Black Caucus Assails “Ineffective” Haiti Policy
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Amid charges of racism against Haitians, the Congressional Black Caucus demanded Wednesday that President Clinton scrap his Haiti policy and threatened political reprisals if he fails to act.
″We are declaring war on a racist policy,″ said Rep. Major R. Owens, D- N.Y., one of a parade of speakers who blasted Clinton and his administration at a news conference for failing to reinstate ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Several speakers demanded the resignation of the State Department’s top aide on Haiti, Lawrence Pezzullo.
The State Department responded by saying that the Haitian military, and not the administration, is to blame for the prolonged impasse in Haiti.
″They are the ones that are blocking the implementation of accords that have been agreed to and they are the ones responsible for the conditions that now exist in Haiti for the citizens of Haiti,″ spokesman Mike McCurry said.
The 40-member caucus sent a letter to Clinton charging that his policy is ″ineffective, counterproductive and encourages the continued torture and murder of civilians″ by the coup regime that ousted Aristide in September 1991.
It proposed an 11-point program including tighter sanctions against Haiti and punitive measures against other countries that do not follow suit.
The administration says existing sanctions are the toughest ever imposed on any Western Hemisphere nation.
Caucus Chairman Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., said Clinton cannot count on continued caucus support for his policies unless he moves more decisively to restore democracy. He noted opposition of the caucus could doom parts of the president’s program.
Joining the caucus in opposition to the administration’s policy were other groups and individuals who were largely supportive of Clinton in his election campaign.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said the policy toward Haiti is one of a number that reflect hostility to black interests. He cited the crime bill as another. ″There is a race-based swing in national politics,″ he said.
Randall Robinson, head of the lobbying group TransAfrica, called the administration’s policy ″nothing short of a disaster″ and said acts of civil disobedience will take place unless Clinton’s policies change.
TransAfrica took out an ad in The New York Times alleging that racism was the basis for the administration’s policy of repatriating all Haitian boat people without screening out those fleeing political persecution.
The ad, addressed to Clinton, said 3,000 Haitians have been slaughtered, many of whom could have been saved if U.S. policy were more humane.
At the news conference, Robinson said only 1,600 Haitians have been granted political asylum since 1981, a fraction of the figure for East Europeans.
McCurry said legal emigres from Haiti covering all categories totaled 185,000 over 14 years. Few countries have exceeded that figure, he said.