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Special Report, Democracy v. Dictatorship: Odious photographs of notorious criminal Amiot Metayer's body after he was brutally murdered by his uncommonly chief bandit Jean-Bertrand Aristide; fast growing armed revolts, protests, murders, burning and much more (updated Feb. 29, 2004)
More Haiti news:ReadTheNewYorkTimes@wehaitians.com / More news, also this month
Posted Saturday, February 28, 2004
US questions Aristide's "fitness" to govern Haiti
By Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (AFP) - The White House strongly urged Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to consider stepping down, sharply questioning "his fitness to continue to govern" amid deadly unrest in his country.

"This long-simmering crisis is largely of Mr Aristide's making," spokesman Scott McClellan said in a statement that cited the embattled leader's "failure to adhere to democratic principles" as feeding the violence.

"His own actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern Haiti. We urge him to examine his position carefully, to accept responsibility, and to act in the best interests of the people of Haiti," said McClellan.

The harsh rebuke came after the embattled leader said his resignation -- which the United States, France and Canada have pushed him to consider -- was "out of the question."

With rebels approaching the Haitian capital and widespread looting under way for a second day in Port-au-Prince, Aristide said suggestions he may step down were fabricated by his foes.

McClellan blamed "gangs armed and directed by President Aristide" for attacks on civilians, humanitarian programs and international organizations, and said Aristide "must instruct his supporters to end this violence."

McClellan said the United States would work with other nations to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches Haiti's people but warned again that there could be no international security force until a political solution is reached.

"Many nations are poised to help reestablish order and stability in Haiti but they will not act until a viable political solution is in place," said the spokesman.

"Rebel forces approaching Port-au-Prince must cease their acts of violence to allow for a political solution," he added.

McClellan said that the US military was ready to support efforts to interdict Haitians seeking refuge in the United States and return them to Haiti, as well as evacuate US nationals from that troubled nation if necessary.

US President George W. Bush was spending the weekend at the Camp David retreat but was following the situation in Haiti, where execution-style killings continued overnight despite Aristide's appeal for calm.

At least eight bodies left in the streets bore witness to Friday's violence that has been blamed on Aristide supporters, known as "chimeres" -- mythical fire-breathing monsters.

In a televised address, Aristide said his resignation -- which the United States, France and Canada have called on him to consider -- was "out of the question." He said suggestions he may step down were fabricated by his foes.

"These are baseless rumors spread by leaders of the opposition to provoke the population and cause disorder in the country," he said.

The embattled president joined the United States and the United Nations in deploring the violence, and urged his followers not to take the law into their own hands, while also stressing that the nation's police -- a force of some 4,000 men -- must "assume their responsibilities."

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004
Powell questions Aristide tenure in Haiti
By George Gedda, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 - Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) on Thursday openly questioned whether President Jean-Bertrand Aristide can continue to serve effectively as Haiti's leader.

It was the closest Powell has come to suggesting that Aristide bow out as president before his elected term ends in February 2006.

"Whether or not he is able to effectively continue as president is something he will have to examine carefully in the interests of the Haitian people," Powell told reporters.

It was not clear what prompted Powell's comments. Aristide has supported a U.S.-backed plan for a political settlement while opposition leaders turned down the proposal.

Powell said in testimony earlier Thursday to the Senate Budget Committee that the United States would be willing to join an international security force to enforce a political settlement in the Caribbean nation, if one is reached.

He also said force in Haiti could be "police or military." Until now, the Bush administration has spoken only of a police presence.

Powell said later that no decision has been made as to whether the assistance would consist of U.S. personnel, logistics or other forms of aid.

"All the options are there," he said.

Since the start of the Haitian crisis this month, Powell has repeatedly called for a political solution. The plan submitted to the government and opposition leaders last week would have installed an independent prime minister who would have led a broad-based government.

On the whole, Powell has been far more critical of Aristide than he has of the opposition, but he had declined until now to speculate about the possibility of Aristide's early departure.

Randall Robinson, a longtime analyst of U.S. policy in Africa and the Caribbean, expressed dismay at Powell's remarks but said the administration has never given support to Aristide.

"President Aristide is one of the finest people I have ever met," Robinson said. "What the administration has done to him is disgraceful."

As for the possibility of an outside security force, Powell said in his morning testimony that most countries share his view that no outside force should go into Haiti until there is a political resolution.

"Anybody who looks at this says, 'What is it we're getting into?'" Powell said. "We've got to get into something that looks like it's a political solution. And that has not yet emerged."

In Haiti, rebel fighters moved closer to the capital on Thursday and awaited an order to attack, their leader said.

Powell said an interagency meeting was being held Thursday in Washington to decide on a strategy for combatting any possible exodus of refugees from Haiti.

The Coast Guard said it has intercepted about a dozen small vessels within 50 miles of the Haitian coast during the past three to four days and hundreds of Haitians have been brought aboard Coast Guard cutters.

President Bush has pledged to turn back any refugee who attempts to reach U.S. shores.

So far, there is no evidence of a repeat of the 1991-94 refugee crisis, when some 50,000 refugees were picked up.

International discussions on the establishment of a post-conflict multinational force intensified, with the U.N. Security Council taking up the issue.

The permanent council of the 34-nation Organization of American States approved a resolution asking the Security Council to take "all the necessary and appropriate urgent measures" to resolve the situation.

Diplomats said the OAS resolution left open the possibility of creation of a military force to bring the crisis under control.

Powell told senators he detected little sentiment internationally for steps to end the bloodshed by "interposing" a multinational force between pro- and anti-government forces in Haiti.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Haiti's third city falls to rebels as US and Canada pile pressure on Aristide
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb. 26 (AFP) - Haitian rebels seized the country's third largest city and the United States and Canada signalled an end to support for President Jean Bertrand Aristide but the embattled leader insisted he still would not stand down.

Black smoke billowed over Port-au-Prince as dusk fell and pro-Aristide gangs returned to street barricades thrown up a day earlier to thwart any rebel advance, but nervous residents warily awaited an assault.

Rebels already control the northern half of the country after a three week insurrection that has left more than 70 dead and police said a new band of anti-Aristide rebels had on Thursday made a breakthrough in the south by taking Cayes and two smaller towns.

The main police station in Cayes, which has a population of about 125,000, was abandoned after an attack by a group calling themselves Base Resistance, police said.

Police stations in nearby Cotes de Fer and Cavaillon were also attacked by the same group and had been abandoned, police said.

A new blow to Aristide came when the United States and Canada gave the sign that it may be time for Aristide to leave, even though they had defended a mediation plan under which he would finish his two more years in office.

"I hope President Aristide will examine his position carefully and that judgments will be made as to what is best for the people of Haiti in this most difficult time," said US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington.

"He is the democratically elected president, but he has had difficulties in his presidency, and I think, as a number of people have commented, whether or not he is able to effectively continue as president is something that he will have to examine."

France has already said that Aristide should go and Canada also ended its support.

Canada's Foreign Minister Bill Graham said the worsening situation in Haiti had forced the international community to consider "other scenarios" but it must not force him to leave.

"So it is perhaps best for Mr Aristide to look at his responsibilities toward his people and say: 'Look it would be better that I, voluntarily, I leave'," said Graham.

"If he said that, I have said that we, Canada, we would be ready to act with other countries to assure security and order in Haiti," he added.

Despite the pressure mounting around him, Aristide reaffirmed that he was determined to finish his term.

"I will leave the palace on February 7, 2006, which is good for our democracy," he said.

"We have had 32 coups d'etat and that is enough," Aristide told CNN television.

Aristide renewed calls for international support against the insurrection and warned there could be thousands of dead and a mass exodus unless a peaceful resolution is urgently found.

US authorities said they had already intercepted 500 Haitians in the past two days in the seas off the troubled country and Caribbean nations asked an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to immediately authorise sending an international force to Haiti.

France and Canada have said they would contribute, but the Council only agreed to consider a force.

Aristide admitted that residents of the capital were "anxious" about threats by the main rebel leader, Guy Philippe, to seize the city. The rebels already control the northern half of Haiti.

Rumors of Aristide's departure swirled through the capital. One Haitian opposition leader, Evans Paul, said Aristide would leave the country in the "next few hours or days."

But government spokesman Mario Dupuy said Paul's remarks and threats by rebels to move on Port-au-Prince were "psychological warfare".

Rebel leader Phillipe said the capital was almost entirely surrounded and that his fighters would take it within days.

Despite the government dismissal of Phillipe's threats, his success in taking the country's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, and other territory has left residents of the capital and diplomats on edge.

Alarmed by the deteriorating security on Wednesday, diplomats in Port-au-Prince had demanded that Aristide crack down on the gangs.

And in a brief lull on Thursday, 92 United Nations and European Union officials and their families left the capital. Black-clad US Diplomatic Security agents led buses carrying the group to a specil flight at Toussant Louverture International Airport.

The convoy halted at one stage when the security agents spotted a man with a gun and briefly took up combat positions. But the convoy arrived without further incident and the group boarded a special flight to neighboring Dominican Republic.

Some foreign officials remaining said they feared a countrywide killing spree if rebels and pro-Aristide gangs fight in the capital.

"Things could get very bad, very soon," one official said.

Remaining diplomatic efforts to broker an end to the crisis shifted to Paris, where the French government hoped to hold talks with representatives of Aristide on Friday, and to the UN Security Council meeting.

Jamaica's Foreign Minister Keith Desmond Knight asked the council to immediately authorize an international security force, saying the world could not stand by and watch Haiti descend into outright anarchy.

"The prevailing situation in Haiti can no longer be viewed as an internal matter," Knight said.

The council said in a statement after the meeting that it would consider a force but that it remained in favour of a negotiated political settlement to the crisis.

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

At sentencing Haitian druglord says Aristide controls 85 percent of Haiti drugs
By Catherine Wilson, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI, Feb. 25 - Embattled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide controls 85 percent of the cocaine flow through the impoverished nation, an expelled druglord said in a tirade Wednesday as he was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison.

"He turned the country into a narco-country," said Beaudoin "Jacques" Ketant, who blames Aristide for his brother's killing last year. "The man is a druglord. He controlled the drug world in Haiti."

Please see also: Ketant's ultra-luxury mansion

With payoffs to government officials from Aristide on down, defense attorney Ruben Oliva said: "Certainly the government was the godfather. Everyone in Haiti that was engaged in this activity had to pay the government."

Ira Kurzban, a Miami attorney for the Haitian government, flatly dismissed the allegations from "a lying, convicted drug dealer" who faced a life sentence unless he got a plea bargain.

"I defy anyone to provide proof about the nonsense he's telling the U.S. government to save his own skin," said Kurzban, reached at his law office and told of Ketant's tirade.

Ketant, 40, was fined $15 million and ordered to forfeit another $15 million, mostly property that is out of reach in Haiti. Prosecutors said he smuggled his way to a "Midas-like" fortune, including an $8 million villa, four other houses, paintings by Monet and Picasso, $5 million cash and bank accounts in Haiti and the Bahamas. A daughter at Emory University drives a Mercedes-Benz.

Ketant received three months short of the maximum under a plea deal for money laundering and allegedly shepherding 41 tons of drugs for Colombia's Cali, Medellin and Baranquilla cartels through Haiti to the United States from 1987 to 1996.

He was indicted in 1997 but lived a life of luxury until last June. Aristide threw him out of the country after Ketant and his bodyguards were accused of beating an official at an elite school attended by his son and the children of Haitian officials and U.S. diplomats.

Ketant admitted staying in the drug business until his ouster, and prosecutor John Kastrenakes blamed Ketant for smuggling $10 million in drugs in his last year alone. Ketant claims Haiti handles 20 percent of U.S.-bound cocaine shipments.

Prosecutors did not offer to cut Ketant's sentence based on his cooperation, and Kastrenakes asked for the maximum based on "a continued deception" and "shell game" that prevents any of his assets from being turned over.

Oliva blamed the unrest in Haiti for tying up Ketant's property and money, and Ketant accused his ex-wife Sibylle Joseph of looting his mansion with help from Haitian police within two weeks of what he called his kidnapping.

"In my view, he gets an 'A' for effort and an 'F' for success," said U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno. "The words are meaningless without actions. It's like promises."

The judge questioned how someone who led a cocaine smuggling empire and who considered himself a "compadre" of Aristide could instantly lose all power and money.

"I've been paying him throughout the years," Ketant said. "He betrayed me just like Judas betrayed Jesus."

If Ketant's claims are true, the judge said something will happen. But he was disturbed by the corruption produced in both Haiti and the United States.

