Originally: Haitian leader blasts Aristide

Haitian leader blasts Aristide
Interim PM, in U.S. seeking aid, vilifies exiled president, blames protests on American blacks
May 11, 2004
Haiti’s interim prime minister said yesterday that opposition to his U.S.-backed government is being fomented by black Americans more interested in “black power” than in the plight of the Haitian people.

Speaking to reporters at the Harvard Club in Manhattan, Gerard Latortue also called exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide an inveterate “liar.” Latortue was in New York to appeal to the United Nations for economic and development aid.

Latortue charged that African-American politicians organizing protests against his government are making the question of who should rule Haiti “a racial issue that doesn’t correspond with the aspirations of the Haitian population today.”

“This has been promoted more by Afro-Americans than by Haitians, in the name of black power,” Latortue said, referring to a Brooklyn rally last month attended by 1,500 Aristide supporters, who see him as Haiti’s only legitimate ruler.

“The fact is that many African-Americans simply believe his government came to power in an illegitimate manner,” said Ron Daniels, executive director of the Manhattan-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

On Feb. 29, Aristide, viewed as a pro-poor leftist by his supporters but as a corrupt and unstable demagogue by opponents, signed a letter of resignation and went into exile on a U.S.-chartered plane to the Central African Republic.

Soon after his arrival there he began telling associates he had been “kidnapped” by U.S. soldiers and diplomats, a charge repeated by U.S. supporters.

Latortue said Aristide is a “liar” capable of asking U.S. officials to help him escape Haiti’s spreading violence and then deciding to accuse them of kidnapping him.

“The man really has a double personality, and sometimes one personality will say yes, then the other personality says no,” Latortue said.

Latortue, a Florida businessman before being tapped two months ago to be interim prime minister, said American presidential politics play a role in the U.S.-based opposition to his government. “It is a fight against President Bush and the Republican Party,” he said.

The protesters “hope that if the present administration loses the election and Democrats come back, there will be a chance for the Democrats to return Aristide.”

Outside the Harvard Club on West 44th Street, several protesters carried signs saying, “Down With Gerard Latortue” and “End the U.S. Occupation of Haiti.”

“He’s taking his orders from the United States Embassy,” shouted Haitian-born Jean Kernizan, 50.

Latortue visited U.S. officials in Washington last week and was expected to travel last night to France to continue efforts to get financial aid for his troubled nation.