BLACK members of Congress plan a legislative and public-relations offensive to toughen United States economic sanctions against military-run Haiti, hoping such sanctions would have the same effect as those once set against South African apartheid.
``We as African-Americans have to recognize that we have the responsibility in this country to protect our own, and taking care of Haiti is only part of our responsibility,'' said Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York.
Two other members of the Congressional Black Caucus - Rep. Major Owens (D) of New York and Rep. Ronald Dellums (D) of California - said in Miami last week that they will propose a bill that would impose hefty sanctions on the Caribbean nation.
Some black congressmen said they are frustrated by the Clinton administration's lack of resolve in restoring exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, compared with US efforts to bring democracy to other nations.
Mr. Aristide, popular among poorer Haitians but hated by the rich for his populist rhetoric, was ousted by the military in 1991.
``Democracy is colorblind,'' Mr. Rangel said. ``We can't have it for one country to ignore and say that there is a lesser degree of democracy that we will tolerate for Haiti.''
The Congressional Black Caucus plans to organize a summit in Washington to bring together civil rights organizations, human rights groups, and churches to put pressure on the White House and other congressmen, similar to the tactics used to win sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s.
``We want the churches to ... be prepared to go back and declare a `Haitian Democracy Sunday,' to raise money and participate in letter-writing campaigns, to get this legislation passed,'' Mr. Owens said. ``We also want community leaders to begin to train people, when necessary, for select action on civil disobedience.''
The proposed bill would include a stiffer trade and commercial embargo than the one now imposed on Haiti by the US. The embargo would sever all air links; freeze all assets and deny visas to Haiti's military officers and coup supporters; and set up a multinational border patrol between the Dominican Republic and Haiti to prevent violations of the embargo. Any country violating the embargo would also be hit with sanctions.
The bill would also halt extradition and repatriation of Haitian refugees. Rep. Carrie Meek (D) of Florida has proposed a bill that will enable Haitian refugees in the US to return to Haiti to retrieve their children.
``We are fed up,'' said Owens, who is chairman of a congressional task force on Haiti. ``We think that the policy of the United States government, at this point, on Haiti is scandalous.''