Supporters still questioning whether Aristide resignation letter voluntary
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Supporters of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are questioning whether Aristide's resignation was voluntary or forced.
Aristide said he was forced to sign the letter as he fled Haiti on Sunday, and he refused to confirm in a subsequent interview that he had resigned. His comments, broadcast by radio stations in Haiti, have won sympathy at home where some expressed doubt about whether the resignation was genuine.
``Aristide was elected and now there is some question whether he even resigned,'' said Taillaser Evans, a 40-year-old teacher in the Aristide stronghold of La Salines. ``The majority voted for Aristide. The majority are still willing to die for him.''
For Jacques Louise, an unemployed 35-year-old, ``He didn't resign is what we're hearing. He's still my president.'' Translations of Aristide's resignation, which was written in Creole, also differed in wording.
According to a U.S. Embassy translation, Aristide wrote that he resigned to prevent bloodshed. ``For that reason, tonight I am resigning in order to avoid a bloodbath.''
An independent translation of Aristide's signed statement, done at the request of The Associated Press, suggested the wording was conditional, and it does not contain the phrase ``I am resigning.''
``For that reason, if tonight it is my resignation that will avoid a bloodbath, I accept to leave....''
Albert Valdman, a linguistics professor and specialist in Haitian Creole at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., provided AP with the independent translation. He said the U.S. translation ``captures the essential meaning'' of the statement but failed to bring out two important elements.
``They (the missing elements) reinforce on the one hand that Aristide states that circumstances force him to resign and, on the other hand, that he strongly wishes to avoid a bloodbath,'' said Valdman, director of the Creole Institute at Indiana University.
In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack maintained that Aristide resigned without being coerced. ``The fact remains that Mr. Aristide resigned for the best interests of Haiti and the Haitian people, and he did so freely and of his own accord,'' he said.
Michael Ratner, a lawyer of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, told AP ``a forced resignation is not a valid resignation, and when it is conditional it is even less of a resignation.''
``I think there could be a struggle at the U.N. about who has the seat (of Haiti),'' Ratner said.
Aristide, who flew to exile in the Central African Republic, said he felt forced to sign the letter as he waited in a car on the airport tarmac to leave Haiti.
In a telephone interview with CNN on Monday, he was asked if he had signed a letter of resignation.
``Well, I should see what they give to you, because these people lie,'' Aristide responded.
``And when they lie, I need to see the paper before saying this is exactly what I wrote. And in what I wrote, I explained that if I am forced to leave to avoid bloodshed, of course I will leave to avoid bloodshed. But as I said, I should see the kind of paper they give to you, because they lied to me, and they may lie to you, too.''
Questioned further, Aristide refused to say he had resigned, concluding, ``no one should force an elected president to move in order to avoid bloodshed.''
Associated Press writer Michelle Faul reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Copyright © 2004