"As bad as the cocaine is, what is horrible is also the corruption," said Moreno, who noted he sentenced a U.S. immigration inspector in Miami for life for his role in the smuggling.

Ketant was charged with paying off one-time Haitian strongman Joseph Michel Francois as well as airport employees in Miami, New York and Port-au-Prince to ignore drug couriers.

Co-defendants convicted in 1998 received prison sentences ranging from six years to life.

Francois, Port-au-Prince's police chief after a 1991 coup, fled to Honduras in 1996 and has not been tried on the drug charges.

France wants transitional gov't in Haiti
By Pamela Sampson, Associated Press Writer

PARIS, Feb. 25 - French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on Wednesday issued a statement calling for an "immediate" establishment of a transitional government in Haiti and an international civilian force to back it up.

De Villepin also indicated France no longer supports President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, an elected but highly unpopular president whose government is threatened by a rebellion.

*Uncommonly tin-pot totalitarian dictator Aristide's two daughters, Christine and Michaelle Aristide, left Haiti for the United States Wednesday / Please see also: In Haiti and elsewhere, why Haitians say uncommonly genocidal dictator Aristide must go / Major figures in Haiti uprising

"As for President Aristide, he bears heavy responsibility for the current situation," de Villepin said in a statement. "It is up to him to accept the consequences while respecting the rule of law. Everyone sees quite well that a new page must be opened in Haiti's history."

France also supports the urgent establishment of a transitional "government of national unity," headed by a designated prime minister, in accordance with a plan proposed by CARICOM, the 15-nation Caribbean Community, and the Organization of American States.

However, de Villepin said the plan should be broadened and the political process speeded up so that elections can be held in the coming months.

An international civilian force to back the transitional government is one element of France's proposal to broaden the plan. Paris also proposed international assistance to help Haiti organize a presidential election by establishing an election commission, lists of voter, and international observer missions to oversee the ballot.

The foreign minister said he spoke several times Tuesday and Wednesday with Secretary of State Colin Powell, other foreign diplomats and Haitian political officials. He said he was to meet Friday with representatives of the government and the opposition in Paris.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

U.S. Marines lead foreigners out of Haiti
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 25 - U.S. Marines escorted foreigners out of the country amid widespread looting Wednesday, but the rebel leader said the insurgents want to "give a chance to peace" and indicated his troops would hold off attacking the capital.

Pressure mounted for an international intervention and for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to step down.

A U.N. Security Council meeting on Haiti was scheduled for Thursday. President Bush said the United States is encouraging the international community to provide a strong "security presence," and France said a peace force should be established immediately for deployment once a political agreement is reached.

Foreigners tried to flee the country, some guarded by U.S. Marines, and looting erupted in the capital. Aristide supporters set dozens of flaming barricades that blocked roads throughout Port-au-Prince, and shots were shuttered. Panic overtook the city, though there was no sign of the rebels.

The rebels have overrun half of Haiti including its second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, where their leader, Guy Philippe, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they were taking a wait-and-see approach to proposals to send international peacekeepers. "If they do not attack the Haitian people, we won't attack them," he said.

"If they come to help us to remove Mr. Aristide, they will be welcome."

Philippe estimated his rebel force had grown from a couple of hundred to 5,000 with new recruits and more ex-soldiers joining the 3-week-old popular uprising to oust Aristide, and said they were ready to fight.

Asked when they planned to move on Port-au-Prince, he said: "We're ready. We just want to give a chance to peace," indicating they would hold off. "We're ready to talk to anyone. The only one the country doesn't want is Mr. Aristide."

As the rebels plotted their moves, leaders of Haiti's political opposition rejected an international peace plan that diplomats had billed as a last chance for peace, and asked the international community to help ensure a "timely and orderly" departure of Aristide.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin urged the "immediate" establishment of an international civilian force.

"This international force would be responsible for guaranteeing the return to public order and supporting the international community's action on the ground," Villepin said. "It would come to the support of a government of national unity."

Jamaica's U.N. ambassador, Stafford O. Neil, said at the United Nations it might be possible to dispatch a small "interposition force" to keep the rebels and Aristide supporters apart. One U.N. diplomat noted the rebels can come to Port-au-Prince only by two roads, so placing such a force would be relatively easy and would buy time for a political solution.

De Villepin said he was to meet Friday in Paris with representatives of the government and the opposition. Opposition leader Mischa Gaillard, however, said it was unclear when they would be able to leave Haiti because of the political chaos.

The roadblocks across Port-au-Prince were intended to stop the rebels who began the uprising Feb. 5, but militants at the barricades also used guns and stones to stop cars and loot them of handbags, luggage and cell phones. Police did not intervene.

Looters struck two warehouses in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, stealing $200,000 worth of medical equipment and food from one and $300,000 worth of tropical wood from the other.

Overnight, a car dealership on the airport road was looted and torched. A suburban bar was set ablaze, and nearby shops were looted, along with a private food warehouse in the Cite Soleil seaside slum.

American Airlines delayed three of its five daily flights to the United States because crew and passengers were having problems getting through the roadblocks. Air Jamaica canceled its flights to Haiti.

Guy Lockrey, an auto worker from Flint, Mich., abandoned his car at a barricade and headed to the airport on foot with his suitcase when police picked him up.

"We didn't feel any tension until we got close to the capital," said Lockrey, who had been helping to build a church in west-central Haiti.

U.S. Marines, who arrived Monday, were to escort a convoy of U.N. personnel. The United Nations ordered all nonessential staff and family to leave. Britain and Australia have urged their citizens to leave, following similar warnings from the United States, France and Mexico. There are about 30,000 foreigners in Haiti, 20,000 of them Americans.

Canada and the Dominican Republic sent small teams of troops to protect their embassies. Canadian Maj. Mike Audette said the Canadians would join soldiers sent Tuesday to prepare for the possible evacuation of more than 1,000 Canadians.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints evacuated the last of its 56 non-Haitian missionaries. "We're hoping to come back when there's peace," said Joel Tougas, a church elder from Deep Cove, Canada.

On Tuesday, Aristide warned that thousands could die if rebels tried to take the capital. At least two men were shot to death Wednesday in Cap-Haitien — one for allegedly looting, another for supporting Aristide, and the Red Cross raised the overall death toll to 80, at least half of them police.

Aristide on Saturday accepted an international peace plan under which he would remain as president but with diminished powers, sharing the government with his political rivals.

It appeared the international community was reconsidering its insistence that Aristide remain president. Two Western diplomats said they and colleagues were preparing a request to ask Aristide to resign.

In his statement, de Villepin stopped just short of calling for Aristide's resignation.

"As far as President Aristide is concerned, he bears grave responsibility for the current situation," de Villepin said. "It's his decision, it's his responsibility. Every one sees that this is about opening a new page in the history of Haiti."

An opposition politician said foreign diplomats told the Democratic Platform not to say that the international community had rejected their counterproposal.

The counterproposal, sent Tuesday to Secretary of State Colin Powell, would install a Supreme Court justice as interim president and ensure Aristide's "orderly departure."

In Washington, the top U.S. envoy for the hemisphere, Roger Noriega, told legislators that if a political solution cannot be reached, "they'll consider many things, they'll consider a whole gamut of options, but they do not want to go in and simply prop up Aristide," according to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Bush indicated an international force may be needed to provide security in Haiti, possibly as a way to enforce a diplomatic and political solution. And he reiterated that the U.S. Coast Guard will turn back any Haitian refugees trying to reach American shores.

Hours later, a freighter with 22 Haitians on board was intercepted by the Coast Guard off the coast of Miami. Coast Guard Lt. Tony Russell would not confirm reports that the boat had been hijacked or that the Haitians were seeking asylum.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Bloodbath feared as Haiti opposition spurns peace plan, rebels seize new city
By Agence France-Presse

Bloodbath feared as Haiti opposition spurns peace plan, rebels seize new city 22 minutes agoAdd World - AFP to My Yahoo!

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb. 24 (AFP) - Violence-wracked Haiti entered a new crisis as political opponents formally rejected an international peace plan and armed rebels seized another city amid warnings of a bloodbath.

The opposition bucked intense pressure to accept the power-sharing proposal because the plan does not include the automatic removal of embattled President Jean Betrand Aristide.

Aristide had earlier refused to step down and predicted brutal killing sprees if his political foes did not relent.

The rejection, in a letter delivered to the plan's sponsors, was to be announced on Wednesday and is expected to be roundly condemned, particularly by the United States, which had leaned heavily on the opposition to accept the proposal.

Evans Paul, a senior member of the Democratic Platform coalition, said the rejection letter had been handed to David Lee, the head of a special Organization of American States (OAS) mission in Haiti.

Under the plan, Aristide would have ceded significant powers to a new prime minister and cabinet but would serve out his term. Foreign governments would have helped face down the spreading insurgency with the dispatch of an "international security presence."

The opposition's final rejection of the proposal is almost certain to cause further deterioration in Haiti's already volatile countryside as well as the capital, which the rebels have vowed to take if Aristide remains in office.

With their seizure of northwestern Port-de-Paix overnight, the rebels now control at least half of the country. They hold nearly all of northern Haiti, including the second-largest city of Cap Haitien, which they took on Sunday, sparking chaos and widespread looting.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe reaffirmed Tuesday that he aims to "liberate Port-au-Prince" and said that the rebel advance had so far been "too easy."

Police and armed pro-Aristide gangs have built barricades on roads outside Port-au-Prince in response to the threats and sporadic attacks on the capital's outskirts. Some 50 US marines, dispatched on Monday, patrolled the US embassy compound.

Britain on Tuesday joined France, the United States, Mexico and Canada in urging its nationals to leave the country. Foreigners hoping to catch flights out made long lines at the Port-au-Prince airport.

In Port-de-Paix, looting erupted when rebels moved in and police fled, according to local radio reports. Several buildings were set ablaze in the city, which has a population of about 120,000.

No casualty figures were available, but Aristide, without mentioning the name of the fallen city, indicated that numerous people had died. "Last night the terrorists and killers went to the northwest of the country ... killing innocent people," he said.

Port-au-Paix is the nearest port to the US coast. Aristide said its collapse could unleash a wave of boat people, many of whom would likely die attempting to reach Florida in flimsy vessels.

Dozens of refugees have already arrived in Jamaica but Aristide urged Haitians not to leave, holding out a promise of legislative elections by November if the political opposition agreed to the power-sharing deal.

At least 70 people have been killed in the three-week-old insurrection. Aristide noted that some rebels had led death squads during the dictatorship that toppled him in 1991.

"Now, they are back to kill again," he told reporters at the National Palace. He brandished photographs of corpses of some of the thousands slain during the military rule. The United States invaded and returned the former Roman Catholic priest to power in 1994.

In New York, Human Rights Watch said the insurgents are on a collision course with pro-government gangs, which could trigger violent reprisals and called for the international community to send troops and police quickly to prevent a bloodbath.

Aristide did not directly call for international invention but said Haiti needed the police and police trainers the peace plan calls on foreign governments to supply.

He said the political opposition was in league with the rebels and would bear the blame if the country descended into chaos.

The opposition adamently denies links with the insurgents. It insistented it will not accept the power-sharing plan unless Aristide departs.

Under the plan, the United Nations and Organization of American States would train and supervise a revamped Haitian police force which would disarm pro-Aristide gangs responsible for repeated attacks on the opposition and journalists.

France said Tuesday it was ready to consider contributing to a peace force in Haiti. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said he would meet Haitian opposition leaders in Paris to discuss prospects for ending the violence.

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

US powell extends deadline for Haiti opposition to accept peace plan
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb. 23 (AFP) - Haiti's opposition insisted that President Jean Bertrand Aristide step down if they are to accept an internationally backed power-sharing plan aimed at ending the country's growing crisis but said they would delay a formal response for 24 hours after an urgent US request to do so.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell "asked us to consider waiting another 24 hours before we let them know if we can change our position with regard to Aristide's departure," opposition leader Evans Paul said.

Please see also: In Haiti and elsewhere, why Haitians say uncommonly genocidal dictator Aristide must go

"That is where we are right now."

"We accepted the delay," Paul said, adding that Powell had promised to become "personally involved" in finding a possible compromise.

Charles Baker, another opposition figure, said: "We are hoping that in the next 24 hours, general Powell will come up with what we need."

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

Marines arrive in Haiti to guard embassy
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 23 - Fifty U.S. Marines streamed into the capital Monday to protect the U.S. Embassy and its staff, while government loyalists set flaming barricades to block the road from rebels threatening to move on Port-au-Prince.

