Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson urged President Clinton on Saturday to send an ultimatum to the military junta running Haiti: Begin restoring democracy within the next few weeks or be ousted by an international military force.
Jackson predicted that a decisive statement by Clinton would be enough to force the junta to begin serious negotiations over terms for restoring elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Aristide was ousted in a coup in September, 1991.
“This can be President Clinton’s first foreign policy victory,” Jackson said in a telephone interview. “It is less complicated than Somalia or Iraq or Bosnia. The opposition is not formidable.”
Jackson, who said he met for almost an hour with Clinton on Friday, has no role in the new Administration. But the clergyman, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988, has served notice that he intends to remind Clinton regularly of his campaign promises to liberals on both domestic and foreign issues.
Jackson, who recently returned from a trip to Haiti and a meeting with the military government, said the only way to prevent a flood of Haitian refugees from setting out in rickety boats on the hazardous 700-mile voyage to the United States is to restore Aristide to power.
Former Argentine Foreign Minister Dante Caputo, representing both the United Nations and the Organization of American States, hopes to send about 500 international human rights monitors to Haiti to discourage military oppression that has occurred since Aristide’s ouster and to create a climate that would permit the president’s return. The Haitian military leader, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, had promised to admit the monitors but later changed his mind.
Jackson said he supports Caputo’s efforts but believes that Clinton has an opportunity to force the issue. He said the President should announce a deadline by next weekend, when pro-Aristide rallies are scheduled in a number of American cities, and then give Cedras and his supporters until sometime in March to comply.
“A decisive statement by President Clinton will change the situation dramatically,” he said. “A meeting between President Clinton and Aristide would further reinforce it. If they (the Haitian military) resist, a multinational force must go in.”
At the same time, Jackson called on Aristide to promise that once he regains power he and his supporters will not resort to violence to even the score with the military. Without such a pledge, Jackson said, the soldiers in the ranks will resist Aristide’s return.
The multinational force, Jackson said, must not only assure Aristide’s safe return but make sure there is no retribution.
Jackson also called on Aristide, who draws his political support from the island’s impoverished masses, to reassure the wealthy elite that they have nothing to fear from his government. Aristide, he said, “Can win without (the support of) those that live in the hills but he cannot govern without them.”
Aristide, interviewed later by Jackson on CNN Saturday, denied reports of human rights abuses during his brief tenure.