senator Jesse Helms and the Haiti-hater who has used his power hold at the OAS and the State Department to carry out the policy of right-wing conservative American and Haitian business elites.”

That’s a mighty powerful accusation that cannot and should not be dismissed as merely the rantings of a disgruntled Aristide supporter. Congresswoman Waters unquestionably has tremendous influence within the Democratic Party, and this fact could have profound implications with regard to Haiti’s future should Democratic candidate John Kerry defeat President Bush in the November general elections.

What needs to be kept in mind here is that Rep. Waters was a close confidant of former President Bill Clinton, who appointed her husband, Sidney Williams, to serve as Ambassador to The Bahamas during his administration.

And it was during the Clinton Administration that U.S. forces helped to restore Mr. Aristide as Hait’s president in October of 1994. He had assumed office as Haiti’s president in February of 1991, but was ousted by a military coup in September of that year.

If Mr. Kerry were to win the election, there is no doubt U.S. policy toward Haiti will change drastically, a prospect which suggests that with a Democratic President in the White House, President Aristide could at some point in time in the future again return to power in Haiti.

That’s not as far-fetched as some may think it is, given the support Mr. Aristide has from powerful friends in Washington like Rep. Waters.