PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, defying the United States and Haiti's new leaders, returned to the Caribbean Monday, arriving in Jamaica where he had been given temporary asylum.
Aristide's return to the Western Hemisphere, two weeks after he was exiled to the Central African Republic to end a rebel uprising, prompted Haiti's interim prime minister to recall his ambassador to Jamaica and suspend relations.
A U.S. Marine, meanwhile, was shot in the arm while patrolling a pro-Aristide neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. military announced Monday, the first American peacekeeping casualty in the current operation. His wound was not life-threatening. U.S. troops have been attacked several times and have shot and killed at least six Haitians in the past week.
Aristide's arrival in Jamaica has increased tensions in Haiti, where his followers plan more protests to demand the return of the country's first democratically elected leader.
Aristide arrived with his wife, Mildred, at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, 130 miles from Haiti. He immediately boarded a helicopter, refusing to make any comment. A Jamaican protocol officer said he was being taken to a residence of Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
Haiti's new U.S.-backed leader, interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, said he was recalling the ambassador in Kingston, putting diplomatic relations with Jamaica on hold, and reconsidering Haiti's position with the 15-member Caribbean Community, which currently is chaired by Patterson.
Jamaican officials have said Aristide will visit for only eight to 10 weeks to be reunited with his two young daughters, who had been sent for safety to New York City, and while he makes plans for a permanent home in exile in a third country.
But the Haitian leader indicated he has not abandoned his desire to return to govern Haiti. "For the time being, I'm listening to my people," Aristide said before boarding a plane in the Central African Republic, where he was flown to exile in a U.S.-supplied plane two weeks ago.
"The more we listen to them, the more we serve them, the more we will know what to do at the right time. We all have to do what we can to promote peace," Aristide said.
Aristide arrived the day after the U.S. Marine was shot and wounded in one of the ousted leader's Port-au-Prince strongholds, in an ambush on a foot patrol apparently meant as revenge for the shooting of two men killed by Marines when they came under fire on Friday.
The wounded Marine was identified as Pvt. 1st Class Howard W. Hamilton, 20, of Murfeesboro, Tenn.
Hamilton was in a group ambushed by several gunmen as they patrolled Sunday night in the Belair neighborhood, an Aristide stronghold, Lt. Col. David Lapan said.
Staff. Sgt. Timothy Edwards said the Marine was shot in the left arm by what was believed to be a small-caliber pistol and was evacuated to a hospital in Miami.
Latortue has warned Aristide's return to the region could threaten a fragile stability. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told CNN television "the hope is that he will not come back into the hemisphere and complicate the situation."
Since his ouster, pro-Aristide militants have clashed with U.S. Marines who form the vanguard of a growing peacekeeping operation, furious at what they consider a foreign "occupation."
At his last African refueling stop, on the island of Cape Verde, Aristide and his wife discussed concerns about events in Haiti in an interview with Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" program.
Aristide complained his private foundation's University of Peace had been made into a U.S. military base in Port-au-Prince, and that teachers at the state hospital's medical school had been threatened and were afraid to go to work. During the monthlong rebellion that led to Aristide's flight, hospitals in Haiti have been violated by gunmen, including rebels and militant civilians both for and against Aristide.
The rebellion was started Feb. 5 by a street gang that used to terrorize Aristide opponents and was spread by former Haitian soldiers who seek to reinstate the country's disgraced and disbanded army.
More than 300 people died before Aristide fled, according to estimates by The Associated Press and the Pan American Health Organization.
Aristide's departure was delayed for several hours Sunday while Central African President Francois Bozize said he would decide whether to allow him to leave. Aristide said he believed Bozize had to consult with the three countries that had organized his exile in Bangui - the United States, France and Gabon.
Latortue, meanwhile, was finalizing his Cabinet and should name some members on Monday, said aide Robert Ulysse.
Aristide returns to Caribbean
Published: Tue Mar 16, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:55 p.m.