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Some Democrats Urge Bush Administration to Take Stronger Action on Haiti

Some Democrats in Congress are urging the Bush administration to take stronger action to deal with the deteriorating situation in Haiti. In a lengthy news conference, members of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized the administration saying it has failed to pay enough attention to the political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who co-chairs the Haiti Task Force in the Black Caucus, which represents African-American lawmakers in Congress, says the administration "has not been on the side of democracy in Haiti. As a result of their lack of support for a democratically elected president, I believe and many believe that they are aiding and abetting the violence in Haiti."

Her comments were echoed by Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee who said the White House needs to take a more aggressive role. "We must ensure that the people of Haiti have a safe refuge," he said. "So, I think this morning if there ever is a cry, it is for humanitarian aid, political aid in helping with the democratization, being able to ensure that the government can provide for the safety of the ingress and egress of Haiti, that law enforcement does what it is supposed to do, and not abuse the citizens of Haiti. We can only do that if we intervene."

The administration Wednesday called on the government of Haitian President Aristide to respect the human rights of the citizens and residents of Haiti, saying it regrets the violence and loss of life.

However, in separate comments Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there are no plans for U.S. military action in response to the situation in Haiti.

The violence in Haiti grows out of protests against the Aristide government by opposition groups who accuse the government of human rights abuses and corruption.

But in urging the administration to end what some call its "hands off" approach on Haiti, some House lawmakers Wednesday took issue with the opposition to President Aristide.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters has just returned from Haiti. She questions the legitimacy of the opposition and accuses one of its key leaders, Andre Apaid, of defying the rule of law.

"The so-called opposition is supported by many of the same people who were content with the brutal dictators of Haiti's past," he said. "These are the same people who enriched themselves on the backs of the poor in Haiti for so many years with the support of the United States government. These people do not want a strong president, like President Aristide, who will force them to pay their taxes."

As they have in the case of Liberia, African-American lawmakers say the Bush administration has "double standards" in dealing with Haiti, saying it is prepared to commit resources, including troops, only in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 1995, the Clinton administration sent 20,000 U.S. troops to Haiti to restore President Aristide to power and head off an influx of refugees.

The White House has said it is supporting efforts by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the 15-nation Caribbean Community to try and bring an end to the violence.