The United States made last-ditch efforts at finding a political solution. As an opposition coalition was on the brink of rejecting a U.S.-backed peace plan on the grounds that it did not call for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to step down, Secretary of State Colin Powell phoned opposition politicians and asked them to delay responding formally to the plan for 24 hours.

Evans Paul, a leading opponent who once was allied with Aristide, said the coalition agreed the extra time "will perhaps give Mr. Powell a little more time to consider his position ... and give us the assurances we need" on Aristide's departure.

With rebels hoping to seize the capital by Sunday, Cabinet ministers were asking friends for places to hide, senior government sources said. The rebels seized Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, with little resistance Sunday and attacked two police stations outside Port-au-Prince.

More than half of Haiti is now beyond the control of the central government. In Cap-Haitien on Monday, rebels hunted down militants loyal to Aristide, accusing them of terrorizing the population in the days before the fall of the northern port city of 500,000.

"I am a brick mason, I didn't do anything wrong," Jean-Bernard Prevalis, 33, pleaded as he was dragged away, head bleeding.

"We're going to clean the city of all 'chimeres,'" said rebel Dieusauver Magustin, 26. Chimere, which means ghost, is used to describe hardcore Aristide militants.

It was not clear what would happen to those detained. One rebel said they were saving them from lynching. But another, Claudy Philippe, said "The people show us the (chimere) houses. If they are there, we execute them."

Thousands of people in Cap-Haitien demonstrated in favor of the rebellion Monday, chanting "Aristide get out!" and "Goodbye Aristide."

Residents went on a rampage of reprisals and looting that began after the insurgents seized the city. Looters stole the 800 tons of food from the U.N. World Food Program warehouse, according to the agency's Andrea Bagnoli, and people torched the colonial mansion of Mayor Wilmar Innocent, who supports Aristide.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe said his men could do nothing to stop the looting, and blamed Aristide's government for leaving most of Haiti's 8 million people hungry and desperate. However, some rebels later fired shots into the air to scatter looters at Cap-Haitien's seaport; at least two looters were hit by rebel gunfire and taken to a hospital.

Philippe said more than 30 residents have volunteered to fight with the insurgents, who have started to replace officials in Cap-Haitien with rebel sympathizers. He said in an interview Monday that he hopes to take Port-au-Prince by Sunday, his 36th birthday.

Remissainthe Ravix, another rebel leader, told The Associated Press there was no turning back.

"We have the weapons and the expertise to take the country," he said. "Nothing can stop us."

The rebels cut cellular telephone service in the city, saying they wanted no communication with Port-au-Prince.

Aid agencies have warned a humanitarian catastrophe is brewing, with 268,000 people who depended on food aid in northern Haiti being the most vulnerable. The International Committee of the Red Cross sent medical supplies and a four-person team.

Aristide's Premier Yvon Neptune said the international community must help save Haiti from "terrorists that are sowing violence and death," but he did not go so far as to ask for peacekeepers.

Neptune appealed to the political opposition coalition to agree to a U.S.-backed international peace plan, which calls for Aristide to share power. Aristide on Saturday accepted the plan.

Western diplomats in Haiti said the United States was searching for a former army officer with the moral authority to shepherd Haiti through Aristide's departure and into a transitional government.

On Monday, Lt. Gen. Herard Abraham, who voluntarily handed power to a civilian government, went on the radio to say "Aristide should make the personally courageous and patriotic gesture to resign, for he no longer controls the country."

Abraham surrendered power in March 1990 to Haiti's Supreme Court justice, allowing a transition that led to Haiti's first free elections in December 1990, which Aristide won in a landlside.

With violence rising both from Aristide supporters and the insurgents, France urged its citizens Monday to leave its former colony. The United States and Mexico told their citizens to get out last week. There are about 30,000 foreigners in Haiti, including about 20,000 Americans, 2,000 French and 1,000 Canadians.

Their rifles at the ready, about 24 Marines in combat gear and helmets rushed off the U.S. Air Force transport plane at Toussaint Louverture International Airport on Monday and ran to make a secure a perimeter around the aircraft before another 30 Marines got off a second plane.

The Marines then drove to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in a convoy of trucks and cars. Western diplomats and a Defense Department official said their mission was to protect the U.S. Embassy and its staff. In Port-au-Prince, hundreds of armed Aristide supporters set up more than a dozen barricades on the road leading north, near the international airport. Their tension was evident as they banged on a car with rifle butts and waved shotguns and pistols at vehicles to force them to stop.

"We are ready to resist, with anything we have — rocks, machetes," said a teacher guarding one roadblock, who gave his name only as Rincher.

Cap-Haitien is just 90 miles north of the capital, but is a grueling seven-hour drive over potholed roads sometimes reduced to bedrock.

The takeover of Cap-Haitien by only some 200 fighters was the most significant victory since the uprising began on Feb. 5. At least 17 were killed in Sunday's fighting, raising the toll to about 70 dead and dozens wounded in the revolt.

Aristide was wildly popular when he became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990 but he has lost support since flawed legislative elections in 2000 led international donors to freeze millions of dollars in aid.

Opponents accuse the former priest of failing to help those in need in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, allowing corruption and masterminding attacks on opponents by armed gangs. Aristide denies the charges.

Philippe was an officer in the army when it ousted Aristide in 1991 and instigated a reign of terror that ended in 1994 when the United States sent 20,000 troops to end the military dictatorship.

___ Associated Press reporters Paisley Dodds contributed to this report from Cap-Haitien and Mark Stevenson contributed from Port-au-Prince.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Haiti rebels: Aristide made error on guns
By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti, Feb. 23 - Sitting poolside and fingering assault rifles, rebel leaders bent on ousting Haiti's president said Monday his big mistake was sending them home years earlier with their guns. All three have a vendetta against Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"We don't want any more bloodshed. We just want Aristide to leave," Guy Philippe told The Associated Press in an interview. He used to be the police chief in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city of 500,000 that rebels seized with little resistance on Sunday, the biggest prize in their 18-day revolt.

"I think Cap-Haitien was fairly easy to take," Philippe said. "No one wants to fight for Aristide anymore. We want the people to take advantage of their freedom."

Philippe has relied on guerrilla tactics, following a strategy crafted by ancestors who launched Haiti's revolution to halt slavery from this city two centuries ago.

The rebels, whose size has tripled with new recruits added in each town they seize, have systematically driven enemies out, won over the population and moved onto the next target. They effectively control the north now and the central Artibonite District where more than 1 million people live.

The triumvirate of leaders that has emerged to command a 300-strong rebel force has a vendetta against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who in 1995 disbanded the army that had ousted him.

"He made a big mistake sending us home with our guns" said Remissainthe Ravix. "There's no such thing as the former Haitian army now. We have the weapons and the expertise to take the country. Nothing can stop us."

The commanders are Philippe, an Ecuadorian-trained army officer who listens to Motown music, plays ping-pong and is a self-proclaimed ladies' man; Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a leader of a former army death squad accused of killing thousands who has a penchant for gold-rimmed aviator glasses; and Ravix, a muscle-bound ex-army corporal trained in guerrilla tactics.

Their next target is Port-au-Prince, the real prize for the commandoes who plan on arresting Aristide and say Haitian history has taught them how to do it.

It was in the forests outside Cap-Haitien that a former slave named Boukman in 1791 began and uprising that spread throughout the country until the French were driven away 12 years later, their plantations left in smoking ruin. On Monday, smoke billowed from the colonial mansion of Mayor Wilmar Innocent, police stations, the courthouse and other government buildings torched by rebels and residents.

"We have the same blood running through our veins as Boukman, who was fighting for his freedom and fighting for his country's freedom," said the slight and fresh-faced Philippe, 35, reclining on lounge chair at the poolside.

Using the hillside Mont Joli Hotel as their temporary command center, the rank-and-file rebels are told to stay sharp and steer clear of alcohol. The commanders, however, take breaks to sip Prestige, Haiti's national beer, and coordinate their assaults.

Philippe says he hopes to take Port-au-Prince by Sunday, his 36th birthday.

"We don't want any more bloodshed," he said. "We just want Aristide to leave."

Some rebels are using the submachine guns, assault rifles and pistols they had in the army. Others have new weapons, some confiscated from police stations, others donated by secret backers.

"We cannot be outgunned," says Chamblain, switching from Creole to Spanish he learned in neighboring Dominican Republic. Some rebels are Haitian-Dominicans. Philippe fled there in 2000 when he was accused of coup-plotting. Chamblain has lived there for eight years. Haiti had convicted him in absentia for his role in a 1994 massacre and the 1993 assassination of Aristide financier Antoine Izmery and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The rebels have asked for volunteers to keep government services running until they oust Aristide. After that, they want to hold presidential and legislative elections, and say they will not fall back into Haiti's historic pattern of military dictatorships.

"We're not plotting a coup," Chamblain says. "We're plotting to liberate the people."

Many in this city of 500,000 have cheered in support of the rebellion — a sharp contrast to three years ago when the city was an Aristide stronghold.

Some, however, say they rebels are no better than Aristide or any other leader that Haitians have suffered through 32 coups d'etat the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship. "It's all the same," said Solomon Ronel, 25.

"It's all terrible."

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Posted Sunday, February 22, 2004
Rebels in Haiti seize city in North and say capital is next
By Lydia Polgreen, The New York Times

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti, Feb. 22 — Anti-government rebels today attacked this city, the government's last major stronghold in the north, and commandeered the police station inside the city, witnesses said. The rebels said they would be in the capital of Port-au-Prince on Monday.

In a convoy of 11 jeeps, about 200 soldiers armed with machine guns arrived in Cap-Haitien about 10 a.m., after leaving Gonaives about 3 a.m.

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They met little resistance from the police or armed government supporters, according to Paulda Petime, a 23-year-old commander of the rebels.

In the square, hundreds of people shouted and cheered as the police headquarters was set ablaze. Looters made off with battered file cabinets, riot shields, bed frames and rolled up mattresses.

"We came here to liberate them," Mr. Petime said, referring to the crowds. He added that the people had helped the rebels. "I am really proud of all of the people of Cap-Haitien," he said.

Mr. Petime said rebels were massing elsewhere to move on Port-au-Prince. "We will be in the palace on Monday," he said, adding that they would demand the surrender of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "If he doesn't want to go to jail," Mr. Petime said of the president, "we're going to burn him."

Smoke billowed from the Cap-Haitien airport, where the station manager for Tropical Airways said a plane had been commandeered.

The station manager, Jacques Jeannot, said he had been trying to load passengers for a 10 a.m. flight to Port-au-Prince this morning. when seven men, two armed with AK-47's, entered the plane and demanded that the pilots take them to capital.

Among those on the plane, according to Mr. Jennot, was Richard Estemable, the leader of a pro-Aristide militant group.

"They just hijacked the plane," Mr. Jennot said.

In the disorder in Cap-Haitien, armed civilians broke into a prison, where they freed about 200 prisoners, said a witness, Odril Jean, who lives across the street from the facility.

Mr. Jean said he had seen about 10 armed men raid the prison. The freed prisoners picked up shotguns and pistols that had been abandoned by fleeing police officers and ran through the streets brandishing the weapons.

As a violent rebellion has spread throughout Haiti in the past two weeks, Cap-Haitien, the country's second-largest city, has remained in the hands of the government and its loyalists. But as the armed groups seeking to topple President Aristide have wrested control of a swath of territory from the coastal city of Gonives across the Central Plateau to the border with the Dominican Republic, they have vowed to bring their uprising to this city, as well.

In recent days, officers here had bolted themselves inside the walled compound of their police station, and had told reporters they had neither the firepower nor the numbers to repel the rebels, The Associated Press reported. They had turned over control of the streets to Aristide loyalists who have attacked opponents and set homes on fire, the wire service reported.

Heavy gunfire and small explosions sounded throughout the city today and rebel troops dressed in camouflage were spotted on the city's fringe. Employees at the airport reported gunfire starting about 9 a.m.

Witnesses reported that eight people had been killed in fighting today, though it was unclear whether the casualties were among rebel troops, government loyalists or civilians. The uprising has killed about 60 people, about two-thirds of them police.

Rebels were seen arriving at the police station, and by early afternoon, a column of gray and black smoke spiraled upward from the compound. Rebels have targeted police stations in the rebellion, which began on Feb. 5.

As the incursion here continued, residents ran through the streets, though it was hard to tell whether they were acting in jubilation or panic.

Government loyalists, responding to rumors of rebel plans to launch an offensive today, had erected barricades across the main roads into the city but had presumably failed in their attempt to ward off the invaders.

The city's mayor, Wilmar Innocent, acknowledged on Saturday the rumors of a rebel attack but said it would be nearly impossible because there are only two roads leading into the city.

