Haiti calls for broader U.S. role
NEW YORK – With violence still simmering and U.S. Marines reporting their second kill, the man picked on Tuesday to be Haiti’s new prime minister urged a broader role for American forces in bringing peace to his nation.
“We have to use all possible means to stop the violence,” Gerard Latortue, 69, told the New York Daily News.
“There is no reason for U.S. Marines to be here if they don’t participate. The national police will not be able to do it alone.”
The mission for 1,600 U.S. troops in Haiti now is to protect important sites such as government buildings and the airport, and pave the way for UN forces.
They are barred from any attempts to stop looting – even of American companies – or from using force to stop Haitian-on-Haitian violence.
Latortue, once a Haitian foreign minister and a former U.N. official was chosen prime minister by a U.S.-backed advisory council of seven “wise men.”
Under exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the prime minister’s position was largely ceremonial, but Latortue will be the true leader with the political clout to smooth divisions.
He gave no details about an expanded military role and declined to say how long he thinks the international security force should stay in Haiti.
But he said he expects to assemble his cabinet immediately with top priority given to disarming both rebels and supporters of Aristide.
“The faster we go, the shorter the stay of the international police force,” said Latortue, a former Haitian foreign minister, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla.
News of Latortue’s selection came as Marines said they would work to keep order in the poverty-stricken country by helping Haitian police disarm rebel groups – a step that would seem to be in line with Latortue’s plans.
“The disarmament will be both active and reactive, but I’m not going to say any more about that,” said Marine Col. Charles Gurganus, who called on Haitians to tell peacekeepers who has weapons and to turn in arms.
Gurganus said Haitian police will lead disarmament efforts, but starting Wednesday, peacekeepers will assist in getting “the weapons off the street.”
The U.S. military also announced a second killing of a Haitian by Marines.
Marines shot and killed the driver of a car speeding toward a checkpoint late on Monday.
On Sunday, Marines fatally shot a man after gunmen opened fire on anti-Aristide protesters, killing six.
In Washington, the Pentagon said Marines in both incidents were acting within orders.
“An individual Marine … has an absolute right to defend himself and those around him,” said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Also on Tuesday, African nations added their voices to Aristide’s call for a probe of his departure, which he said was a political kidnapping – a charge the U.S. denies.
Latortue predicted Aristide will be investigated, and said he could be brought to face trial in Haiti. “We have a long list of crimes committed during the regime of Mr. Aristide,” he said.
He added that Aristide is “causing problems” from his African exile by encouraging violence. “We will put a stop to that by showing to the world who Mr. Aristide really is.”