'tell The World It Is A Coup'

  1. http://www.democracynow.org/
    Hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez

    Multiple sources that just spoke with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide told Democracy Now! that Aristide says he was "kidnapped" and taken by force to the Central African Republic.

    Congressmember Maxine Waters said she received a call from Aristide at 9am EST. "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. Robinson said that Aristide "emphatically" denied that he had resigned. "He did not resign," he said. "He was abducted by the United States in the commission of a coup." Robinson says he spoke to Aristide on a cell phone that was smuggled to the Haitian president.
    Transcript of comments by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)

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  3. by   pickledpepperRN
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    From the BBC


    France, the United States and most of the international community have welcomed the departure of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

    US President George W Bush stressed that Mr Aristide's departure would help Haiti break from the past and begin a new chapter.

    United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said the vote to send troops to Haiti showed that the international community was standing by Haitians in their hour of need.
    But not everyone is comfortable with the way President Aristide - who won disputed elections in 2000 - was pressurised to step down.

    'Dangerous precedent'
    PJ Patterson, chairman of the Caribbean regional group, Caricom, has been the most outspoken critic of what he described as the removal of Mr Aristide.

    Mr Patterson, who is also prime minister of Jamaica, said people were "bound to question whether the resignation of Mr Aristide was truly voluntary".

    He added that his "removal" could set "a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments everywhere".

    Caricom had been trying to find a solution to Haiti's political crisis for several weeks, which involved a power-sharing agreement between Mr Aristide and the opposition.
    Not surprisingly, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela - who was also democratically elected, but faces strong internal opposition - denounced President Aristide's removal as "a tragedy".

    Mr Chavez has faced strong criticism from Washington and survived a coup attempt in 2002.

    Changing tack
    Some critics of the Bush administration, within the US Democratic Party, say Washington should have done more to support President Aristide for his remaining term in office.

    They say the Bush administration should not have effectively forced him to resign in the face of what some see as an illegal power grab by rebels with, at best, dubious democratic credentials.

    After all, they point out, until Thursday last week US Secretary of State Colin Powell was saying that, although Mr Aristide was incompetent and corrupt, he was democratically elected and should not be forced to leave.

    He then changed tack and decided to abandon President Aristide.

    Charles Rangel, a Democratic congressman and supporter of President Aristide, said one thing was clear: "If you're elected as president of a country, don't depend on the US to respect the rule of law".
  5. by   pickledpepperRN

    Aristide backers blame US for ouster
    By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff, 3/1/2004
    WASHINGTON - Members of Congress and supporters of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti said the Bush administration inspired - if not actively supported - the removal of a democratically elected leader.
    Senior US officials denied having any hand in the three-week rebellion that ultimately forced Aristide to leave the country early yesterday under US Marine guard to an undisclosed location, saying Aristide's corruption and repression were responsible for the uprising.
    Critics of the Bush administration accused the United States of collusion, giving the rebel opposition a chance to veto a proposal last week to participate in power sharing and squeezing the Aristide government in recent years. They said Washington helped remove a leader whom it helped regain power a decade ago but with whom it steadily lost favor.
    Chief supporters of Aristide made more pointed accusations. They contended that the rebellion was orchestrated by US military and intelligence officials and planned over several years to topple Aristide.
    A senior US military official acknowledged that some American weapons sold to the neighboring Dominican Republic last year may have ended up in the hands of opposition forces in Haiti, but stressed that they were not provided as part of some covert US activity and could have been acquired from the Dominican military.
    The Central Intelligence Agency declined to respond to questions yesterday whether it had any role in Haiti.
    The United States was blamed for cutting off international aid to Haiti and, as a result, slowly making Aristide's position untenable. The United States put a stop to hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from the World Bank in 2000 after independent observers said Aristide's party won an overwhelming victory in fraudulent elections.
    Aristide's lawyer, Ira Kurzban, also accused the United States of playing a leading role on the ground in Haiti. He said that the rebel leader, Guy Philippe, is an ally of Jadel Chamberlain, the cofounder of FRAPH, the paramilitary organization that terrorized Haitians in the early 1990s and that Kurzban claimed was founded with the help of US intelligence agencies.
    Kurzban, who said he had not been able to reach Aristide and was concerned about his safety, said he believes that some of the rebels crossed into Haiti from the Dominican Republic, aided by the US weaponry.
    ``I think they had an active role, and the key is Chamberlain,'' Kurzban said in an interview from Miami. He provided no evidence for the allegations.
    The senior US military official said a small number of US special forces conducted antiterrorism exercises, called Operation Jaded Task, with the Dominican military in February 2003, a program he described as ``routine.''
    According to news reports at the time, the exercise apparently came as a surprise to the country's foreign minister, who publicly denounced the operation. The US official said 20,000 M-16s were provided to the Dominican forces to help the country guard its border with Haiti and that all the weapons could not be accounted for.
    Another senior defense official who asked not to be named called the allegations of US meddling in Haiti ``utter nonsense.''
    ``I'm not sure I'd call it a coup d'etat,'' Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC. ``This was something that was much more revolutionary, if you will, much more from the streets.''
    Farah Stockman of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Joe Lauria contributed to this report. Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com.
    © Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
  6. by   eak16
    I have been watching the events in Haiti with horror.
    I visited there in 1995, when it was being patrolled by a bunch of UN peacekeepers with unloaded weapons...
    It has been unstable for soo long, and is soo close to the US, i wouldn't put it past Bush to try and "fix" it....sad for the people there, many of them have never really known stability.
  7. by   pickledpepperRN
    Randall Robinson: Aristide Says 'Tell the World It Is a Coup'
    Monday, March 1st, 2004
    TransAfrica founder and close Aristide family friend Randall Robinson also received a call from the Haitian president early this morning and confirmed Rep. Maxine Waters account. Robinson said that Aristide "emphatically" denied that he had resigned.