For days, the city has been tense and sometimes violent. A Haitian radio journalist, Elie Sem Pierre, 40, was shot in the neck on Saturday by attackers he claimed were supporters of Mr. Aristide. He received surgery and survived the attack. His station, Radio Metropole, is a popular radio station based in Port au Prince and is perceived by the government as hostile.

The attack here came a day after the top American diplomat for the Western Hemisphere left Haiti without reaching a deal with the political opposition to share power with President Aristide.

Assistant Secretary of State Roger F. Noriega and other top diplomats from the Americas and Europe spent Saturday pushing an urgent proposal to replace the current government with a multiparty cabinet, while allowing Mr. Aristide to complete his term in office.

But despite hours of hard negotiating, the opposition refused to budge, insisting that Mr. Aristide must resign immediately.

Kirk Semple contributed reporting to this article from New York.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company. Reprinted from The New York Times of Sunday, February 22, 2004.

Haiti's rebels take second city, diplomats press on peace plan
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb. 22 (AFP) - The crisis in Haiti exploded as armed rebels took control of the country's second largest city after seizing the airport there, complicating frantic international efforts to end a political deadlock in the capital.

The rebels, who are demanding the ouster of President Jean Bertrand Aristide and control part of Haiti's north and center, made good on threats to march on Cap Haitien, where witnesses reported heavy gunfire, chaos and two people killed, as ill-equipped and poorly trained police appeared to flee the advance.

Witnesses said there was looting throughout the city and there were reports the heavily-armed and hooded rebels had freed prisoners at the local police station which was in flames.

Jubilant rebels paraded through the streets of Cap Haitien, and may pull out within hours, witnesses said. The insurgents' strategy since earlier in the month has tended to be to attack cities, drive out the police, burn police stations and then swiftly withdraw. Highly mobile, they then come and go to keep an eye on towns that have fallen to them.

Meanwhile city residents in this poorest nation in the Americas looted and pillaged at the port of Cap Haitien, witnesses said, making off with huge sacks of food and cement mix.

Rebels arrived on the outskirts of the city of about one million around midday in vehicles from a base in rebel-held Trou-de-nord and quickly seized the airport, taking control of a plane belonging to the Haitian carrier Air Tropical, before moving into Cap Haitien proper.

There was no immediate word on the extent to which the police and armed pro-Aristide militants may have resisted the rebels. Also unclear was the status of numerous foreigners, many of them aid workers and missionaries, who have remained in Cap Haitien despite warnings.

Fearing the spread of the insurgency, as well as violence associated with the political impasse, the United States on Saturday ordered most of its remaining diplomats in Haiti to leave the country and there were indications other nations might follow suit.

At least 59 people have been killed since the rebels, who had vowed on Friday to move on Cap Haitien and the city of Saint-Marc this weekend if Aristide did not step down, launched their insurgency by taking the northwestern town of Gonaives on February 5.

Saint-Marc, with a population of about 160,000, lies between Gonaives and Port-au-Prince, which the rebels -- who claim to have more than 700 men in arms, most of them former soldiers from the army that Aristide dissolved in 1995 after a coup -- have also threatened.

Rebel spokesman Winter Etienne told AFP on Friday that 200 uniformed insurgents had been deployed around Cap Haitien in four groups and that their commander, the city's former police commissioner Guy Philippe, intended to cut off Port-au-Prince by taking towns one-by-one.

Aristide has called such plans a "bluff," part of a psychological war meant to demoralize his police force, which numbers only 5,000 officers, and urged them to stand their ground against the rebels who he accuses of being "terrorists" and "drug dealers."

Yet in the face of the threats, police have abandoned their posts in numerous towns in the countryside, often resulting in looting and arson, according to local residents.

Cap Haitien's fall to the rebels came as foreign diplomats scrambled to salvage an international peace plan by pressing Aristide's political foes to drop their demands for the president's departure and accept a power-sharing proposal.

Though the plan stops short of removing Aristide, it would remove significant powers from the presidency and give them to a new, independent prime minister and government which would have control over a revamped national police force and the impoverished country's finances.

The political opposition has until Monday afternoon to accept the plan which diplomats hope will blunt the insurgency by creating conditions for the deployment of an international security presence.

Aristide, who has repeatedly rejected calls for his resignation and insisted on staying in office through his current term which ends in 2006, embraced the proposal on Saturday, but the opposition has stood firm in its demands for the president to go.

Opposition leaders, fearing a backlash from their fervent anti-Aristide base and wary of the international commitment to ensuring the reduction in president's authority and the disarmament of his often violent militants, were coming under enormous pressure from the United States and other backers of the proposal on Sunday, according to senior officials in Port-au-Prince.

The peace plan notably excludes the rebels and the diplomat reiterated that the international community would not accept or support any Haitian government that comes to power through force.

Should the opposition accept the proposal, the plan's backers have promised to accelerate the implementation of its measures that will likely include the deployment of an international security team to help the Haitian police "isolate and face the rebellion down," a diplomat said.

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

Posted Saturday, February 21, 2004
Aristide accepts, opposition rejects international peace plan
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb. 21 (AFP) - Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide accepted an international power-sharing peace plan to end the political violence gripping the country, but the political opposition rejected the plan because it would allow Aristide to remain in office.

Speaking at the presidential palace after a meeting with an international delegation that presented the plan to both sides, Aristide said, "I accepted the plan, publicly and entirely...In one word, yes."

The plan would allow Aristide to serve out his term through 2006, but with a new government and a new prime minister acceptable to the opposition.

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All sides of the political opposition had earlier rejected the plan because it does not call for Aristide to step down, a condition they insist is necessary to stem the violence that has left at least 57 dead since February 5.

Aristide stressed the disarmament clause of the peace plan he accepted applied to all armed factions, particularly rebels who have seized several towns and cities in the north.

"We will not work with any terrorists," he said, using the term he employs to refer to the rebels in the north. "I will not go ahead with any terrorists."

"We agree to have a new government and a new prime minister," he added.

"We agree to have a commission of three people, giving birth to a commission of seven wise people to help select a prime minister. And then we will have a new government."

Once the new government is formed, he said, "free and fair elections" would follow, although he did not give a date.

"From today until February 7, 2006 (when his term expires) I will continue to work with my brothers in the opposition," said Aristide.

Earlier, Micha Gaillard, Socialist Party leader and spokesman for all political opposition factions, said as he left a meeting with Aristide and a US-led diplomatic team, "The opposition maintains its position...The only solution is the departure of Jean Bertrand Aristide."

Andre Apaid, leader the "Group of 184" representing labor, professional and business groups within the opposition, called Aristide "the source of the problem" in Haiti.

Aristide, he said, "is directly responsible for the violence in Haiti because he has distributed the weapons, created the armed gangs to terrorize the population, to intimidate the political parties and to quash the opposition."

Although it would allow him to remain, the international peace plan would require Aristide to cede significant powers -- including control of a revamped and internationally trained police force -- to a new, independently appointed government and prime minister.

In another development Saturday, Washington ordered non-essential diplomatic personnel out of Haiti and warned US citizens the country was no longer safe.

"The Department of State has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel of the US embassy in Port-au-Prince and continues to strongly urge American citizens remaining in Haiti to depart immediately while commercial carriers are still operating," said a statement.

Aristide sought to assure diplomats they would be safe here, saying, "I want to tell all the diplomats in Haiti how committed we are to doing all we can to protect (their) security."

Foreigners nonetheless continued to stream out of the country. Authorities said most outgoing flights were full.

Frank Williams, country director for the NGO World Vision, said he was staying in Haiti, but was sending his wife and three children home.

"I don't have a personal sense of lack of security," he told AFP. "But there is certainly the possibility for a deterioration of the situation."

The international delegation that presented the peace plan, headed by Roger Noriega, Washington's top US diplomat for the Americas, reiterated the opposition still had until a Monday deadline to accept the plan.

Sources said it also contained a second deadline, March 26, for both sides to show progress in implementation. That date corresponds with a ministerial meeting of the Caribbean community, Caricom, in Antigua which is to assess progress in Haiti.

Canadian envoy Denis Coderre, minister for relations with French-speaking nations, said before Saturday's meeting, "What we're looking for is to make sure we are sending a message of firmness, of emergency and of unity of the international community."

Armed rebels have now extended their reach in Haiti's north and center and members of the country's ill-equipped and poorly trained police force in numerous localities have either fled or gone into hiding, fearing their advance, which has resulted in looting and arson in some places, according to residents.

Copyright © 2004 Agence France

U.S. demands Aristide accepts new cabinet in Haiti
By Saul Hudson, Reuters Writer

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (Reuters) - The United States demanded on Friday that Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide form a new Cabinet with the opposition to break a political standoff that is fueling a deadly revolt, U.S. officials said.

U.S. Ambassador James Foley met Aristide and told him to accept a plan, backed by the United States, Canada, France and other nations, to install a new prime minister who could choose Cabinet members as a way of ending the impasse.

Aristide, who was restored to power in 1994 by a U.S. invasion after a coup, took the proposal seriously but "didn't make any commitments one way or the other," said a State Department official, who asked not to be named.

The United States made its demand as part of intensified mediation this week to search for a political settlement that it hopes will calm the spiraling violence and avert having to send in U.S. troops to restore order again.

"I think what's important is that a new government in Haiti be seen as independent and credible and inclusive. And those are, I think, the broad guidelines of the plan," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said of the demands presented to Aristide on Friday.

Dozens of people have been killed in the poorest nation in the Americas during this month's revolt, which capped months of anti-government demonstrations and years of political tensions dating from contested parliamentary elections in 2000.

Aristide has vowed to see out his term which ends in 2006.

Weeks ago, the former priest agreed with mediators of the Caribbean bloc, CARICOM, to accept a new prime minister in a list of concessions that also included disarming gangs aligned with political parties.

He has failed to fulfill his pledges but Washington, which criticizes Aristide for fomenting violence and has not ruled out his resignation as a way out of the crisis, hopes the broader international pressure will persuade him to act.


"We are still pushing a political solution. The whole international community is together on this," Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview with Knight Ridder news service. He added there was a multilateral "effort to give a sense of urgency and accelerate the parties accepting the terms of the CARICOM plan."

In the highest-profile U.S. mediation yet, the Bush administration's point man for the Americas, Roger Noriega, will lead a delegation on Saturday that includes French and Canadian officials, to underscore the demands on Aristide.

Washington is also looking for compromise from the opposition.

"This is the time for the opposition to recognize that whatever their legitimate complaints may or may not be, they will not be dealt with if they fall in league or get under the same umbrella with thugs, murderers," Powell said.

The diplomatic effort is limited to bringing together Aristide and the political opposition. It excludes the armed gangs, joined by former soldiers and a death squad leader, who booted police out of several towns and villages in the northwest and center of the country.

A four-member U.S. military team has also arrived in Haiti to assess security plans in case an evacuation is needed of the embassy, where staff are under a night curfew.

During this month's violence, two U.S. diplomats were shot at in their vehicle in the capital, Port-au-Prince. They returned fire and escaped, said a State Department official, who asked not to be named.

On Friday, lines of Americans and Canadians, many of them missionaries and aid workers, clogged the capital's airport following a warning by the United States, which urged its citizens to leave the country.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

Haiti's police flee rebels in droves
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 20 - Haiti's poorly trained and equipped police — accused of crimes ranging from brutalizing suspects to trafficking in drugs — is putting up little resistance as rebels move against the government.

Rebels trying to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide launched a bloody uprising two weeks ago, marking the police as prime targets. Of the more than 60 people to die so far, about 40 have been police. Meanwhile, many have fled to neighboring Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

"We do not know who we are protecting," said Cpl. Louis Larieux, 40, a rookie policeman in the capital, Port-au-Prince. "Things are bad. We don't have the reinforcements."

Although they look menacing in their black knee pads, helmets and bullet proof vests, the fear is visible on their faces when dealing with rioters.

Confronted by rebels including ex-soldiers from Haiti's disbanded army, their inclination has been to run.

Paid the equivalent of $125 a month (Aristide's private ultra-luxury airplane), they number fewer than 4,000. But it's not known exactly how many remain on the job because droves have abandoned police stations in more than a dozen towns.

Last week, about a dozen rebels drove 50 officers out of Hinche in the central Artibonite district, where about 1 million of Haiti's 8 million people live. This week, police began deserting outlying posts without a guerrilla in sight.

Aristide has conceded that the police may not be able to halt the rebellion. He told officers at a ceremony that he was ready to die to defend Haiti, and asked them to be courageous. But stony-faced officers did not respond.

