Was Aristide kidnapped?

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 1, 2004 7:40PM (EST)

Did the United States kidnap Jean-Bertrand Aristide and take him to Africa? That's what Aristide apparently told Maxine Waters and Randall Robinson, who both spoke with DemocracyNow! They say Aristide did not yield power at all, as is being widely reported, but instead was forcibly taken after three weeks of armed uprisings in Haiti. (Uprisings he fueled, as the New York Times points out in its editorial today.)

Still, the man claims he was kidnapped (The Bush administration denies it, saying it's a conspiracy theory). From the DemocracyNow! Web site: "'He's surrounded by military. It's like he is in jail, he said. He says he was kidnapped,'" said Waters. She said he had been threatened by what he called US diplomats. According to Waters, the diplomats reportedly told the Haitian president that if he did not leave Haiti, paramilitary leader Guy Philippe would storm the palace and Aristide would be killed. According to Waters, Aristide was told by the US that they were withdrawing Aristide's US security. TransAfrica founder and close Aristide family friend Randall Robinson also received a call from the Haitian president early this morning and confirmed Waters account."

Needless to say, Haiti is becoming a thorny topic for the White House and is shaping up to be a major issue in the presidential campaign. The Miami Herald looks at how "lingering questions over what role the White House played in the Haiti uprising -- and whether race was a factor in sending back hundreds of fleeing refugees -- could haunt President Bush as he tries to win Florida again this year and secure reelection."

As it stands, a recent poll shows Florida going for Bush over John Kerry by 47 percent to 42 percent. That could change, of course. Kerry was quick to condemn Bush's handling of the Haiti situation in a phone interview to the Herald from the campaign trail in New York. "The United States should have been an honest broker for nonviolence," Kerry said. "This is one more indication of how the administration comes late to an issue, very ideologically colored in their approach, and allows things to get out of control as they have elsewhere in the world."

The Herald says Kerry described the Bush administration's policy of blocking Haitians from fleeing the chaos while giving greater access to Cubans escaping communism as a "double standard," but he stopped short of critics who call the Haitian policy racist.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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