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Top U.S. officer tells Aristide to keep quiet
By Sandra Hernandez
Calling on ousted Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to "keep his mouth closed," the head of the U.S. Southern Command said international intervention in Haiti was necessary to avoid a Rwandan-like situation.
"It would be a lot more helpful if Mr. Aristide was a statesman ... and he could do that by keeping his mouth closed," Gen. James T. Hill said Thursday during a speech at a security conference in Miami.
Aristide, who fled Haiti on Feb. 29, has called for peaceful demonstrations while in exile in Africa, but has remained silent since arriving in Jamaica this week to be reunited with his two daughters.
Speaking before a crowd of academics, military experts and officers, Hill said international intervention was necessary in Haiti to avoid a bloodb
ath similar to those in some warring African nations. The two-day meeting sponsored by the U.S. Army War College and Florida International University's Latin American and Caribbean Center focused on security issues in the region.
"We simply can't have these failed states," he said. "If we are not careful you will have a Rwandan type of human catastrophe in the middle of the advanced world."
The U.S. Southern Command is overseeing the military operations in Haiti. About 1,700 U.S. troops are in the Caribbean nation as part of an interim international security force that includes French, Canadian and Chilean soldiers. Those peacekeepers are expected to be replaced by a United Nations force.
So far, troops have received a lukewarm welcome from both Aristide supporters and opponents, who say the foreign soldiers are an occupying force that has failed to protect Haitians and disarm gangs.
Hill also criticized any plans to reconstitute Haiti's military saying efforts should focus on r
ebuilding Haiti's National Police.
"I see zero need to reconstitute the army. The only thing it ever did was oppress people. What you need is an organized, well-trained professional police force," he said. Haiti's military was dismantled in 1995 amid charges of human rights violations.
Some Haitians have called for a new army to combat the increased violence. But those demands are getting a cold reception in Washington.
Sandra Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954 356 4514.