In Cap-Haitien, the last major government bastion in the north, police officers stripped off their uniforms in the street when word spread this week that a boat approaching the harbor was filled with rebels.

The day after that false alarm, some two dozen officers barricaded themselves into their station, leaving the streets to armed Aristide thugs who terrorized the populace.

One officer admitted they did not have the men or arms to repel a rebel attack and admitted they were frightened: "Of course we are," he said. "It's a natural reaction after what happened."

Aristide asked U.S. and Caribbean officials this week for help to "professionalize" the police force.

But U.S. officials say it was Aristide who politicized the force they helped train: Civilians loyal to Aristide were appointed over professional commanders. Commissioners known to be trafficking in drugs were never punished. Officers have been encouraged to attack anti-government protesters. or stand by while Aristide militants attack them.

In August, the National Coalition for Haitian Rights said the government had created special brigades of auxiliaries who rob, rape and murder, creating a climate of fear reminiscent of dark days under military dictatorship.

The government denied the report's findings, calling it a "partisan" account.

It also has defended itself against Amnesty International's charges that police commit summary executions, make arbitrary arrests and brutalize arrested people.

A police corporal in Port-au-Prince said on condition that he not be named that he was not risking his life: "The government wants us to protect Aristide, but they don't tell us why we should. We put our lives in danger, and for what? This killing is senseless."

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press     

Posted Friday, February 20, 2004
Pro-Aristide gang attacks Haitian opposition demonstration, at 12 severely wounded
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 20 (AFP) - At least 12 persons, including two journalists, were wounded here Friday when supporters of embattled President Jean Bertrand Aristide clashed with opposition demonstrators, witnesses said.

Members of a pro-Aristide gang opened fire with bird shot and threw stones at a crowd of student demonstrators calling for the president’s resignation, wounding at least 10 persons, one of them a Haitian radio reporter, according to the witnesses, who included an AFP photographer.

A Spanish television cameraman, whose identity could not immediately be determined, was wounded by a machete blow to the side of the head, they said.

The Haitian reporter, Claude Bellveue, who works for the private Radio Ibo, was shot in the back, witnesses said. The wounded were taken to a hospital in the capital’s Canape Vert district, where the demonstrations took place.

The extent of the injuries was not immediately clear, but the Spaniard suffered an injury to one of his ears. The demonstration took place as diplomats made a push for an international peace plan to defuse the crisis.

Americans begin fleeing fear-gripped Haiti
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 20 - Americans began fleeing Haiti on Friday after insurgents torched police outposts and threatened new attacks in a spreading rebellion against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who defiantly declared he's ready to die for his nation.

In Haiti's west, pro-Aristide supporters burned down homes in a seaside neighborhood and fired guns above the heads of residents who jumped into the ocean for safety.

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There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Meanwhile, the new leader of several rebel groups, Guy Philippe, said he plans to attack Cap-Haitien, the government's last remaining stronghold in the north, during carnival celebrations starting Friday. Philippe was Aristide's police chief in Cap-Haitien but fled in 2002 amid charges he was plotting a coup.

Citing mounting violence, the United States on Thursday urged the more than 20,000 Americans in Haiti to leave while transportation was still available. The Peace Corps also said it was withdrawing about 70 volunteers.

The Pentagon said it was sending a small military team to assess the security of the U.S. Embassy and its staff.

Radio stations reported that rebels torched the police station at the northeast border post of Ouanaminthe on Thursday, and witnesses said police fled in fear from their posts in northern Fort Liberte. No rebels were in sight.

The northern rebellion has killed dozens of people, including about 40 police officers, according to Jean-Gerard Dubreuil, undersecretary for public security.

During the night, truckloads of pro-Aristide gunmen attacked a neighborhood in western St. Marc and burned down seven houses, American missionary Terry Snow said, adding that 15 Americans in his group of 20 missionaries fled Haiti this week.

As their houses burned, residents jumped into the sea to get away from gunmen shooting into the air, said Snow, originally from Granbury, Texas.

"These are all innocent people — they are not involved in the political conflict," said Snow, 39, who has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years.

"Innocent people are being killed and houses are burned down every day and night in St. Marc and the police are doing nothing."

Snow said the city has been terrorized by the pro-Aristide "Clean Sweep" gang since police regained the city from about 100 rebels last week.

Aristide, wildly popular when he became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990, lost support after flawed legislative elections in 2000 led international donors to freeze millions of dollars in aid.

Even before the rebellion, about half of Haiti's 8 million people went hungry daily, according to aid groups.

The latest violence came as the United States and other nations prepared to present Aristide and opposition officials with a political plan as early as Friday.

The plan calls for an interim governing council to advise Aristide, the disarmament of politically allied street gangs and the appointment of a prime minister agreeable to both sides.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the plan does not call for Aristide's resignation, but the United States would not object if he agreed during negotiations to leave office early. Aristide's term ends February 2006.

Aristide — who has survived three assassination attempts and a coup d'etat — was defiant Thursday, saying, "I am ready to give my life if that is what it takes to defend my country."

Aristide has said he could not negotiate with "terrorists," though opposition leaders deny his charges that they back the rebels. "If you are talking about the opposition that is publicly supporting terrorists, don't think I will have the irresponsibility of handing them over such a (prime ministerial) post," Aristide told Radio Canada.

Opposition leader Evans Paul countered by saying, "It will be difficult for us to accept any proposal that doesn't include Aristide's resignation."

The Organization of American States approved a resolution Thursday night expressing "firm support" for Aristide's government in its efforts to "restore public order by constitutional means."

OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria said he was confident that a political solution could come "not in months, but in weeks."

U.S. Ambassador John Maisto told delegates that Haiti's crisis "is due in large part to the failure of the government of Haiti to act in a timely manner to address problems that it knew were growing."

He said the government had not fought police corruption, strengthened its judiciary or restored security.

At Cap-Haitien, armed supporters of Aristide patrolled and vowed to fight any rebel attack. Frightened police remained barricaded in their station, saying they were too few and poorly armed to repel the rebels.

Haiti's police force numbers less than 4,000 and demoralized officers this week deserted at least four provincial posts. Eight officers have sought asylum in Jamaica and the Dominican military said it arrested four fleeing officers this week.

Hungry people in rebel-held Gonaives looted food aid from a rebel storage facility Thursday after being turned away from an aid distribution. Thousands of people, some brandishing machetes and guns, marched through the city supporting the rebellion.

Meanwhile, 20 Haitian refugees arrived by boat in Jamaica — the second group in less than a week — saying they were fleeing the violence, Jamaican police said.

Haiti's rebellion has raised fears of a mass exodus on the scale of the tens of thousands who fled to Florida when Haiti was under brutal military dictatorships from 1991 to 1994.

President Clinton sent 20,000 troops in 1994 to restore Aristide, end the killings of his supporters and halt the flood of refugees.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Posted February 19, 2004
Powell says open to Haiti's Aristide quitting
By Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it was open to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide stepping down, the first time it has publicly acknowledged his departure could be a way out of crisis.

Reluctant to quell a rebellion by sending police to the small Caribbean nation, but apparently ineffectual in mediating an end to the chaos, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Aristide could go if his quitting was part of a political settlement among Haitians.

Please see also:In Haiti and elsewhere, why Haitians say uncommonly genocidal dictator Aristide must go

Previously, senior U.S. officials had only hinted that "major changes" in the government could break the impasse between an elected leader, who has vowed to stay until his term ends in 2006, and an increasingly violent opposition.

The United States has been criticized for failing to act while armed rebel gangs battle a hapless police force for control of some towns in the poorest nation in the Americas.

Asked if a U.S.-backed plan to hammer out a political settlement would include Aristide leaving office, Powell said: "That's not an element of the plan because under the constitution, he is the president for some time to come yet."

But he added in a radio interview with ABC, "You know, if an agreement is reached that moves that in another direction, that's fine."

The United States, which a decade ago restored Aristide to power after a coup, has warned the opposition against trying to oust the former Roman Catholic priest.

Washington has also been critical of Aristide, pressuring him to make good on pledges to mediators that include disarming violent gangs, and it has rejected the government's pleas for police help to staunch the violence.

Nations such as Canada and France have offered to send police to Haiti, but Powell said the plan was for such reinforcements to go only after a political settlement.

"In many cases, it's just a few thugs that are dominating a particular town or city, and so what we have to try to do now is stand with President Aristide -- he is the elected President of Haiti -- and do what we can to help him," Powell said.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

U.S. to send military team to Haiti   
By Robert Burns, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 - The Bush administration said Thursday it would send a military team to Haiti to assess the security of the U.S. Embassy there, but stressed that it is still looking for a political solution to the bloody uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States and other countries will offer a proposal to Aristide and opposition leaders for ending the political crisis in that county.

"I think if they will both accept this plan and start executing on it, we might find a way through this crisis politically," Powell said in an interview with ABC Radio's "Live in America" program.

The Pentagon announcement that a small number of military personnel was being sent to Haiti came as Aristide declared he was "ready to give my life" to defend Haiti, indicating he was not prepared to give up power.

Powell said there is a "solid consensus" on the Haitian issue among the United States, the Organization of American States, the United Nations, France and Canada. He said the international community must do what it can to help Aristide in his capacity as Haiti's elected leader.

Earlier this week, Powell said the United States was reluctant to send military personnel to Haiti to help resolve the bloody uprising. At the Pentagon, spokesman Lawrence DiRita told reporters that U.S. Ambassador James Foley had requested the military team.

The military team is expected to consist of three or four experts from U.S. Southern Command, the military command with authority over the Caribbean, Pentagon spokesman Di Rita told reporters at a press conference. DiRita said the team will assess threats to the U.S. Embassy and its personnel.

Senior military and Bush administration officials have said there is no plans to resolve the rebellion in Haiti through the use of military force.

"There remains a lot of interest in resolving this matter politically," Di Rita said.

Powell gave no details of the plan except to say that it does not contemplate Aristide's stepping down before his term ends in Feb. 2006.

But he said the United States would not object if, as part of a negotiation with opposition leaders, Aristide agreed to leave ahead of schedule.

"He is the president for some time to come yet. You know, if an agreement is reached that moves that in another direction, that's fine," Powell said.

He reaffirmed that the United States is opposed to any solution that violates democratic or constitutional norms.

The United States helped Aristide claim his place as president a decade ago. But American officials have become disillusioned with his rule and are debating internally what to do about it.

Publicly, the United States resists the notion of forcibly removing Aristide. Privately, the Bush administration is exploring options for helping foster a peaceful switch of leaders in Haiti without undercutting democratic rule.

Aristide upped the ante Wednesday by turning aside one U.S. suggestion: early elections that could appease his political opponents. He wants to serve until his five-year term expires in February 2006.

The United States has not clearly said it will refuse to recognize a successor to Aristide who takes over through coup or ouster, experts point out. Days ago, Powell had said that a change in leadership in Haiti was not an option. He also said earlier that the United States was not inclined to intervene to help Aristide maintain a grip on power.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Aristide Ready to die to defend Haiti
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 19 - President Jean-Bertrand Aristide declared Thursday he was "ready to die" to defend his country, indicating he would not resign as demanded by political rivals and a bloody rebellion in the north.

Amid the chaos, Washington said it was sending a military team to Haiti to assess the security of the U.S. Embassy but emphasized it still wants a political solution to the two-week-old uprising that has killed at least 60 people.

On Thursday, pro-government thugs patrolled Haiti's second largest city, Cap-Hatien, vowing to counter any rebel attempt to seize control as frightened police remained in their station.

Rebels have chased police from more than a dozen towns and cities, some in central Haiti but mostly in the north. From the key northern city of Gonaives, they announced Wednesday that their loosely organized movement will now answer to a single commander and be called the National Resistance Front To Liberate Haiti.

As casualties mount, Aristide held a ceremony in the capital, Port-au-Prince, to honor slain police, repeating his refusal to leave office before his term ends Feb. 7, 2006. It was not clear how many police officers has been killed in the uprising.

"I am ready to give my life if that is what it takes to defend my country," he said. "If wars are expensive, peace can be even more expensive."

The president spoke after a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Aristide had rebuffed a U.S. proposal that he defuse the situation by calling early elections and allowing a temporary board to govern Haiti until a president is chosen.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an interview with ABC Radio's "Live in America" program, said there is a "solid consensus" on the Haitian issue among the United States, the Organization of American States, the United Nations, France and Canada. He said the international community must do what it can to help Aristide in his capacity as Haiti's elected leader.

Earlier this week, Powell said the United States was reluctant to send military personnel to Haiti to help resolve the bloody uprising. Only France, Haiti's former colonizer, is considering sending peacekeepers.

