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a656: Pres Aristide press conf 2-4-02 (english portion) (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

President Aristide answering foreign press question at press conference held in National Palace on February 4, 2002:

U.S. journalist:
Mister President, if you would allow me to ask this question in English? And my colleagues also?  First of all, if you could list two or three of your successes over the last year, what you are proud of achieving? Second, if you could explain a little more about the opposition: How you differ from them politically? What their political ideology is, as you understand it? And where some of the money you just referred to, surrounding the December 17, events, came from? And third, looking around Haiti today many of the people who seem to be giving the biggest trouble have been trained by the United States, emerging from the National Police Force that was created by the United States; and I am wondering if you think that US intervention in Haiti in recent years and the help they tried to provide, has been more harmful or more helpful? And if you could tell us how the United States could be of help in resolving the current political deadlock that is confronting you?

Thank you. During my electoral campaign, I kept saying again and again, peace for the mind, and peace for the stomach. When we look at what we did without financial resources to protect that peace, this is a major accomplishment. As you know, in the world today, 1.3 billion people live with less than one dollar a day. And in Haiti, when you have this misery, and that misery didn’t explode to a violent way, this is a major accomplishment.

In California, for a couple of minutes, when they had a blackout, we saw how people reacted in a violent way. In Haiti, despite blackouts, we see how people react. That means we have to continue to work hard to protect this social environment in such a way to have the light of peace, despite the economic situation.

For people who live in Haiti, they may not have all the reasons to explain how these poor people can live this way, smiling when you go to the provinces, welcoming friends -- people from abroad -- not through a violent way but through a peaceful way. This is part of our civilization. This is part of our identity. We have the sap of that peace feeding our life. Although Haiti is a country where the people have suffered a lot from structural violence for the past years during the time of dictatorship, we can describe Haiti as a place where the people are non violent, doing their best to fight the economic situation not using a violent way but a non-violent way.

Of course, you will find some people sometimes projecting the image of violent people, but if we compare the number of those who act this way, and we condemn that, to the rest of the Haitian people, there is no doubt that the Haitian people are non-violent. And, we need to protect those values in such a way to keep the light of peace day and night.

You asked me what is the difference between the opposition and myself. What kind of ideology we find in the opposition compared to our ideology?

Actually, as you may observe, when you talk about the opposition, we talk about several political parties. Some are considered as coming from the right side, some others from the left side and I will not try to describe their ideology. I respect them. I prefer them to describe their own ideology.

Regarding myself, I think now this struggle is not a struggle for this ideology or that ideology. It’s a struggle for democracy. It’s a struggle where we have to have tolerance, respecting the ideology of this one and the ideology of that one, in such a way for us to discuss, to debate and to protect democracy.

Once we have the opposition in the government doing their best to protect the democratic values, respecting differences coming from different ideologies, I think there we bring health to our fragile democracy.

As I said a couple of minutes ago, too often we confuse opponents and enemies. I don’t have enemies coming from the opposition. I have opponents, and they are my brothers. I have to pay attention to what they have to say. I have to respect their strategy, their point of view and discuss with them, such a way to find a common ground compromise. This is what I would share with you as an answer.

The money related to December 17th,  where it comes from? I don’t know. We have the Ministry of Justice doing their best to find out what happened that day; I will let them do their work. I am ready to welcome soon the delegation coming from the OAS in the light of the last resolution of the OAS to help us complete the picture in such a way for us to know about the money, about the people, about the victims, all the victims. No difference from the Palace, from the State to the political parties, to citizens, all the victims. We need to know what happened and they deserve justice. And we are doing our best to reach that.

About the agent of security, the police trained in the US, what do I think? First of all, I have to thank the US for training our agents when I was in exile and also here when with some friends from the international community like Canada, they helped train the police of Haiti. This is a young police; they are doing their best to protect the rights of every single citizen. They have to work with the judicial system to protect and serve all the citizens, all the citizens. And I note, sometimes some of them fail in doing that. That’s why we cannot bow in front of impunity. They have to respect the law. When they do, we applaud them. When some behave the wrong way, the inspection of the police has to take sanctions against them within the framework of the law. It’s a way to say we think if we continue to be supported by our friends, of course the police will behave day after day in a better way.

What the US could do or should do to help us? Now, the US is fighting against terrorism. What happened here on December 17th could be connected to an act of terrorism. Because how could you see a group of people using heavy machine guns coming to a Palace, try to kill the President and then move on? No. All what we can do together to prevent Haiti from having such actions will be welcome. And so far, so good, because we are connected, we are discussing and I wish we will continue to develop this normal relationship increasing the steps to protect Haiti from such actions. Because this is part of what I call terrorism with what happened on December 17th. For the moment, I will stay here.