EXILED President Jean-Bertrand Aristide speaks softly, but carries a controversial message.
The Haitian leader - ousted from his country by a military coup in 1991 and again barred from returning in October 1993 - accused the United States of not having the ``political will'' to do what is necessary to restore democracy and called the United Nations oil and weapons embargo a ``sham embargo'' on a five-day tour through New England that ended yesterday.
He reiterated that a total embargo against his country is the only means to bring about the ruling military's quick downfall. ``If we would have had a total embargo, a long time ago - years ago - we would have democracy now.'' He says the embargo will lead to the restoration of democracy and the stanching of the steady flow of Haitian refugees to the US.
``[You must fight] for peace, for justice, for democracy; if you don't do that, you are just so-called friends,'' Mr. Aristide said, referring to the international community, at Boston's Northeastern University on April 9. ``We welcome your solidarity when you fight with those who violate our rights by deciding to send back our political refugees.''
Aristide's comments followed the publication last week of UN statistics counting more than 112 summary executions and suspicious deaths in Haiti since Jan. 31.
His criticism of the Clinton administration's policy of treating Haitians as economic, not political, refugees followed a letter he sent last week to the White House saying in six months he would end a 13-year-old agreement that allows the US Coast Guard to turn back fleeing Haitians. US officials say they can continue to intercept most Haitian vessels because they are not registered. After months of political maneuvering in which a series of plans to restore democracy in Haiti have been proposed and rejected by the US administration, Aristide, or the Haitian Army, Aristide's move is seen as an attempt to spur the US to action.
In his public appearances, Aristide focused on the role of the international community. ``What about the international community?'' he said April 8 at a Harvard Law School Forum. ``Practically, we don't see yet actions to prove that they didn't choose the strategy of the gun,'' he said, referring to the current military junta in Haiti. He pointed to the Governors Island Accord signed on July 3 to restore him to power and the UN threat to increase sanctions against Haiti if democracy were not restored by Jan. 15. ``What happened?'' he asked. ``Nothing. The [military rulers] are in the same place, with the same weapons.''
Aristide showed confidence that Haitian citizens' determination to live in a democratic country would ultimately prevail. ``This march cannot be stopped,'' he said, referring to Haiti's first democratic elections in 1990. It is only a matter of time, he said, before the military government will fall. ``It's time for us to stop making concessions.''