Powell also said that while the United States was not planning to try to persuade Aristide to resign before his term ends, it would not object if he agreed to leave ahead of schedule.

"He is the president for some time to come yet. You know, if an agreement is reached that moves that in another direction, that's fine," he said.

Aristide was chosen as Haiti's first freely elected leader in a landslide election in 1990. Eight months later he was ousted by the army and took refuge in the United States. He was restored to power by a U.S. invasion in 1994 and disbanded the army.

At the ceremony for police, Aristide called for the international community to recognize that his is a legitimate government fighting for democracy against a band of terrorists.

And he asked police officers to help Haitians preserve democracy.

"I order the police to accompany the people courageously with the constitution as their guide," he said. "When the police are united to the people, they are invincible."

Yet Haiti's police force — which Aristide said numbers less than 4,000 — is outnumbered and outgunned by rebels in outlying posts, where insurgents have been burning stations and attacking officers, causing them to flee.

"We have a single strategy, to liberate all the cities in all the districts," Winter Etienne, a leader of the Gonaives Resistance Front, said Wednesday.

He said rebels from various groups are united behind one commander: Guy Philippe, a former police chief accused of planning a 2001 attack on Haiti's National Palace that killed 10. Philippe has returned to Haiti from exile, and was believed to have crossed over from the Dominican Republic recently.

"We have the same objective — to oust Aristide," Etienne said.

Barricades of car chassis, scrap metal and trees blocked highways at the edge of the northern port of Cap-Haitien, which with about a half-million residents.

Aristide loyalists manning the barricades said no one would be allowed past. Residents formed long lines to obtain gasoline since supply routes are blocked. Other Aristide backers patrolled with guns, vowing to take a stand against the rebellion.

"We have machetes and guns, and we will resist," carpenter Pierre Frandley said.

Police took refuge in their station, making clear they were too scared to patrol the streets. But children returned to school Thursday after rumors of a looming rebel attack prompted classes to be canceled two days earlier.

Haiti has suffered 32 coups in 200 years of independence, the last one when the army ousted Aristide in 1991. President Clinton sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994 to end the brutal military dictatorship, restore Aristide and halt an exodus of Haitian refugees to Florida.

The recent crisis has been brewing since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000. Donors froze millions in international aid, leaving Aristide no means to keep election promises to Haiti's poor.

Since then, Aristide has lost support amid charges he uses police and militants to terrorize opponents and allows corruption fueled by drug-trafficking to go unchecked.

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday threw its weight behind Caribbean and Latin American efforts to find a peaceful political solution but said there was no discussion about sending U.N. peacekeepers.

___ Associated Press reporter George Gedda contributed to this story from Washington.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Posted February 18, 2004
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feb_17_pro_11.jpg (74976 bytes)
In Haiti and elsewhere, why Haitians say uncommonly genocidal dictator Aristide must go
CORRECTED. Fear, panic as dark new force enters Haiti revolt
By Michael Christie, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 18 (Reuters) - Haiti faced fresh violence on Wednesday after a notorious death squad leader and his band of hardened ex-soldiers arrived to reinforce a revolt that threatens President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Government supporters flung up new street barricades and gunmen attacked a gas station as panic and fear spread through the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation.

The appearance of exiled right-wing militia leader Louis Jodel Chamblain has added a new dimension to the hitherto disorganized rebellion against Aristide -- once viewed as the champion of Haitian democracy but who now faces accusations of corruption and political violence.

Many, including the government, believe the Haiti's dispirited police face a challenge they do not have the ability, or the weapons, to overcome without outside help.

"Is Aristide going to negotiate his departure with the Chamblains, or with us? That's the choice," said Charles Baker, a leader of the political opposition that has distanced itself from the armed revolt, but still refuses to negotiate an end to political tensions unless Aristide resigns.

The port of Saint Marc, midway between Port-au-Prince and the city of Gonaives, where the armed revolt began almost two weeks ago, was locked down on Tuesday evening by militia manning barricades to defend it against possible attack, according to a Reuters photographer.

In downtown Port-au-Prince, gunmen drove past a gas station during the night and fired at it until it exploded in flames. A few days ago, a pro-government leader in the area had said gas stations owned by opposition sympathizers would be attacked.

Residents in that part of the city have been enraged by the murder of the police chief of the central town of Hinche on Monday by gunmen who returned with Chamblain from the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Radio stations also reported a climate of fear in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, the impoverished country's second-largest, where government loyalists attacked suspected rebel sympathizers in the days after the outbreak of the armed rebellion in Gonaives on Feb. 5.

The arrival of Chamblain, a leader of the FRAPH paramilitary force that terrorized Haitians during a military dictatorship in the early 1990s, and of former Cap-Haitien police chief Guy Philippe, whom Aristide accused of coup-mongering, prompted widespread condemnation.


While making it clear that Washington would not support a government installed through violence, Secretary of State Colin Powell all but ruled out foreign police or military forces and said on Tuesday his favored a political settlement.

France, Haiti's former colonial master until Napoleon's army was routed in a slave revolt 200 years ago, was noncommittal about when it would send a peacekeeping force.

Nevertheless, many Haitians expect some form of foreign intervention. The Haitian government appealed for international help in the form of technical assistance to the 5,000-strong police force, which was set up after Aristide disbanded the army a decade ago. He had been ousted in a military coup shortly after beginning his first term in 1991, but restored to office by a U.S. invasion in 1994.

The opposition, which accuses Aristide of becoming dictatorial but which the government dismisses as a rich mulatto elite intent on defending the spoils of privilege, condemned what it saw as the international community's apparent intention to again help the former parish priest retain power.

Baker dismissed calls to negotiate new parliamentary elections. Haiti's political impasse dates back to parliamentary elections in 2000 that were declared flawed. The opposition boycotted presidential elections later that year which handed Aristide a second term.

"His monopoly on violence is throughout the country, with one exception -- the north," said Baker. "If the international community comes in with troops and gives him back his hold on violence, he'll steal the election again. Who are they trying to fool?"

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

Aid group warns of humanitarian crisis in Haiti, as rebels make gains
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb. 18 (AFP) - Rebellion-torn Haiti faces a potential humanitarian disaster, a leading French aid group warned, as armed opponents of President Jean Bertrand Aristide made further gains on the ground.

The UN Security Council, meanwhile, called for a peaceful solution to the escalating crisis in Haiti, where more than 55 people have been killed in the past two weeks in an armed uprising against the government.

Port-au-Prince, the capital, and Cap Haitien, the country's second-largest city, were quiet on Wednesday, but residents said police had fled a number of small towns along the border with the Dominican Republic.

A resident of Cap Haitien told AFP by telephone that armed Aristide supporters had used old trucks and large stones to barricade the two main roads into the city.

Residents said police have fled the towns of Maissade, Belladere, Thomonde, Pandiassou and Savanette along the border with the Dominican Republic.

In Belladere, officers gave away the police station's furniture before leaving town, they said. After the police left, people stripped what was left, even taking away doors and windows.

Armed rebels in the area -- whose main town, Hinche, fell to the opposition on Monday -- have not occupied the towns but were making incursions in new Toyota four-wheel-drive vehicles, residents said.

In Paris, Action against Hunger (ACF), a leading French non-governmental group, said the violence tearing apart the Caribbean nation will lead to major food shortages within weeks if the international community does nothing.

"The situation has not stopped deteriorating for the Haitian people under the indifference of their leaders and the gaze of an international community waiting on the sidelines," ACF said in a statement.

The group said the situation could worsen within two or three weeks because of the near paralysis of land transport.

ACF -- which has been in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, since 1988 -- urged that food and water distribution be set up, especially for children and the elderly.

In New York, the 15-nation UN Security Council condemned the bloodshed in Haiti and urged Aristide and opposition leaders to "restore confidence and dialogue."

"Members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern over the increasing violence and political crisis in Haiti leading to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation," it said.

"Council members strongly condemned these acts of violence and called upon all those who perpetrate them to put an end to such action. They also expressed their deep concern at the massive violations of human rights occurring in Haiti."

Aristide's government has appealed for international assistance to help put down the rebellion but has been rebuffed by the United States, while diplomats at the UN said the Security Council was not prepared to consider sending UN forces. Instead, the council threw its weight behind the efforts of Caricom (the Caribbean Community) and the Organization of American States to try to end the crisis.

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia said, meanwhile, that it was "very difficult" to control the border with Haiti and that some of Aristide's opponents may have infiltrated the country from the Dominican Republic, as the Haitian government has charged.

In another development, Canada's Air Transat announced that it was suspending flights between Montreal and Port-au-Prince until April because of the security situation.

Aristide, who has vowed to stay in office until his term ends in 2006, has been ruling by decree after failed elections last year left Haiti without a functioning legislature.

In 1994, US president Bill Clinton sent 20,000 troops to return Aristide to power after he was ousted in a coup. The country's army was disbanded in 1995 and it has a 5,300-strong police force to maintain order.

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Haiti uprising spreads as PM seeks help
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 17 - Haiti's prime minister warned Tuesday of an impending coup and appealed for international help to contend with a bloody uprising that has claimed 57 lives. But the United States and France expressed reluctance to send troops to put down the rebellion.

Aid agencies called for urgent international action, warning Haiti is on "the verge of a generalized civil war." The U.N. refugee agency met with officials in Washington to discuss how to confront a feared exodus of Haitians.

On Tuesday, airlines in Port-au-Prince canceled flights to the northern port of Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, after witnesses in the barricaded city saw a boat approach and rumors swept the town that rebels were about to attack.

In the western port of St. Marc, an American missionary said his life has been threatened by supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"We are witnessing the coup d'etat machine in motion," Prime Minister Yvon Neptune said Tuesday, urging the international community "to show it really wants peace and stability."

Haiti's 5,000-member police force appears unable to stem the revolt, but Aristide and Neptune stopped short of asking for military intervention.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday "there is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence."

Powell said the international community wants to see "a political solution" and only then would willing nations offer a police presence to implement such an agreement.

Powell spoke by telephone with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who called an emergency meeting in Paris on Tuesday to weigh the risks of sending peacekeepers and discuss how otherwise to help Haiti, an impoverished former colony that is home to 2,000 French citizens.

"We have to reflect on what we can do, for example, in the framework of the Security Council," de Villepin said.

De Villepin stopped short of saying France would send troops and acknowledged the difficulty of such a deployment when a nation is embroiled in rebellion.

But France could contribute from its overseas territories in the region, he said. The French Defense Ministry said it has 4,000 military personnel at two bases in the area, in Martinique and Guadeloupe.

"An intervention force ... implies a stop to the violence, a restart to dialogue," he said. "Nothing will be possible in Haiti if there isn't a jolt."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday the world body plans to "become much more actively engaged" in Haiti's crisis. Officials from several U.N. agencies went to the country Feb. 8 to assess the humanitarian situation and are expected to return to report at the end of the week.

Meanwhile, Canada offered nearly $1 million in medical and food aid, and the United States said it was ready to give $500,000 in humanitarian assistance through the United Nations .

"We are calling for a truce," U.S. Ambassador James Foley said Tuesday. "It doesn't mean that we want to maintain the status quo. ... Haiti cannot continue living without a state of law, with politicized and demoralized police, armed gangs."

The United States has staged three military interventions in Haiti, the last in 1994, when it sent 20,000 troops to end a military dictatorship that had ousted Aristide and halt an influx of Haitian boat people to Florida.

Aristide, who was wildly popular when he became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990, has lost support since his party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000. He is accused of using police and armed militants to stifle dissent and allowing corruption to fund lavish lifestyles for his cronies as the majority of the 8 million people suffer deeper misery.

Growing protests have challenged his authority, and scores of people were killed in clashes between police, Aristide militants and anti-government demonstrators before the rebellion.

The revolt was launched Feb. 5 by a ragtag cadre of former Aristide supporters who enlisted a former army death squad leader, an escaped convict and a police chief accused of fomenting a coup two years ago.

They now control roads leading to the Artibonite district, Haiti's breadbasket and home to 1 million people, and have cut supplies of food and fuel to northern Haiti.

Witnesses said 50 rebels led by former death squad leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain descended on Hinche on Monday, freeing prisoners, torching the police station and killing the police chief and two officers. The attackers also burned down police stations in nearby towns of Pandiassou and Maissade, they said.

On Tuesday, residents staged a demonstration in favor of the rebels, who set up camp outside the town but returned throughout the day, Radio Metropole reported.

Radio Vision 2000 quoted residents as saying dogs were chewing on the charred remains of a prisoner who apparently died when rebels set the jail ablaze.

