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Haiti suspends relations with Jamaica
(Agencies)
Updated: 2004-03-16 09:27

Ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide arrived in Jamaica from exile in Africa on Monday, prompting Haiti's interim leader to withdraw his ambassador to Jamaica and suspend ties with the Caribbean economic bloc.

Aristide's arrival in neighboring Jamaica raised tensions in Haiti, where his followers plan more protests to demand the return of the country's first democratically elected leader.

A U.S. Marine was shot in the arm while patrolling a pro-Aristide neighborhood in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince the first American peacekeeping casualty since Aristide fled Haiti and foreign troops arrived Feb. 29.

U.S. troops have been attacked several times and have shot and killed at least six Haitians in the past week.

Aristide arrived with his wife, Mildred, at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica, some 130 miles from Haiti. They immediately boarded a helicopter, refusing to make any comment. Jamaican officials said the Aristides would stay at a rural retreat belonging to Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.

Haiti's interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue suggested Aristide was paying Haitians "to destabilize the country."

The U.S.-backed Latortue suspended diplomatic relations with Jamaica and Haiti's membership in the Caribbean Community. He said he had told Patterson many times that it was "a very unfriendly gesture" to invite back Aristide.

"There are people trying to destabilize the country. It may be ex-President Aristide himself who is contributing by giving money and advice," Latortue suggested.

The Caribbean Community, under the current chairmanship of Patterson, has called for an international investigation into Aristide's claim that he was abducted by U.S. officials and forced to leave Haiti. U.S. officials say they acted at Aristide's request and probably saved his life as rebels prepared to attack Port-au-Prince.

Latortue singled out U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., part of a delegation that escorted Aristide back from Africa on a chartered jet. "It's unacceptable for the Haitian government," Latortue said.

Waters, speaking at Kingston's airport, said Latortue's gestures were "meaningless."

"This is another effort directed at trying to make this government more legitimate," she told Amy Goodman of Radio Pacifica's Democracy Now! program. "But the fact of the matter is that Aristide was democratically elected by the people and this new government wasn't."

Jamaican officials have said Aristide will visit for eight to 10 weeks to be reunited with his two young daughters, who had been sent for safety to New York City, while he makes plans for a permanent home in exile in a third country.

Aristide indicated he hadn't abandoned his desire to return to Haiti. "For the time being, I'm listening to my people," Aristide said before boarding a plane in the Central African Republic, where he was flown to exile in a U.S.-supplied plane two weeks ago.

He was referring to hundreds of thousands of slum-dwelling supporters in Port-au-Prince who have protested almost daily to demand his return.

The Marine, whose name wasn't released, was shot and wounded Sunday in an ambush on a foot patrol an apparent act of revenge for the killing of two men by Marines when they came under fire on Friday.

The attack came in the Belair neighborhood, just blocks from the presidential National Palace, Lt. Col. David Lapan said.

He said he wasn't aware of other casualties. But a man being treated for a gaping wound in his leg said the Americans shot him.

Belair residents said the Marines opened fire at a motorcyclist who shot at them, but sprayed a much larger area.

Since Aristide's ouster, militants have clashed often with U.S. Marines who form the vanguard of a growing U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping operation.

Haitian police, meanwhile, cracked down on Aristide partisans, arresting 12 people Sunday for a range of crimes from murder to drug trafficking.

Latortue said three detainees had been "calling people to give money to destabilize the country and to create turmoil."

Police chief Leon Charles said at least half the detainees were known Aristide party members.

Rouspide Petion and former Port-au-Prince Deputy Mayor Harold Severe were arrested for alleged involvement in the murder of Haiti's most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, Charles said. Dominique was assassinated after his radio reports, once full of praise for Aristide, turned critical.

Haiti's rebellion was started Feb. 5 by a street gang that used to terrorize Aristide opponents. The uprising was spread by former Haitian soldiers. More than 300 people died before Aristide fled.

Aristide was wildly popular when he was first elected in 1990, but he lost support after his party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000. The international community froze aid.

 
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