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Aristide Enters Jamaica Despite Haitian Officials’ Protests

BY Admin  March 15, 2004 at 2:57 PM EST

Aristide said he will stay temporarily in Jamaica to reunite with his two daughters before seeking permanent asylum in a third country. He had been residing in the Central African Republic since resigning and fleeing Haiti Feb. 29 after a rebel coup threatened to remove him from power. Aristide said the United States forced him to leave. U.S. officials have flatly rejected the notion.

Before boarding the plane for Jamaica, he indicated he is not abandoning his desire to return to govern Haiti.

“For the time being, I’m listening to my people,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “The more we listen to them, the more we serve them, the more we will know what to do at the right time.”

His supporters have been clashing with U.S. Marines sent to Haiti to restore order.

A Marine was shot in the arm Monday while patrolling a pro-Aristide neighborhood in the capital Port-au-Prince. His wound was not considered life-threatening.

“This is our first casualty,” said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan. “We believe it was an ambush.”

U.S. troops, leading a 2,650-strong international force in the island nation, have been attacked several times and have killed at least six Haitians in the past week.

French troops have reportedly had an easier time communicating with Haitians, who speak Creole or French, and have not come under fire.

Anti-Aristide sentiment began brewing in 2000 following elections many deemed as flawed and charges of government corruption, which Aristide has denied. An armed revolt that started Feb. 5, 2004 gained momentum and ground, and as rebels threatened to attack the capital, Aristide resigned to prevent a “bloodbath.”

The former leader is scheduled to stay eight to ten weeks in Jamaica, about 115 miles from Haiti’s coastline. Officials there said Aristide had been warned not to use the visit to promote his campaign to return to Haiti.

Haitian Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue was quoted as saying that allowing Aristide into Jamaica would be an “unfriendly act.”

Latortue’s office said Monday that it has recalled Haiti’s ambassador to Jamaica, but was stopping short of freezing relations with the country.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had told CNN that “the hope is that he (Aristide) will not come back into the hemisphere and complicate the situation.”