Mfume lauds Clinton for hard line on Haiti

May 05, 1994|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore declared yesterday that President Clinton's threat to send U.S. troops to Haiti "should have been there all along," given the violence being inflicted by that nation's military rulers.

Charging that Haitians are "being hacked to death and fed to animals" while the United States futilely calls for change, Mr. Mfume, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was among several members of Maryland's delegation who applauded Mr. Clinton's newly hardened stance.

He said military intervention is one of the few options for forcing the Haitian military from power and restoring the exiled president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"I think it's almost time to send in the military," Mr. Mfume said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "There are not many things left to do."

But he cautioned that tighter economic sanctions should be tried before the United States resorts to force.

He also condemned the administration's overall Haitian policy as "racist."

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Democrat of Prince George's County, called the president's threat "both appropriate and overdue." He added that he considers military intervention a last resort.

"There needs to be a steady and consistent escalation of U.S. actions against Haiti," he said, including a tight trade embargo, an increase in humanitarian aid, and a closing of the Haitian border with the Dominican Republic.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski issued a statement restating her opposition to the forced repatriation of Haitians, saying "they should have the same right as anyone else to apply for asylum."

But the Baltimore Democrat stopped short of backing military intervention, saying she supports "stiffening economic sanctions against Haiti's so-called government."

Others said they were unsure how the United States could help. "We have a situation where the United States, I don't think, can send in troops and solve the problem," said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican from the Eastern Shore.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican from Western Maryland, said he flatly opposed even the threat of using military force, saying Haiti was not strategically important to the United States.

Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, Republican of Baltimore County, also leaned decidedly against U.S. military action.

"With Haiti, we have an unfortunate situation where the people have been subjected to dictatorship for decades," she said. "I am not sure Americans are willing to commit to a 10-year rebuilding effort in that country."

On Tuesday, Mr. Clinton stepped up the rhetoric against

Haiti, saying "we cannot afford to discount the prospect of a military option."

The president and other administration officials, however, later made clear that the United States has not decided to use force. But the mere threat of action represented a marked change for the president, who has been roundly criticized for his policies on Haiti.

Meanwhile, Randall Robinson, executive director on the lobbying group TransAfrica, was hospitalized yesterday, the 23rd day of his hunger strike to protest Mr. Clinton's Haiti policy.

Mr. Robinson, who was in the forefront of pushing for U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime, is being treated for dehydration and is expected to be hospitalized overnight, a TransAfrica spokeswoman said.

In an effort to keep the spotlight on Haiti, Mr. Mfume said, five members of Congress plan to protest the Haitian policy in front of the White House today. Two weeks ago, Mr. Mfume and five other members of Congress were arrested there for illegally demonstrating on the White House sidewalk.

Mr. Clinton has come under fire in part because as a presidential candidate, he criticized the Bush administration for forcibly returning Haitian refugees to their homeland.

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