Aristide favors 'surgical strike' to remove 'thugs' ruling Haiti

January 05, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- Breaking with calls for a peaceful solution to his country's political crisis, exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide yesterday said he would support a "surgical strike" on his nation by international forces to remove a "small group of thugs" in command.

"I cannot ask for that because I would be impeached," Father Aristide said. "But if that happened, the people would be happy."

Father Aristide's remarks fell short of explicitly calling for a foreign invasion. Such an appeal would be forbidden under Haiti's 1987 constitution, he said.

Responding to questions during an interview at his Washington residence, he contended that a U.S.-backed attack could decapitate Haiti's military regime quickly and would enjoy overwhelming support from the Haitian population.

"If they want, it can be done in a question of hours," the exiled president said in his most outspoken support yet of U.S. or multinational military intervention to restore civilian democracy in Haiti.

"They could do it. It's just a small group of thugs," he said.

The Clinton administration so far has shown little inclination for exploring military options in Haiti.

Senior officials say the ban on the sale of petroleum to Haiti is softening the military's grip on power and simply requires more time.

The remarks by Father Aristide, who was deposed 28 months ago, highlight a growing consensus among his Haitian supporters and even some of his critics that the waiting game spawned by the international embargo is becoming too costly for all sides to bear.

Since his ouster, Father Aristide steadfastly has rejected the notion that he might be returned on the backs of foreign troops.

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