The Clinton administration is stepping up its campaign to intimidate Haiti's military rulers, with U.S. Marines carrying out pre-invasion warmups in the Caribbean and more tough talk from Washington.
Shortly after President Clinton returned from his 12-day vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, he and his top aides reviewed military planning for Haiti."We're at a very delicate stage," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "This is serious business."
Joining Clinton at the 21/2-hour meeting were Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Defense Secretary William Perry and National Security adviser Anthony Lake, among others.
The administration has been hoping that Haitian army chief Raoul Cedras and his allies would agree to step down voluntarily if they are convinced that the invasion threats are serious.
Officials acknowledged that the administration suffered a major credibility setback last October when a plan to land 200 noncombat troops from a U.S. military vessel in Port-au-Prince was aborted after armed demonstrators protested on the dock. The troops had been scheduled to take part in military training activities, but the vessel was withdrawn.
The administration has been struggling to regain its credibility ever since. For the past week, top officials have been saying that an invasion is a certainty.
On Wednesday, Christopher added his voice to the chorus of warnings.
"One way or the other, the de facto government is going to be leaving," Christopher said. "Their days are definitely numbered."
He added: "We think they should get the message and leave themselves."
In Puerto Rico, 1,800 Marines carried out a mock evacuation of the estimated 3,500 American civilians on Haiti.