    RANDALL ROBINSON: The president called me on a cell phone that was slipped to him by someone - he has no land line out to the world and no number at which he can be reached. He is being held in a room with his wife and his sister's husband, who happened to be at the house at the time that the abduction occurred. The soldiers came in to the house and ordered them to use no phones and to come immediately. They were taken at gunpoint to the airport and put on a plane. His own security detachment was taken as well and put in a separate compartment of the plane. The president was kept with his wife with the soldiers with the shades of the plane down and when he asked where he was being taken, the soldiers told him they were under orders not to tell him that. He was flown first to Antigua, which he recognized, but then he was told to put the shades down again. They were on the ground there for two hours before they took off again and landed six hours later at another location again told to keep the shades down. At no time before they left the house and on the plane were they allowed to use a phone. Only when they landed the last time were they told that they were in the Central African Republic. Then taken to a room with a balcony. They do not know what the room is a part of, maybe a hotel, maybe some other kind of building, but it has a balcony and outside they can see that they are surrounded by soldiers. So that they have no freedom. The president asked me to tell the world that it is a coup, that they have been kidnapped. That they have been abducted. I have put in calls to members of congress asking that they demand that the president be given an opportunity to speak, that he be given a press conference opportunity and that people be given an opportunity to reach him by phone so that they can hear directly from him how he is being treated. But the essential point is clear. He did not resign. He was taken by force from his residence in the middle of the night, forced on to a plane, and taken away without being told where he was going. He was kidnapped. There's no question about it.

    AMY GOODMAN: How does he actually know, Randall Robinson, how does president Aristide know that he is in the Central African Republic?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: He was told that when he arrived. As a matter of fact there was some official reception of officials of that government at the airport when he arrived. But, you see, he still had and continues to have surrounding him American military.

    AMY GOODMAN: You spoke with him and Mildred Aristide up to 10 times a day in the last days before they were removed from Haiti. How did president Aristide sound when you spoke with him today?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: They sounded tired and very concerned that the departure has been mistold to the world. They wanted to make certain that I did all that I could to disabuse any misled public that he had not resigned, that he had been abducted. That was very, very important to him and Mrs. Aristide explained to me the strange response to my calls on Saturday night. I had talked to her on Saturday morning and him on Friday. But when I called the house on Saturday night, the phone was answered by an unfamiliar voice who told me that the president was busy, a response that was strange, and then when I asked for Mrs. Aristide, I was told that she was busy, too. As she told me then, that even that early on, before they were taken away and before the soldiers came, they had been instructed they were not allowed to talk to anyone. And so, she said that was the reason she explained this today, a few minutes ago - why she was not able to talk to me and he was not able to talk to me when I called the house on Saturday evening.

