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Aristide Vents Anger at U.S.

Aristide Vents Anger at U.S.

By Douglas Farah
The Washington Post

CARACAS, Venezuela

Deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide accused some in the Bush administration Wednesday of abandoning the fight against Haiti's military-dominated rule by easing the trade embargo, and he denounced the U.S. policy of forced repatriation of his countrymen.

In a 45-minute interview at the presidential residence here, Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest who once was imprisoned for his political views, said those being forcibly repatriated were being arrested, beaten and tortured in Haiti because of the policy of U.S. "discrimination."

About 12,000 Haitians setting out for the United States have been intercepted by the Coast Guard and held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba. They are being repatriated following resolution of a legal challenge in Florida. The U.S. government has said follow-up investigations in Port-au-Prince have produced no cases of returned Haitians being persecuted.

While Aristide showed impatience with his continued exile since the Sept. 30 coup and anger at softening of the embargo, he said he had not lost his faith that he would return as president of Haiti.

Sitting beneath a high ceiling in a large room with polished wood floors, bare except for a coffee table and a few chairs, Aristide said he still believed Bush supported his cause. But he said some members of the Bush administration -- whom he did not specify -- were undermining the president's policy, and that the United States as well as the 34-member Organization of American States must enact a complete economic embargo if democratic rule is to be restored.

"I care about President Bush and the credibility of the Bush administration," said Aristide. "Because I care about that, I cannot accept hearing his voice say something, then see people from his administration -- not all of them, but some people -- doing exactly the opposite."

Asked what the opposite meant, Aristide said: "He says yes to democracy and those who kill democracy say yes to what they did about the embargo." After the coup, the U.S. government encouraged imposition of the OAS embargo -- which prohibits all but humanitarian trade with Haiti. Last week, however, it moved to restore American commerce with Haitian factories where low-wage workers assemble goods for American companies.

(Bernard Aronson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Latin America, defended the embargo-loosening decision in a meeting at Georgetown University Wednesday night, saying it was intended to save a long-term effort at creation of jobs in Haiti. "We consider this a humanitarian exception," he said.)