CARTAGENA, Colombia -- Drug traffickers were behind the Sept. 30 Haitian coup that deposed democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the ousted president charged Saturday.
'I believe that behind the coup d'etat there are persons involved in drug trafficking, interested in seeing me out of power, because in six months I fought those groups with energy,' Aristide said before resuming talks with eight Haitian legislators aimed at restoring democracy in the Caribbean nation.
The talks began Friday in Cartagena. The legislators, headed by Senate President Bejean Belizar and House of Deputies President Duly Brutus, are expected to present Aristide with a formula for restoring democracy and allowing his return.
The head of the Organization of American States commission charged with negotiating a solution to the crisis said he was optimistic following the first session Friday.
'I'm satisfied because we've begun on the right foot,' former Colombian Foreign Minister Augusto Ramirez Ocampo told reporters.
There remains strong division in Haiti between pro-Aristide groups and the military and other anti-Aristide groups over the issue of the deposed president's return. Some have proposed a new coalition government with the participation of all Haitian political parties and other organizations.
Under the OAS plan, Aristide and the legislators will choose an interim prime minister to replace military-imposed Prime Minister Jean- Jacques Honorat. Rene Preval, Aristide's prime minister, was stripped of his office by the Parliament after the coup.
Among the Haitian legislators in Colombia one of the strongest opponents to Aristide's return is deputy Josue La France, who told reporters that civil war would break out and many people would die should the president return to Haiti.
An estimated 500 people have died since the Sept. 30 coup, and killings, arrests by the military and the violent suppression of the opposition have become daily occurrences.
The Organization of American States imposed a trade embargo on Haiti following Aristide's overthrow. While all legislators in the Haitian delegation agree the embargo should be lifted, the OAS continues to insist on the restoration of constitutional government to Haiti before lifing sanctions.
Coup leader Gen. Raoul Cedras has said the military would abide by the legislators' decision, although hard-line officers have sworn to kill Aristide if he returns.
Diplomats said a possible interim prime minister who might be acceptable to Aristide could be Senator Turner Delpe, head of the National Front for Democratic Change, which has a majority in the Haitian legislature. Just before the meeting, Delpe asked that the military officers responsible for the coup be put on trial and that a coalitian government be formed by all political parties represented in the Parliament.
'I am prepared to arrive at an agreement that will permit us to change the current prime minister of Haiti,' Delpe said.