The Clinton administration is poised to revoke the U.S. visas of all Haitians as part of escalating sanctions aimed at restoring Haiti's elected president, a source said Saturday.
The action would follow Wednesday's ban on all financial transactions between this impoverished Caribbean nation and the United States, its major trading partner, and Friday's suspension of direct commercial flights."If they don't have American passports, they don't get in," the source who is familiar with the proposal and spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press. "The decision should be made by early next week."
Revoking all U.S. visas would have a jarring effect in Haiti. It would affect upper-class Haitians and army officers who send their children to school, own property and investments in the United States or simply go there to shop and visit.
But it also would affect many more less wealthy Haitians who have relatives in the United States, where hundreds of thousands of Haitians live.
The intent of the U.S. measures, combined with the U.N. trade and oil embargo, is to pressure Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and his top commanders, who overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, to step down.
The reasoning: Bring Haiti's already devastated economy to a screeching halt; deny an escape valve for the tiny but influential elite; and hope national dissent makes Cedras' position untenable.
An aide to Cedras on Saturday denied a newspaper report that the army commander had withdrawn $500,000 from the Central Bank in the past week. The Washington Post cited sources indicating it could mean Cedras was preparing to flee Haiti. The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the report a lie and said the army was preparing a communique formally denouncing it as propaganda spread by Aristide supporters.
If the U.S.-led sanctions don't get results, Clinton has not ruled out military force to resolve the nearly three-year-old impasse.
But Aristide, speaking Saturday in an interview with National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, said he would refuse to be restored to power through a foreign invasion because that would violate Haiti's constitution.
"I am against a military invasion. I am against a military occupation," said Aristide, who lives in exile in Washington. "Never, never, never would I agree to be restored to power by an invasion."