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Dems slam White House on Haiti policy

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York

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Secretary of State Colin Powell responds to criticism the United States took too long to respond to the crisis in Haiti. (March 1)
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Charles Rangel
Haiti
Coup d'Etat

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York said Sunday the United States is just as responsible for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ouster as the rebels who forced him from office.

"We are just as much a part of this coup d'etat as the rebels, as the looters, or anyone else," Rangel told ABC's "This Week."

The Bush administration, he said, "made it abundantly clear that Aristide would do best by leaving the country. Which means that the rebels, the looters ... [were] given to believe that they should never, never, never accept Aristide as the president."

Bush's decision Sunday to send U.S. Marines to Haiti hours after Aristide resigned and left the country followed calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and complaints from Democrats that Bush waited too long to act.

Gunfire could be heard in Port-au-Prince after Aristide's departure to an unknown destination, and armed gangs surrounded the Haitian presidential palace. (Full story)

Rangel said the White House should have supported international accords and elections, and made it clear it would not deal with the rebels. He said other countries have learned they can't "depend on the United States to respect the rule of law."

"If there's reason for reform, you demand that reform. But all we had to do was to send 200, 300 troops over there and tell those people to put down the arms," he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said she supported the sending of U.S. troops as part of an international peacekeeping force, but that "actions should have been taken to end the violence before it spread to Port-au-Prince."

"Had peacekeepers been sent earlier, a political settlement that better respected the results of the last democratic election with less bloodshed and chaos could have been achieved," Pelosi said in a statement.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement, "Democracy has a black eye in Haiti this morning."

"By the inaction of the United States government and our allies over the last several years, the democratically elected president of Haiti has been undermined and forced to leave his country," Cummings said.

The caucus is "very concerned" that violence not sweep through the capital of Port-au-Prince and that the democratic process "is not further compromised," he said.

His statement, released before Bush's announcement, called for an international peacekeeping force and for the United States to "take the lead to ensure that democracy is maintained in Haiti, the world's oldest black republic. The CBC will not rest until this crisis is resolved."

In a second statement, the CBC said Cummings and some other group members planned to meet Monday afternoon with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss next steps in Haiti.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards, in their final debate before Tuesday's nominating contests in 10 states, similarly slammed the president. (Full story)

"He's late, as usual," Kerry said. "This president always makes decisions late after things have happened that could have been different had the president made a different decision earlier.

"By giving to the insurgents the power to veto an agreement, they effectively said, 'Unless you two reach an agreement on the sharing of power, we're not going to provide aid and assistance,'" Kerry said.

"So he empowered the insurgents to say, 'No, we're not going to reach agreement.' ... So the result is that you almost inevitably had the clash that you have today."

Edwards said Bush "ignored Haiti the same way he's ignored most of the countries in this hemisphere. ... We should have been engaged over a long period of time, in a serious way, at least through diplomacy, not to allow this to get to a crisis situation where it now is."

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, took issue with the complaints against the Bush administration.

"I don't think we encouraged this coup," he told "This Week."

"Secretary Powell worked very hard to try to get the political opposition to agree to form a coalition government," said DeWine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Unfortunately, they just did not do it, and here we are today."

He said he agreed that immediate action was necessary.

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Florida, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement, "What we do now will be the difference between life and death in Haiti.

"International peacekeepers will bring stability to Haiti and ensure that a democratic system of government will accurately represent the people. With the removal of Aristide, the prospect of peace is on the horizon."


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