The United States Tuesday condemned what it said is a campaign of political violence in Haiti by supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that is complicating flood-disaster recovery efforts. U.S. officials say they're "concerned" that Mr. Aristide himself may have a role in the trouble from his exile in South Africa.
The State Department is condemning what it says is a "systematic campaign" by supporters of former President Aristide to destabilize Haiti's interim government and disrupt international efforts to help the Haitian people after last month's flood disaster.
In a statement volunteered to reporters, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said armed gangs of "thugs" who support Mr. Aristide began the onslaught two weeks ago, killing policemen, looting businesses and otherwise terrorizing the civilian population:
"We call on the leaders of Fanmi Lavalas, that's the party that supported President Aristide, to break with the party's legacy of violence and criminality, and to cooperate with the interim government," he said. "Indeed, the interim government of Haiti led by President [Boniface] Alexandre and Prime Minister [Gerard] Latortue does represent the best hope for progress in Haiti."
Mr. Boucher said the violence by pro-Aristide forces is "all the more reprehensible" since it was launched as Haiti tries to recover from its worst natural disaster in years, the flooding from tropical storm Jeanne that killed more than 2,000 people in and around the city of Gonaives.
Mr. Boucher said the United States will continue to assist in the reform and rebuilding of Haiti's national police, and to press the international community to insure full deployment of the U.N. peacekeeping force sent to Haiti after the political upheaval that led to Mr. Aristide's resignation at the end of February.
As of now, the Brazilian-led U.N. force is at only about half of its authorized strength of 6,700 troops.
The latest political violence in Haiti began after a demonstration September 30, marking the military coup that first ousted Mr. Aristide in 1991.
Under questioning, spokesman Boucher said the U.S. officials are "concerned" that Mr. Aristide may be encouraging the trouble from his South African exile but offered no details.
He said the United States' "general view" is that Mr. Aristide has played a "negative role" since he left Haiti, and that his supporters and political party are instigating much of the violence.