    AMY GOODMAN: Who did they say was the person that you had actually spoken to?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: No, but it was not someone who worked at the house because they know my voice when they hear it and they respond to it because I call so many times. This was something new, a new person, a new voice, with a new kind of tone. That is when we began to be concerned that something was amiss.

    AMY GOODMAN: I will ask you the same question I asked Congressmember Waters who also spoke with president Aristide. The issue of whether president Aristide resigned. Did he say he did or he didn't?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: Emphatically not.

    AMY GOODMAN: He said he did not resign?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: He did not resign. He did not resign. He was kidnapped and all of the circumstances seem to support his assertion. Had he resigned, we wouldn't need blacked out windows and blocked communications and military taking him away at gunpoint. Had he resigned, he would have been happy to leave the country. He was not. He resisted. Emphatically not. He did not resign. He was abducted by the United States, a democratic, a democratically elected president, abducted by the United States in the commission of an American-induced coup. This is a frightening thing to contemplate.

    AMY GOODMAN: And again, Randall Robinson, you said you spoke to president Aristide by a cell phone that was smuggled to him?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: Yes, and I cannot call back because I have no number and the only way they can call out is by a cell phone because they have not been provided with any land line.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did they say how long they will be staying in this place that they are, the palace of the Renaissance, they say they believe in the Central African Republic?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: They have not been told anything. I told her that last night I spoke to senator Dodd's foreign policy person Janice O'Connell called me to say that she had learned from the State Department that he was being taken to the Central African Republic and she had also been told by the State Department that they had refused, that the South Africans had refused asylum. I told her that I didn't believe that that was true because the South African foreign minister - [Noise] Hello?

    AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Randall, Robinson, we hear you.

    RANDALL ROBINSON: Because the South African foreign minister had called me - foreign minister Zuma - from India mid-afternoon on Sunday and she asked how I was doing and I thought I was going to be doing much better and I told her so. And I said because I'm sure that president Aristide has arrived in South Africa. She said no, he hasn't arrived here. We haven't heard anything from him. We don't know where he is and then we became really alarmed. She said there's been no request for asylum. So, you see the State Department is telling an interested public, including members of the congress, that South Africa refused asylum. The State Department knows better. They know that President Aristide was not allowed to request asylum from South Africa or anybody else because he was not allowed to make any phone calls before they left Haiti, during the flight, and beyond.

    AMY GOODMAN: Anything else you would like to add from your conversation with president Aristide on this smuggled phone that he got hold of after many hours incommunicado and now saying he believes he is in the Central African Republic with the first lady of Haiti, Mildred Aristide?

    RANDALL ROBINSON: The phrase that he used several times and asked of me to find a way to tell the Haitian people, he said tell the world it's a coup, it's a coup, it's a coup.
  8. by   elkpark
    I never cease to be amazed at how low the Bush administration will stoop.

    Iraq is sitting there, minding its own business, not doing a single thing differently than it's been doing for the last decade or so, and Shrub and the Chickenhawks want to get rid of Hussein (which they've been talking about for the last decade or so ...) -- so they cook up this story about the "grave and gathering threat" Iraq represents to the US, rush off to invade, can't wait for the UN, don't care that most of the rest of the world (including Iraq's neighbors) don't see the need and oppose the invasion, hundreds of US soldiers and thousands of Iraquis dead, thousands of US soldiers maimed and disabled for life, chaos in the streets of Iraq -- all of this because, allegedly, it's so darned important to Shrub that he bring "democracy" to Iraq and the Middle East (wonder which country can look forward to being "democratized" by the US NEXT?) ...

    But Haiti, right next door to us, has armed thugs running in the streets, looting and shooting people, something actually IS happening and it's happening right now; Aristide is definitely the legitimately elected leader of a democratic government, one that we have supported in the past. We have the opportunity to support a genuine fledgling democracy in an immediate crisis, in our own backyard, and what is Shrub's response? First, it's "well, we'd have to wait for the UN, we'd have to build an international coalition" (c'mon, an "international coalition" wouldn't fit in Haiti -- it's too small! :chuckle ) Next thing you know, Colin Powell is up at the podium in the White House press room, carefully backing away from his previous support of Aristide and the rule of law in Haiti, and suggesting that Aristide step down because, well, yeah, he IS the legitimately elected President, but, hey, he HASN'T DONE A VERY GOOD JOB ... (Yes, I actually heard Powell say this with my own ears, as a rationale for why Aristide needs to go ...)

