An American general warned two rightwing enemies of President JeanBertrand Aristide to stop plotting against the democratic government that U.S. forces reinstalled last year.
Brig. Gen. James C. Hill talked to the men earlier this month but disclosed the warnings Friday, the day after former President Jimmy Carter, Sen. Sam Nunn and retired Gen. Colin Powell returned to Haiti. They negotiated the military’s peaceful surrender of power last year.
Haiti’s political situation remains fragile, and the American force that reinstated Aristide from a three-year exile is to hand over duties March 31 to a 6,000-soldier U.N. force.
Hill said the two men were planning to disrupt the government and the multinational force. American officials gave no details.
Aristide’s government warned Monday that vital installations, public markets and Carnival processions were being targeted, though it didn’t say by whom.
The government is worried about caches of arms, including stolen military equipment, believed to have escaped the American attempt to rid Haiti of weapons that could destabilize its democracy.
Hill, second-in-command of the U.S.-led force, said he summoned Franck Romain, a former Port-au-Prince police chief and mayor, to deliver a warning on Feb. 2.
“I told Romain that he was conducting actions detrimental to a multinational force. I told him to stop,” Hill said. “I said that if he did not, I would take further action and arrest him.”
According to Hill, Romain said as he left the meeting: “Maybe I’d better leave the country.” Romain later went to the neighboring Dominican Republic but returned this week.
Hill said he similarly warned former army chief Williams Regala, the No. 2 man in the militarydominated transition government that took power after a popular uprising overthrew dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986.
Human rights groups blame Romain for an attack on Aristide’s slum parish during a Mass in September 1988. A dozen worshipers were hacked or shot to death, scores wounded and the St. Jean Bosco church burned to the ground.
In an interview Thursday on Radio Metropole, Romain was conciliatory.
“Hardly a week passes without my being accused of doing or having done things,” he said. “I have total confidence in President Aristide.”
Carter said President Clinton and Aristide agreed that the U.S.-led troops would not be engaged in “nationbuilding” - the process of creating national institutions. That will wait for the U.N. force.