Aristide says U.S. and France behind "black Holocaust" in Haiti

Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide charged Tuesday that the U.S. and France were orchestrating a "black holocaust" in Haiti that had killed more than 10,000 of his supporters since he was ousted last year.

Speaking to reporters in Pretoria where he lives in exile, Aristide renewed his charge that he was kidnapped by France and the United States as part of a coup d'etat in February 2004 and that he remains the democratically elected president of Haiti.

Aristide refused to say if he would be a candidate in general elections promised later this year in Haiti. But he said there could be no free democratic elections in that troubled country until thousands of his Lavalas party members are freed from jail or allowed to return from exile.

"Thousands of Lavalas are in jail for doing nothing but supporting me. Thousands and thousands are in exile or in hiding," he said.

Aristide also again denied fomenting political violence in Haiti from South Africa and defended his former interior minister, Jocelerme Pivert, who was charged Monday in connection with the killing of political opponents. He called the charges "lies."

"We are for peace, not violence," said Aristide, claiming his Lavalas party members were victims, not perpetrators.

"Racism is behind a black holocaust in Haiti," said Aristide. "More than 10,000 of my supporters have been killed in the past year."

Pierre Esperance, the director of National Coalition of Haitian Rights, said last month the figure for the total number of people killed in political violence during the last year, not just Lavalas supporters, is closer to between 1,000 and 1,500. Police also have given much lower estimates.

"Racism should not maintain a black holocaust in Haiti where African descendants proclaimed their independence 200 years ago," said Aristide.

He charged that killings were being orchestrated by the same forces that kidnapped him and organized a coup that ousted him. When asked to be specific, he said the United States and France.

Former soldiers and gangsters led a three-week rebellion that ousted Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004. The United States and France, Haiti's former colonial ruler, said they had suggested he step down for the good of Haiti. But they have denied kidnapping Aristide or staging a coup.

Aristide became the first democratically elected president in Haiti's 200-year history in December 1990. He was overthrown by a coup in 1991 and restored to power by U.S. troops in 1994. He was elected president again in 2000.

The ousted president said he wanted to return to Haiti, "whenever conditions permit."

He said the conditions include the release of his supporters from jail, freedom for his supporters to return from exile, an immediate end to the repression that he says has killed 10,000 of his supporters, a national dialogue and the organization of democratic elections.

He charged that allegations that he and his supporters were behind the violence in Haiti was lies paid for by the United States, France and a small number of Haitians who control most of the wealth in the impoverished country.

"A huge majority of the Haitian people want their elected president back," said Aristide. "Their continued peaceful demonstrations calling for my return and the restoration of constitutional order must be heard."

Associated Press

On the photo: the ousted president of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide

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