It said police and government loyalists had holed up at Mirebalais, just south of Hinche, setting up barricades that blocked the entrance and exit to the town against any rebel incursion.

Reprisal killings, looting and torching of homes have been carried out by both sides.

American missionary Terry Snow said he was threatened Tuesday by 10 Aristide partisans, from the "Clean Sweep" gang that he has seen taking direct orders from Aristide.

On Monday they told him they him they were going to "kill some bad people." On Tuesday, he was told "If you don't shut up, we'll kill you."

Snow, 39, from Granbury, Texas, told The Associated Press that he has asked the 20 missionaries to leave St. Marc but that he is staying though "we are fearful of the night."

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Canada ready to send police oficers to Haiti     
By Agence France-Presse

OTTAWA, Feb. 17 (AFP) - Canada may provide around 100 police officers for any international force that is sent to Haiti, but only if the political situation in the country improves, Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham said.

Graham made it clear that he does not believe Canada should send troops to the strife-torn country.

But, he told reporters, Canada would be willing to send French-speaking police officers to Haiti as long as both the government of Jean Bertrand Aristide and opposition agreed to improve the political situation.

"Canada will go forward if there a political solution," he said. "Aristide must accept some conditions, the opposition too. Aristide must put in a new prime minister."

Graham said he was still committed to support a plan put forward by Haiti's Caribbean neighbours. The 15-nation Caribbean Community opposes the forceful ouster of Aristide.

International Development Minister Aileen Carroll announced a 1.15 million dollar (860,000 US) aid package for Haiti, comprising 800,000 to be provided via the United Nations and 350,000 dollars for the Red Cross to provide "immediate medical aid."

Haiti suffering a coup; PM seeks help
By Mark Stevenson, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb, 17 - Haiti's premier said his country was in the throes of a coup and appealed Tuesday for international help — even as Washington and Paris stated reluctance to use force to stop the bloody uprising.

Prime Minister Yvon Neptune made his plea a day after former soldiers joined the rebellion, seizing the key central city of Hinche, burning the police station, freeing prisoners — and increasing the potential for a full-scale civil war.

Rebels also control most roads leading in and out of the Artibonite, home to almost 1 million people, and have isolated the north by chasing police from a dozen towns. At least 56 people have been killed.

"We are witnessing the coup d'etat machine in motion," Neptune told reporters. He said Haiti's 5,000-member police force is ill-equipped to respond and that he expects the international community "to show that it really wants peace and stability in Haiti."

He refused to say if that meant a military intervention, and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Monday said he had asked the Organization of American States only for "technical assistance."

Still, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that "there is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence that we are seeing."

Powell, speaking on CNN, said the international community wants to see "a political solution" and only then would willing nations offer a police presence to implement such an agreement.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called an emergency meeting Tuesday weigh the risks of sending peacekeepers and how otherwise to help the impoverished island, a former colony that is home to 2,000 French citizens.

"Can we deploy a peacekeeping force?" he asked on France-Inter radio, noting it "is very difficult" when a nation is in the midst of violence.

He said France had 4,000 troops in its Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe trained in humanitarian work. "We are in contact with all of our partners in the framework of the United Nations, which has sent a humanitarian mission to Haiti to see what is possible."

The United States has staged three military interventions in Haiti, the last in 1994 when it sent 20,000 troops to end a military dictatorship that had ousted Aristide and halt an influx of Haitian boat people to Florida.

Fearing a new exodus, spokesman Ron Redmond of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the agency was meeting Tuesday in Washington with U.S. and Caribbean officials to discuss how to cope with any flight of Haitians. So far, there has been no significant increase in Haitians fleeing for U.S. shores as they did in the 1990s.

"We would certainly hope that these governments would receive fleeing asylum seekers," with UNHCR ready to help, Redmond told reporters.

Aid officials warned of a humanitarian crisis and a statement from several nongovernment organizations operating in Haiti warned the revolt is bringing the country "to the verge of a generalized civil war."

Witnesses said about 50 rebels descended Monday on the station in Hinche and killed three officers before the police fled the city of 50,000. Hinche is about 70 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince.

On Tuesday, it was impossible to reach Hinche because police and armed Aristide supporters have erected barricades blocking the road at the town of Mirebalais, just south of the city.

Witnesses said the rebels were led by Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former soldier sentenced to death in absentia who led the feared paramilitary group FRAPH — the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti — which killed and maimed hundreds of Aristide supporters under military dictatorship between 1991 and 1994.

Aristide, a slum priest who preached revolution to Haiti's poor, swept 1990 elections to become the country's first freely elected leader. He was ousted in a coup in 1991, restored by U.S. troops in 1994, and disbanded the army in 1995.

In its place is a police force estimated at less than 5,000 people trained to deal with riots, not combat, that in outlying posts is outnumbered and outgunned by the rebels.

There are not believed to be more than 100 rebels in Gonaives, where the rebellion to oust Aristide exploded Feb. 5. But they repelled a police attack to retake the city last week in fighting that killed 30 people, mostly officers, according to the Haitian Red Cross.

At least 56 people have died as the revolt has spread from Gonaives, about 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince.

Reprisal killings continue in rebel-held and police-held areas. On Sunday night, Aristide loyalists reportedly killed two anti-government supporters in the port town of St. Marc.

Aristide refused Monday to discuss strategies for halting the revolt.

"A group of terrorists are breaking democratic order," Aristide said. "We have the responsibility to use the law and dialogue to take a peaceful way" to quell the uprising that has blocked food, fuel and medical shipments to northern Haiti.

Discontent has grown in Haiti, a nation of 8 million people, since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000 and international donors froze millions of dollars.

Aristide is accused of using the police and armed militants to stifle dissent and allowing corrupt officials to enrich themselves while Haitians suffer deepening poverty.

Opposition politicians refuse to participate in new elections unless Aristide steps down, and the rebels say they will lay down their weapons only when he is ousted.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Posted Monday, February 16, 2004
Haiti rebels kill police chief
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

GONAIVES, Haiti, Feb. 16 - Haiti's rebellion spread to the central city of Hinche on Monday as rebels and former soldiers killed at least three officers at a police station. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pleaded for foreign help to stop the bloodshed.

The rebels descended on the police station in Hinche, about 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince, according to a Haitian security official who spoke on condition of anonymity. They killed district police chief Maxime Jonas, pushed police out of the city and threatened government supporters, the official said.

Please see also: related photos


At least 56 people have died since the rebellion aimed at ousting Aristide exploded Feb. 5 in the city of Gonaives.

About 50 rebels descended on the police station in Hinche, about 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince. They killed district police chief Maxime Jonas, pushed police out of the city and freed prisoners from the jail before burning the station.

Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former Haitian soldier who led a paramilitary group known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, which killed and maimed hundreds of people between 1991 and 1994, reportedly led the attack, according to witnesses.

The attack was considered a serious blow and the first to the city of 50,000 people where corn, millet and beans are produced. The rebels now control most roads leading in and out of the Artibonite district, a rich agricultural area home to almost 1 million people.

"Blood has flowed in Hinche," Arstide told reporters at a news conference late Monday, saying he had asked for technical assistance from the Organization of American States. "It may be that the police cannot cope with this kind of attack."

Aristide refused to talk about strategies for halting the unrest or whether he would ask for military assistance. He did, however, say the government would use peaceful means to quell the uprising that has prevented food, fuel and medical shipments.

"A group of terrorists are breaking democratic order," Aristide said. "We have the responsibility to use the law and dialogue to take a peaceful way."

Rebels armed with machetes and rifles escorted an aid convoy led by the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross into Gonaives on Monday. The convoy was carrying 1.6 tons of supplies, including blood and surgical equipment.

A surgeon and a physician were also sent to treat some 40 people wounded in the fighting.

"We are here to bring urgently needed medical assistance to Gonaives," Pedro Isely, leader of the Red Cross mission in Haiti, said Monday after arriving in the city.

In addition to the medical relief, the international non-governmental organization, CARE, began distributing food to people in Gonaives. About 50,000 people will receive a gallon of vegetable oil, while others will get sacks of cereals, said Sandy Laumark, director of CARE in Haiti. The distribution will last about 10 days.

The rebels launched the rebellion from Gonaives, 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince, unleashing a deadly wave of violence that has spread to more than a dozen towns. Both sides have suffered casualties.

On Sunday night, Aristide loyalists reportedly killed two anti-government supporters in the port town of St. Marc.

Although the rebels are thought to number less than Haiti's 5,000-member police force, exiled paramilitary leaders and police have joined their forces, vowing to oust Aristide.

"They have joined us. We have created a national resistance," Winter Etienne, one of the rebel leaders in Gonaives, said Monday. "We're going to take a major part of Haiti."

Also helping is Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled to the Dominican Republic after being accused by the Haitian government of fomenting a coup in 2002.

"We don't have any platform," said Philippe, 35, in an interview taped Saturday that was obtained by Associated Press Television News. "Our fight is for a better country ... We are fighting for the presidency, we're fighting for the people."

In an attempt to keep police and government supporters out, the rebels have used shipping containers to block the highway leading into Gonaives. The blockades have halted most food, fuel and medical shipments to more than 250,000 people.

The unrest has also affected hospitals. In St. Marc, rebels torched a clinic. In Gonaives, a gunbattle between police and rebels left three dead inside the hospital.

Hospital administrator Gabriel Honorat said the wounded are being cared for in their homes.

"We have no medicine. It is urgent," he said.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, is sending 16 tons of medical equipment to Haiti. The supplies consist mainly of surgical and dressing kits for hospitals and clinics helped by the aid group, said Erwin Vantland, a spokesman.

Discontent has grown in this Caribbean country of 8 million people since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000 and international donors froze millions of dollars.

The unrest has deepened as more people have taken sides in the fight.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the United States and other nations "will accept no outcome that ... attempts to remove the elected president of Haiti."

The United States sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994 to end a bloody military dictatorship, restore Aristide and halt an exodus of refugees to Florida.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Aristide's foes, supporters hurl rocks in Haiti protest
By Michael Christie, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 15 (Reuters) - The Haitian political opposition's first march since an armed revolt erupted 10 days ago disintegrated on Sunday when students exchanged volleys of rocks with supporters of embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Police drove the demonstrators away with tear gas and shots into the air and soon after the student protesters left, the streets in that part of the capital filled with supporters of the president shouting "Aristide for life."

Nobody appeared to have been hurt in the confrontation.

About 1,000 people calling for Aristide to resign had joined the march in Port-au-Prince, far fewer than the opposition had hoped for and also far fewer than had taken part in a wave of anti-Aristide demonstrations in recent months.

The revolt broke out when an armed gang that formerly supported Aristide took over the western port city of Gonaives on Feb. 5, and it has piled pressure on the president.

The once widely popular former parish priest, who is halfway through his second term and says he intends to stay the course to 2006, was already under fire from political opponents accusing him of trampling on civil rights and failing to ease chronic poverty afflicting much of Haiti's population of 8 million.

Up to 50 people have been killed in the revolt, which appears to have reached an uneasy stalemate, with the rebels controlling Gonaives and several other towns, but the government and its supporters preventing further spread.

Opposition leaders, who called Sunday's march after Aristide loyalists thwarted a planned demonstration on Thursday, said people were scared to venture out on Sunday because they feared intimidation from youth gangs they say are armed by the government.


"When someone comes to the march he is literally putting his life in danger," Charles Baker, a leader of the Group of 184 opposition coalition, told Reuters.

Critics of Aristide have long condemned what they say is his use of armed gangs to intimidate political opponents.

The rally began with only about 150 people in the affluent district of Petionville, on a hilltop above the sprawling capital of 2 million people.

But when about 50 police equipped with riot helmets and gas masks arrived to accompany the march, several hundred more people poured out of houses and side streets to join the protest, apparently reassured the march would be protected.

"We people in Haiti died in 1804 to get this country free and if we have to die in 2004 to be free from Aristide we are going to be free," said one protester, Jacques Robert, 53, referring to the bloody struggle that led to Haiti's independence from France 200 years ago.

The demonstration began to go wrong after a couple of hours when about half the marchers ignored police requests to divert around a poor neighborhood where trouble has often erupted in past demonstrations.

Breaking away from the political leaders of the opposition, students charged down a main street and quickly began throwing rocks at what they said were supporters of the ruling Lavalas Family Party waiting for them with guns.

Volleys of rocks were exchanged and the occasional gunshot was heard.