    Hey, a lot of us feel Shrub "hasn't done a very good job," either -- why doesn't HE step down??
  9. by   pickledpepperRN
    Secretary of State Powell on CSPAN showed a UNSIGNED document stating the President Aristide signed this resignation letter. Why did he have an unsigned copy?

    Ramsey Clark On Haiti: "A Clear Demonstration of U.S. Regime Change By Armed Aggression"
    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004
    We speak with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark Clark about the overthrow of the democratically-elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide. During the 1991 coup, Clark traveled to Haiti several times in an effort to restore him to power.

    It has been 2 days since President George W Bush stepped onto the White House lawn and announced to the world that Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had resigned. But now the truth is coming out. In a series of phone calls from the Central African Republic to US Congressmembers, the Haitian president has attempted to tell the world that he was forced from power in what he called a US coup; that he was threatened by what he called "white Americans, white military men." Aristide says he was kidnapped, along with his wife Mildred-who is an American citizen-and taken by force to Africa. Last night, Aristide called CNN and said, "Again and again, I am telling the truth. I call it a coup d'etat in a modern way to have modern kidnapping."
    Democracy Now! first broke the story yesterday morning when Congressmember Maxine Waters said on our program that she had just received a call from Aristide at 9am EST. Waters told us "He's surrounded by military. It's like he is in jail, he said. He says he was kidnapped.
    Waters said Aristide 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 a former police chief who was trained by US Special forces in Ecuador 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. Robinson told us that Aristide "emphatically" denied that he had resigned.
    "He did not resign," Robinson said. "He was abducted by the United States in the commission of a coup."
    The story began to spread rapidly around the world. And as the press briefings began at the White House, State Department and Pentagon, the administration was forced on the defensive.
    At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded to questions by reporters saying, "The idea that someone was abducted is just totally inconsistent with everything I heard or saw or am aware of. So I think that - I do not believe he is saying what you say - are saying he is saying."
    At a press conference with European foreign ministers, Colin Powell said, "He was not kidnapped. We did not force on the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly and that's the truth."
    Over at the White House, the controversy dominated Scott McClellan's press briefing. McClellan repeatedly called the statements made by Waters and Robinson "nonsense."
    * Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General.
  10. by   pickledpepperRN
    Haitian Rebels Enter Capital; Aristide Bitter

    Published: March 2, 2004
    ...The deposed president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, landed in a temporary exile in the Central African Republic. He said he had been overthrown by the United States, a charge dismissed by the White House as "complete nonsense."
    President Bush convened a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday to discuss a multinational peacekeeping force to take over within a few months from United States marines who landed here on Sunday.
    France and Canada have pledged to help police Haiti. The United States is also discussing contributions from Caribbean nations, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.
    Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said an international force could install a "responsive, functioning, noncorrupt" government.
    He said the armed rebel leaders include "individuals we would not want to see re-enter civil society in Haiti because of their past records, and this is something we will have to work through."
    At least four men identified by witnesses as supporters of the deposed president were found shot dead on the edge of town, three of them bound at the wrists.
    The rebels, followed by throngs of cheering supporters, also occupied the former headquarters of the Haitian Army, vowing to revive the military, a force known for brutality. Several rebel leaders are former members of the Haitian Army and affiliated death squads.
    The army overthrew Mr. Aristide in 1991 and ran a violent junta until 1994. United States armed forces reinstated the president, who then disbanded the Haitian military.
    Now that he is gone, the army may be back. In the rebels' ranks at the old army headquarters was Paul Arcelin, 60, who identified himself as a former ambassador to the Dominican Republic and "an adviser to the Haitian Army."
    "This is our headquarters," he said. "The army has come back. We don't need peacekeepers."
    Mr. Powell told CNN: "We have ways of talking to the various rebel leaders. And I am pleased that at least so far they said they are not interested in violence any more, and they want to put down their arms."
    They did not put down their guns.
    Two rebel leaders, Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former death-squad member and convicted assassin, and Guy Philippe, a former police chief, did thank the United States for moving to secure Haiti after the fall of Mr. Aristide.
    "We're grateful to the United States!" Mr. Chamblain shouted through the window of his truck en route to the presidential palace.
    Mr. Philippe said: "The United States soldiers are like us. We're brothers. We're grateful for their service to our nation and against the terrorists of Aristide."
    These men, whom Mr. Powell characterized last week as "thugs," and a few hundred of their followers are for now the domestic face of national security in Haiti.
    Mr. Philippe vowed that the Haitian Army would rise again. "We are going to remobilize the army, constitutionally," he said. "We are going to make a new Haiti."
    Mr. Chamblain drove down to the capital from the town of St.-Marc this morning in a caravan of about a dozen vehicles, stopping at two national police stations, where he was embraced. Mr. Philippe drove down from Gonaïves, where the uprising against Mr. Aristide began Feb. 5.
    Many rebels wore surplus United States military garb. They all carried assault weapons, carbines and handguns.
  11. by   pickledpepperRN
    Cheney Says Aristide Had Worn Out Welcome

