After months of disagreements and recriminations with the United States, exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Friday spoke encouragingly of President Clinton's recent policy changes while urging more aggressive steps against Haiti's military rulers.
In a veiled endorsement of military intervention, Aristide called for "swift and determined action" to remove the army generals who deposed him in 1991 and for the deployment of a large international force to help him reestablish democracy in Haiti.Aristide's comments signaled an important convergence with the administration on the Haitian crisis. Until recently the administration had urged Aristide to reconcile with his political opposition, a move the deposed president refused to make. The administration has since dropped that line. Now both Clinton and Aristide are talking about the need to oust the Haitian military and the possibility of doing it by force.
Making his first extensive public remarks since Clinton took a new stance on Haiti, Aristide said, "President Clinton needs help, and I am helping him as he can help us."
Aristide said the tightened embargo against Haiti promoted by the administration is "a good step," and he avoided any direct criticism of Clinton's new policy toward Haitian refugees.
The kind words were all the more remarkable because they came at a Capitol Hill luncheon sponsored by the TransAfrica lobbying group, which has led the opposition to Clinton's Haiti policies among civil rights groups and refugee advocates.
Responding to a 27-day hunger strike by Randall Robinson, executive director of the group, Clinton announced May 8 that the United States would begin offering Haitian boat people a chance to seek refugee status rather than automatically returning them to their homeland.
The new policy won an important measure of international support Friday when the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British dependency in the Caribbean, agreed to let the United States set up a 5-acre refugee processing facility on Grand Turk Island. Two days earlier, Jamaica had offered to allow the United States to conduct processing aboard ships anchored in its territorial waters.