Police, firing into the air, entered the slum area where the Lavalas supporters were, but came back out without having arrested anyone. A confrontation broke out between police and students and police used tear gas and shot into the air to scatter the demonstrators.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

Posted Saturday, February 14, 2004
Dominicans come to aid of rebels
By Ian James, Associated Press Writer

GONAIVES, Haiti, Feb. 14 - Haitian rebels seeking to topple the president brought in reinforcements from the neighboring Dominican Republic, including the exiled former leader of 1980s death squads and a former police chief accused of fomenting a coup, witnesses said Saturday, as police fled two more northern towns.

Twenty commandos arrived, led by Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former Haitian soldier who headed army death squads in 1987 and a militia known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, which killed and maimed dozens of people between 1992 and 1994.

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Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled to the Dominican Republic after being accused by the Haitian government of fomenting a coup in 2002, also arrived in Gonaives to help the rebels prepare for an expected showdown with the government. It was unclear when the volunteers arrived.

Witnesses reached by telephone said the men were working with rebels in Gonaives but were massing in Saint-Michel de l'Atalaye, about 28 miles to the east.

The rebels launched a bloody uprising nine days ago from Gonaives, 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince and Haiti's fourth-largest city, seeking President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ouster. Some 50 people have been killed.

"Chamblain and his men are taking advantage of the situation to further their own ends, ends that would mean the perversion of the democratic movement," said Himler Rebu, an opposition leader and former army colonel who led a failed coup attempt in 1989 against Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril.

He warned the international community that the longer Aristide stays in power, the harder it will be to restore order in Haiti.

Discontent has grown in this Caribbean country of 8 million people since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000 and international donors froze millions of dollars in aid.

However, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the United States and other nations "will accept no outcome that ... attempts to remove the elected president of Haiti."

The United States sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994 to end a bloody military dictatorship, restore Aristide and halt an exodus of refugees to Florida.

Washington says it plans no new military intervention in the current crisis.

Rebel roadblocks have halted most food and fuel shipments since the unrest began. Emergency supplies of flour, cooking oil and other basics are projected to run out in four days in northern areas, where roadblocks are guarded by rebels who have seized Gonaives and burned police stations in more than a dozen other towns. Nearby, rebels blocked the road outside Trou-du-Nord leading to the Dominican border at Ouanaminthe. Merchants turned back, saying the barricade of boulders and cars has cut supplies coming from the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

U.N. representative Adama Guindo appealed to police and rebels to open a "humanitarian corridor." Barricades have blocked deliveries to some 268,000 people dependent on food aid in northern Haiti.

Rebels also have retaken the town of Dondon and burned dozens of houses of Aristide supporters, according to witnesses who fled to the nearby northern port of Cap-Haitien. Police retook the town Feb. 9, when Aristide militants torched nine opposition houses.

Overnight, rebels also attacked police in Saint Suzanne, some 20 miles southwest of Cap-Haitien, according to witnesses reached by telephone.

Haiti has only 5,000 police officers and those manning outlying towns often are outnumbered and outgunned by insurgents.

"The population, which is cut off completely from other parts of the country, is finding itself in a very risky, very dangerous situation," Prime Minister Yvon Neptune said in the capital, Port-au-Prince, which has been unaffected by unrest to the north.

Rebels lit flaming tire barricades early Saturday outside Gonaives and patrolled with rifles amid rumors police were planning to counterattack.

Opposition leaders planned a mass protest in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. On Thursday, Aristide militants crushed a planned anti-government demonstration, stoning opponents and blocking the protest route. Protests have been steady since mid-September.

Opposition politicians refuse to participate in new elections unless Aristide steps down, and the rebels say they will lay down their weapons only when he is ousted.

Many who once backed Aristide have turned on him as poverty deepens while the president's clique enjoys lavish lifestyles that some claim are funded by corruption.

Gas and food prices have more than doubled and more than half the population has fled mounting violence in recent months.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Tensions high in Haiti's restive north
By Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb. 14 (AFP) - Rebels pushing to oust President Jean Bertrand Aristide have torched the homes of dozens of his supporters in Haiti's north and cut off a key highway, putting food deliveries in peril, authorities said.

Cap Haitien Mayor Wilmar Innocent said about 50 homes of pro-government residents were burned over the past several days in nearby Dondon, while about nine homes of opposition sympathizers also were charred in reprisal attacks. About 50 people have been killed since the troubles started last week.

Armed rebels are in control of Dondon, just south of Cap Haitien, its mayor said, adding that the insurgents were blocking a main highway.

Fast-moving former staff members of the military, disbanded by Aristide in 1995, from Haiti's east-central region were operating in the north based out of Saint-Michel de l'Atalaye, several sources indicated to AFP.

The former military members were acting in a sort of alliance with rebels in Gonaives, Haiti's fourth-largest city.

Rebels clung to control of Gonaives even as the Red Cross and the United Nations warned that chaos imperiled hospitals and cut food deliveries in the north of the poorest country in the Americas.

Rebels seeking to oust Aristide took the northern city of Gonaives on February 5 and continued on to other towns, insisting they could fight off any police attempt to retake the city.

"Any police operation will be pushed back because we have the means, the desire and the conviction to do so," Winter Etienne, a leader of the Revolutionary Artibonite Resistance Front, told AFP.

Etienne said the rebels could "free" more cities, including the country's second-largest city of Cap Haitien.

Meanwhile, a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship cancelled a stopover planned for Monday at the beach in Labadie, west of Cap Haitien, a source close to the company said.

In Washington on Friday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said after meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Bill Graham, and a representative of the 15-nation Caribbean community, Caricom, that the forcible removal of Aristide was not acceptable.

"We will accept no outcome that in any way illegally removes the elected president of Haiti," Powell said, but added: "What we need from Aristide now is action, and not only words and expressions of support." Powell flatly excluded any US intention to intervene militarily in Haiti.

"There is no plan, and we (have) discussed no plan here, for military or other kinds of intervention," he said.

In 1994, president Bill Clinton sent 20,000 troops to return Aristide to power after he was ousted in a coup.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said medical facilities were grinding to a halt as staff feared for their safety and victims of violence were afraid to visit hospitals and seek treatment.

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

Posted Friday, February 13, 2004
Food, medical crisis looms in Haiti chaos
By Ian James, Associated Press Writer

GONAIVES, Haiti, Feb. 13 - A food and medical crisis threatened this rebel-held city Friday as gunmen sped through streets in looted trucks, reinforcing barricades against a feared police offensive to halt an uprising that has killed at least 49 people in Haiti.

Roadblocks have halted most food shipments since the rebellion started last week.

"The problem is very grave," said Raoul Elysee, of the Haitian Red Cross, meeting with rebels and aid officials to discuss ways to deliver food, medicine and fuel.

*Mildred Trouillot-Aristide, the wife of tyrant Aristide, left Haiti for the U.S. today with her two kids / Related photos / When philosophy makes a difference / What runs in the family isn't success

Emergency supplies of flour, cooking oil and other basics will run out in four days, he said.

In Washington, Western Hemisphere nations called Friday on parties to the Haiti conflict to move quickly on implementing confidence-building measures to ensure a peaceful, democratic outcome.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the verbal support offered by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide for a political solution is not enough.

"What we need now is action," Powell told reporters after meeting with hemispheric colleagues at the State Department.

Aristide, he said, "must reach out to the opposition, to make sure that thugs are not allowed to break up peaceful demonstrations." He was referring to violent tactics allegedly used in recent days by Aristide's supporters.

But, Powell said, the United States and other hemispheric countries agree on the need for a constitutional outcome.

"We will accept no outcome that, in any way, attempts to remove the elected president of Haiti," he said. Opposition politicians refuse to participate in elections to rectify flawed 2000 balloting, swept by Aristide's party, unless Haiti's leader steps down. He refuses.

The rebels say they will lay down their weapons only if they oust Aristide — but they are short on answers for dealing with immediate human needs and Haiti's deepening poverty.

At the hospital in Gonaives, the country's fourth-largest city, where the rebellion erupted Feb. 5, more than a dozen people waited to see doctors who never showed up. The Red Cross warned the unrest was jeopardizing urgent health care needs.

Relatives took patients from the hospital after the fighting broke out, carrying them on their backs or on motorcycles, said Cerrament Herat, 68, a hospital janitor.

Only one badly malnourished man remained in the hospital Friday, lying unattended in a bed.

"I came here to find some help for my son and there is no one to help us," said Yolande Saintil, holding her 8-year-old son, who she said was suffering from a fever and stomach ache. "I've been coming since Monday. There are no doctors."

Another janitor, Pierre Joseph, said doctors were afraid to return following a gun battle at the hospital a week ago, when police stormed in carrying a wounded officer. With rebels in pursuit and officers in a panic, the police opened fire inside the hospital walls, killing at least three civilian bystanders, who were trying to hide, he said.

Rebels dragged a wounded officer from the hospital and stoned him to death, smashing in his head, according to an Associated Press photographer. Police had tried to retake the city from the rebels, but failed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that many people in need of medical care were not getting it and urged combatants to respect international rules of combat.

"Persons not directly participating in the clashes, including those who surrender or who are no longer capable of fighting because they are wounded, sick or captured ... may not be attacked and must be treated humanely," the Geneva-based committee said.

Schools and many shops remained closed in Gonaives. A single bank reopened Friday, while dozens of people stood outside another one, desperate for cash transfers from relatives overseas that are some families' sole source of income.

Gas prices have more than doubled, with fuel mainly reaching the city in small bottles brought by motorcycle couriers.

More than half the population has fled Gonaives to escape escalating violence in recent months, leaving about 100,000 people, Elysee said.

In the western city of St. Marc, where police have driven out rebels, anti-Aristide militants burned down a clinic Wednesday because officials refused to hand over two wounded anti-government militants.

U.N. representative Adama Guindo appealed to police and rebels to open a "humanitarian corridor" to northern Haiti, which has been inaccessible because of barricades, some manned by drunken and aggressive thugs.

The U.N. World Food Program has been unable to deliver food to some 268,000 people dependent on food aid in northern Haiti. The agency is negotiating to get 1,000 pounds of rice delivered next week to the port of Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city of more than half-a-million people.

Aristide militants have barricaded the city to guard against any rebel incursion. A barge of gasoline was on the way to the city, which has been without gas and power for nearly a week.

Rebels on Friday discussed how to better defend Gonaives against a police attack. Some set up a heavy machine gun at the edge of town while others added discarded refrigerators and other junk to barricades fortifying the city.

There appear to be about 100 rebels in Gonaives. The police force for Haiti's 8 million people numbers only 5,000 — and they often are outnumbered and outgunned.

An opposition coalition plans a mass demonstration in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Sunday calling for Aristide's resignation. Attempts to hold one Thursday were crushed by Aristide militants, who stoned protesters and blocked the protest route with flaming barricades.

___ Associated Press reporter George Gedda contributed to this story from Washington.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

U.S. warns Haiti opposition against Aristide ouster
By Reuters

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (Reuters) - Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Haiti's opposition on Friday against ousting President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was restored to power a decade ago by a U.S. invasion and now faces an armed revolt.

"We will accept no outcome that is not consistent with the constitution. We will accept no outcome that in any way illegally attempts to remove the elected president of Haiti," Powell told reporters after a crisis meeting with mediators.

Flanked by Canadian and Caribbean ministers in a show of regional unity to resolve the Haiti crisis peacefully, Powell said the nations were mulling whether to send police to bolster Haitian authorities.

Powell urged the former Roman Catholic priest, who was elected to a second term in 2000, to comply with an accord mediated by the CARICOM bloc of Caribbean nations that included his pledge to disarm gangs aligned with political parties.

Up to 50 people have died in the rebellion, which capped months of anti-government demonstrations and years of political tensions dating from contested parliamentary elections in 2000.

The United States is worried the crisis could provoke an exodus of refugees from Haiti similar to one in the early 1990s. It has a contingency plan to house any new wave at its Guantanamo Naval base on Cuba, where it also detains enemies in its war on terrorism.

Powell said there was no plan at this point for military intervention in the poorest nation in the Americas.

U.S. officials have been leery of foreigners helping quell the violence for fear they would become targets of armed gangs or be viewed as favoring one side or the other.

The United States says the surge in violence stems from Aristide's practice of using gangs of thugs to intimidate political opponents.

"What we need now from President Aristide is action and not just expressions and words of support" (for the CARICOM agreement), he said.

Considered a champion of Haiti's fledging democracy when he became its first elected leader in 1990, Aristide has seen his once overwhelming popularity fade amid accusations of corruption, political violence and civil rights abuses.

"We will not accept a coup d'etat in any form. Any change in Haiti should be through constitutional means," Keith Knight, Jamaica's foreign minister and the current CARICOM head, said. "This should not be construed as uncritical support for the president of Haiti. It is support for democracy in Haiti."

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