    Published: March 2, 2004

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney said on Tuesday Jean-Bertrand Aristide had ``worn out his welcome'' as Haiti's president but that the United States did not force him to leave as he claims.
    ``He made the choice to leave. He resigned the office of his own free will and left on a civilian aircraft which we chartered for him. He left with his security detail. This was his decision to go,'' Cheney told the Fox News Channel.
    Aristide, who left Haiti on Sunday and is living in temporary exile in the Central African Republic, has claimed he was abducted by U.S. soldiers and was a victim of a coup.
    ``They lied to me, and they may lie to you too,'' Aristide told CNN on Monday. ``They used force to push me out.''
    Cheney made clear the United States had lost patience with Aristide in the 10 years since helping him regain power. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have accused the Bush administration of allowing the toppling of a democratically elected government in Haiti.
    ``The fact of the matter was, that Mr. Aristide had worn out his welcome. He was democratically elected but he didn't govern in a democratic manner and had reached the point where clearly the opposition groups, rebels, were increasingly successful at undermining his authority,'' Cheney said.
    A senior Bush administration official, seeking to rebut Aristide's claims, cited indications that Aristide was preparing to depart several days before he left.
    ``There were strong indications that he was packing his bags for several days before this,'' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``In one conversation with a U.S. diplomat, he talked about how he had already packed up his computer.''
    In addition, a State Department official said Aristide signed a letter of resignation in his residence and showed it to the American diplomat Luis Moreno, who led the U.S. group escorting him Sunday from his home to the airport. Moreno is the deputy chief of mission from the embassy in Haiti.
    The United States has been working with Canada and France and the Organization of American States and Caribbean nations on seeking to stabilize Haiti.
    In Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had assured Canada that Aristide's departure was voluntary.
    ``My ministers and officials did speak directly to the Americans -- Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice -- and they confirmed the original version: in other words that the president was facing a catastrophe and that he himself made the decision (to go),'' Martin said.

    Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd accused the Bush administration of being ``complicit in watching a democratically elected government have to leave office.''
    He told CNN on Monday night that Aristide had been given a choice.
    ``The fact of the matter is, we said to President Aristide: Look, you can you stay and be killed or you can leave; you make the choice. That's hardly a voluntary departure,'' he said.
  12. by   pickledpepperRN
    EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Psy-Ops Exposed, South Africa Rejects Washington's Claim Aristide Was Denied Asylum
    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004
    In a Democracy Now! exclusive, South African ambassador to the United Nations, Dumisani Kumalo, says President Aristide did not request asylum or exile in South Africa, nor did the South African government deny him asylum or exile as alleged by the US State Department and The New York Times.

    The US government/corporate media psychological operations campaign against Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been in full swing for weeks. Aristide has been portrayed as "fleeing Haiti" "abandoning his country" and "resigning" his post. Over the past 24 hours, a very different picture has emerged. As we have reported extensively on Democracy Now!, it is becoming very clear that Aristide was forced out of Haiti in what can only be called another U.S. coup; that he was threatened by US officials and that he was taken to Africa against his will.

    Over the weekend, as Aristide's whereabouts were still unknown, the psy-ops campaign intensified. The New York Times and other corporate media outlets quoted unnamed "senior State Department officials" as saying that Aristide was denied exile in South Africa. In a front page article yesterday, the Times said President Thabo Mbeki did not want to provoke a political controversy in South Africa.

