Haiti

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, but it’s definitely weird:

Spokesman Scott McClellan said the allegations have no basis. “It’s complete nonsense!” He said Mr. Aristide was not abducted or kidnapped and consulted with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti on the best way to give up power and get out of the country safely. “We took steps to protect Mr. Aristide and his family so they would not be harmed as they left Haiti,” he said.

But African-American members of the U.S. Congress who have spoken to Mr. Aristide since his arrival in the Central African Republic say he says he was forced to leave.

Representatives Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters recounted their conversations in broadcast interviews, as did black activist Randall Robertson. They said Jean-Bertrand Aristide told them he was abducted at gunpoint by American soldiers and put aboard a plane.

While definitely strongly on the liberal side, neither Rangel nor Waters is looney. If they say they talked to Aristide, then I believe that either (1) they did, or (2) they talked to someone convincingly pretending to be Aristide (the allegation is that Aristide made the calls from a cell phone smuggled into his room/cell in the CAR, so perhaps it was not actually Aristide.) It’s hard to fathom a motive for the US doing this, so that casts some doubt on the accuracy of the Rangel/Waters account.

And to really mix things up, it appears that US and French troops are cooperating in Haiti.

As they say, it’s developing.

AB

P.S. Based on a few of the comments to my previous post, an easier way for the US to get rid of Aristide would have been to give Haiti some Diebold electronic voting machines, hack them, and elect whoever the heck we felt like electing.

UPDATE: Via Atrios, put on your tinfoil hat, say Allende three times, and see U.S. political maneuvering behind the ouster:

The departure of Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a victory for a Bush administration hard-liner who has been long dedicated to Aristide’s ouster, U.S. foreign policy analysts say. … That official is Roger Noriega, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs…

… “Roger Noriega has been dedicated to ousting Aristide for many, many years, and now he’s in a singularly powerful position to accomplish it,” Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay, said last week.

White, now president of the Center for International Policy, a think tank in Washington, said Noriega’s ascent largely has been attributed to his ties to North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms, an arch-conservative foe of Aristide who had behind-the-scenes influence over policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean before retiring from the Senate two years ago.

“Helms didn’t just dislike Aristide, Helms loathed Aristide because he saw in Aristide another Castro,” said Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which has been strongly critical of the Bush administration’s policy on Haiti.

Working hand in hand with Noriega on Haiti has been National Security Council envoy Otto Reich, who, like Noriega, is ardently opposed to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, say analysts such as Birns. Washington diplomats have seen Aristide as a leftist who is often fierce in his denunciations of the business class and slow to make recommended changes such as privatizing state-run industries.

“On a day-to-day basis, Roger Noriega [has been] making policy, but with a very strong role played by Otto Reich,” Birns said.

Reich is a controversial Cuban-American criticized by some who have lingering concerns about his contacts with opposition figures who plotted a short-lived coup against Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Ch├ívez, two years ago. Reich also is linked to the Iran-contra scandal of two decades ago that was part of President Ronald Reagan’s policy of defeating Marxists in Central America. …