U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks
The following is an excerpt from Powell’s
Dean Acheson Auditorium, Washington, DC
March 1, 2004
Mr. Secretary, two questions about Haiti, sir. One, there
have been accusations, including some by Congresswoman Maxine
Waters, that Aristide was actually handcuffed and turned
over by the Embassy to military officials and kidnapped
out of the country. Secretary Rumsfeld referred back to
the State Department to respond to that, so, if you would.
And on a broader level, I wanted to ask you, especially
given the State Department's annual report on corruption
in the Haitian Government involving the drug trafficking
and the other problems in finding channels for international
aid. What needs to be done to make this a viable country?
How do we get aid in? What steps would you recommend be
taken, even before there is a functioning government?
SECRETARY POWELL: On the first question,
the allegations that somehow we kidnaped former President
Aristide are absolutely baseless, absurd. And it's rather
unfortunate that in this sensitive time, when we are trying
to stabilize the situation in Haiti and when we're sending
in a multinational interim force to help bring about that
stability and we're trying to put a political process on
track, I think it's very unfortunate that these kinds of
absurd charges are leveled at us.
I was intimately involved in this situation all through
Saturday night. The first call we received from security
people of President Aristide, people who work for him who
contacted our security people, and there was a question
about their ability to continue protecting him. And he wanted
to discuss with our Ambassador the possibility of departure
and he had several questions that he put to our Ambassador.
The Ambassador consulted with me and Assistant Secretary
Noriega by telephone. We told him he could take the call
and see what President Aristide had in mind. And he talked
about protection of property, protection of his personal
property, his -- property of some of his ministers, and
would he have some choice as to where he was going if he
decided to leave.
We gave him answers to these questions, positive answers.
And then in the course of the evening, other conversations
took place. He said he wanted to think about it, he wanted
to speak to his wife, which he did. And he came back to
us and said that it was his decision, based on what his
security people were also telling him about the deteriorating
situation, that he should leave. And we made arrangements
for his departure. He was -- he wrote a letter of resignation.
I think he might have been in touch with other people. And
a leased plane was brought in and he departed at 6:15, thereabouts
on Sunday morning.
He was not kidnaped. We did not force him onto the airplane.
He went onto the airplane willingly. And that's the truth.
And it would have been better for Members of Congress who
have heard these stories to ask us about the stories before
going public with them so that we don't make a difficult
situation that much more difficult.
The first destination that he wanted to go to would not
receive him at this time, and so we went through about an
hour and a half of difficult negotiations with various countries
and with friends of ours to find alternative locations that
he might go to -- while the plane was in the air.
And I'm very pleased that the Central African Republic showed
a willingness to accept him on an interim basis, and that's
where President Aristide and members of his family went,
accompanied by his own personal security. Some 15 members
of his personal security detachment were with him from his
house to the airport, on to the plane with him, on to the
refueling locations, and on to the Central African Republic.
And that's what's happened, notwithstanding any cell phone
reports to the contrary.
With respect to your broader question, Haiti is a nation
that must build some basic political institutions that function,
that work, and that are answerable to the people. It's been
tried a number of times. You will all note very well that
I was part of a delegation in 1994. I went down there with
President Carter and with Senator Nunn, and if I'm not mistaken,
Ms. Mitchell, you were there. And we succeeded in getting
the generals out and President Aristide back in.
And I have watched over the last ten years, through his
first administration, through the interim administration
which he had a lot to do with controlling, and then his
coming back into office. And I saw a man who was democratically
elected, but he did not democratically govern or govern
well, and he has to bear a large burden, if not the major
burden, for what has happened.
And now we are there to give the Haitian people another
chance, and we will be working with Haitians to help Haitians
put in place a political system, and we will support it
to the best of our ability. And I'm pleased that the international
community has responded so quickly with a unanimous UN resolution.
I might also say that as this crisis was unfolding over
the last several weeks, we worked very hard with the opposition
leaders in Haiti, with the Haitian Government, trying to
find a political way to move forward. We were in the closest
possible consultations with our CARICOM friends and with
our French colleagues and Canadian colleagues and others,
other interested parties, the Secretary General of the United
Nations. Daily consultations. So we all knew the positions
of the others and we were all trying to reinforce each other's
It became clear last week that the kind of political solution
we hoped for was not to be there, and increasingly it seemed
that President Aristide would ultimately be the impediment
to progress. And you know the rest.