    Democracy Now! has learned from the South African ambassador to the United Nations, Dumisani Kumalo, that President Aristide did not request asylum or exile in South Africa, nor did the South African government deny him amnesty or exile as alleged by the US State Department and The New York Times.
  13. by   pickledpepperRN
    Head of U.S. Security Firm That Guarded Aristide Speaks Out
    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004
    AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday we managed to reach the CEO of the Steele Foundation, Ken Kurtz, on the telephone at his corporate headquarters in San Francisco.
    KENNETH KURTZ: The Republic of Haiti contracted with the Steele Foundation to provide protective services and training to the office of the president in the Republic of Haiti in 1998, and we have successfully carried out that contract since then.
    AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide is saying that he was kidnapped. Can you comment on that?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I haven't heard President Aristide say that he was kidnapped. I can tell you that the mission of our company is to protect the head of state from assassination, kidnapping, and embarrassment, and that's what we did.
    AMY GOODMAN: He says he told a Congressmember - and he was just on CNN - and he said he was kidnapped.
    KENNETH KURTZ: Again, I haven't heard President Aristide say that, so I cannot comment.
    AMY GOODMAN: Have some Steele Foundation security gone with him to the Central African Republic?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot comment on that.
    AMY GOODMAN: And were Steele Foundation personnel there on Saturday night?
    KENNETH KURTZ: We were with the president when he left the country.
    AMY GOODMAN: Did you ask the US Government in Haiti whether you could count on more protection if rebels attacked the president?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot comment on that.
    AMY GOODMAN: Were you concerned in these last days that you didn't have enough personnel there, given the environment?
    KENNETH KURTZ: Oh, I think for weeks the government was deeply concerned about protecting themselves against a rebel force that was very well armed. I think that over the last few weeks, you saw that President Aristide asked for international assistance to be able to protect his government, a democratically elected government against an invading rebel force essentially.
    AMY GOODMAN: How well armed is that rebel force?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot go into specifics. They were well armed.
    AMY GOODMAN: Is the Steele Foundation still in Haiti protecting other personnel of the government of Haiti?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot confirm that.
    AMY GOODMAN: Does the Steele Foundation work hand-in-hand with the US military in a case like this, with US soldiers coming in?
    KENNETH KURTZ: No, not at all. In this case we work for the government of Haiti. We took direction directly - and only from - the president.
    AMY GOODMAN: Was the president concerned that the military - or that his security forces - would be leaving? Did the Steele Foundation ever tell the president that you would be leaving him, if he did not leave?
    KENNETH KURTZ: No, no, of course not. We've been in Haiti since 1998, and we've been through one attempted coup d'etat - in December 17th a couple of years ago. We've been through some very, very serious situations. The people that worked in Haiti, protecting the president, were 100% dedicated to President Aristide and insuring that we fulfilled our mission and our focus, which was to insure his safety as well as the safety of his family.
    AMY GOODMAN: Are many of the forces that you work with, or the personnel that the Steele Foundation works with, are they veterans of US Special Forces?
    KENNETH KURTZ: Our personnel are all trained in their respective skills. The Steele Foundation is a multinational corporation. Our team in Haiti, I can confirm, is an international team.
    AMY GOODMAN: The attempted coup was carried out by whom? In December 17th.
    KENNETH KURTZ: I think there were a number of people. Guy Philippe was certainly involved in that. I think, that historically, if you look at the individuals that are involved in this "rebel force," they are all historical individuals in Haiti, who had a very active role in some extreme violence in the country.
    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Aristide had reason to be concerned?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I can't speak on behalf of President Aristide.
    AMY GOODMAN: Were your men concerned?
    KENNETH KURTZ: We were concerned about the overall security situation in the country. As protecting the president, we consistently made sure that we had proper resources in place.
    AMY GOODMAN: Did the US Government ever tell the Steele Foundation to leave?
    AMY GOODMAN: What did they tell you?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot comment on that.
    AMY GOODMAN: Did they ever say they wouldn't help you in these last days, when it got more and more precarious, more and more dangerous?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot comment on that.
    AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel that you had the support of the US Government there in protecting President Aristide?
    KENNETH KURTZ: It was our job to protect President Aristide, not the job of the United States Government.
    AMY GOODMAN: I'm looking at a piece in the Miami Herald, that says, "The Bush Administration blocked a last minute attempt by President Aristide to bolster his bodyguards - mostly former US Special Forces members - fearing he wanted them to organize and lead a counterattack against the rebels... US Officials also forced a small group of extra bodyguards from the Steele Foundation to delay their flight from the United States to Haiti from Sunday to a later day - too late to help Aristide, said the sources, who are close to Aristide." Is that true?
    KENNETH KURTZ: No. No. It's not.
    AMY GOODMAN: Did those reinforcements come?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot comment.
    AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel President Aristide's life was in danger when he left?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I think that the security situation in the country was very serious, and I think that if international assistance would have arrived, it would have certainly stabilized the situation.
    AMY GOODMAN: Did you call for it as well?
    KENNETH KURTZ: It wasn't our place to call for that. Our only mission was to provide protection to the office of the president.
    AMY GOODMAN: And you felt that if forces had come in, it would have shored him up? It would have protected him?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I think it would have stabilized the security situation in the country.
    AMY GOODMAN: Did any of your men get delayed in coming down and adding to the contingent around the president?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot comment on that.
    AMY GOODMAN: Steele Foundation was the company that was there to protect the president. In the end, the president clearly felt he had gotten the message, he said, from US Forces, that he would no longer be protected. Why do you think he felt that way?
    KENNETH KURTZ: I cannot comment on why President Aristide, or what President Aristide said. I guess anybody watching the news can see that the security situation in the country was dire.
    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the US Military could have made a difference at the end?
    KENNETH KURTZ: Well, I would probably turn that question around you to, and ask, "Looking at the US military, coming in the day after he left, and that, in itself, insuring some stability, do you think that, if they would have come in a day before, it would have created stability?"
    AMY GOODMAN: And that is Kenneth Kurtz, CEO of the Steele Foundation. You can hear the whole interview on our website at democracynow.org. Steele Foundation works in security around the world, including in Iraq. I asked Mr. Kurtz if the Steele Foundation is providing security for Paul Bremer. He said he would not comment. That does it for today's program. Again, our website has comprehensive coverage of the situation in Haiti - democracynow.org.
  14. by   pickledpepperRN

    Head of U.S. Security Firm That Guarded Aristide Speaks Out
    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004
    Reports emerged yesterday that the private U.S. security firm guarding President Aristide was prevented by the White House from sending reinforcements to Haiti last week to bolster his security. We speak with the CEO of the firm Kenneth Kurtz. [includes transcript]

    As we reported yesterday on Democracy Now!, Jean-Bertrand Aristide says he was told by US officials this weekend that if he did not leave Haiti, paramilitary leader Guy Philippe would storm the palace and Aristide would be killed. Congressmember Maxine Waters said on this program that Aristide was told by the US that they were withdrawing Aristide's US security. But just what was Aristide's "US Security?"
    It turns out that Aristide was being guarded by a private security firm, based in San Francisco. It is called the Steele Foundation. It is made up of former US special forces soldiers, intelligence officers and other security experts. The company has been on a State Department-approved contract with the Haitian government since 1998.
    The Miami Herald reports that the White House blocked a last-minute attempt by Aristide to bolster his US security as the paramilitaries reached the capital. The paper said U.S. officials prevented reinforcements from the Steele Foundation from going to Haiti last week to protect Aristide.
    According to media reports, the Steele Foundation asked the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince on Saturday whether the company could count on American protection in the event of rebel hostilities at the presidential palace. They were reportedly told that no such protection would be provided.
    The Steele Foundation knows well the Haitian leaders of the current coup. In December 2001, Steele's guards fought back a coup attempt by paramilitary leader Guy Philippe - who had been trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s. In that coup attempt, Guy Philippe led two dozen heavily armed men in attacking the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, killing four people.
    Aristide was not in the palace at the time and survived the attempt. Following the incident, Aristide's Steele guard rose from about 10 to about 60 in 2000 after an apparent coup attempt the previous December, according to Herald reports.
    * Kenneth Kurtz, CEO of the San Francisco-based security company Steele Foundation.

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