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|Special Reports, Democracy v. Dictatorship (photos): The aftermath of Haiti's uncommonly vicious tyrant Aristide and his murderous regime's end (updated march 10, 2004) / Odious photographs of notorious criminal Amiot Metayer's body after he was brutally murdered by his uncommonly chief bandit Jean-Bertrand Aristide ... (Archives)|
|Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004|
|U.S. Marines kill at least two in Haiti|
|By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 13 - With anger growing over a U.S.-led peacekeeping operation, relatives of two people slain by American troops wailed in grief Saturday while other Haitians demanded the United States return ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the country.
Aristide, in exile in the Central African Republic since Feb. 29, was planning fly to Jamaica in the next few days to visit his family. He has claimed he was forced out by the U.S. government.
Some of the reasons why the Haitian National Police must be reformed: Haiti's radical leftist and totalitarian dictator Aristide says the graves are not yet full / Study finds a nation of polarized readers
A delegation of American and Jamaican officials including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and a representative of Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson was scheduled to leave Miami later Saturday on a charter plane for Central African Republic to bring Aristide to Jamaica, activist Randall Robinson told The Associated Press. Robinson said he also would be on the plane.
Haiti's new prime minister, Gerard Latortue, has warned that Aristide's return to the region would only increase tension in Haiti, and said he would not meet with the ousted leader. Aristide, who left Haiti on amid a bloody rebellion, planned to stay several weeks in Jamaica visiting with his family.
U.S. Marine Maj. Richard Crusan said the two men killed late Friday during a Marine patrol were gunmen who had previously fired on the soldiers, although their weapons were never recovered. Witnesses said the dead were bystanders.
"The Marines have very strict engagements of a target," Crusan said. "Did they hit other people? I doubt it."
However, at the tin shack home of 18-year-old Frantzy Louis, in Belair, relatives wailed and hugged each other, looking at pictures of the dead boy and saying he wouldn't have been holding a gun.
"He was playing basketball when the Americans and the French began firing," said Louis' brother, 24-year-old Rudy. "He wasn't political. All he did was study and play basketball. He dreamed of becoming a professional player."
Residents identified the other victim as Dread Pasteur, 29, and said it was possible more than two people were killed in the gunbattle.
Several people also were injured in Friday's gunbattle. One was Evans Dubuisson, 17, who said he was shot in the side after crossing the street to buy candles for his family.
Residents said it was the first time they had seen the U.S. troops enter the gritty neighborhood, blocks away from the National Palace, at night. Since Aristide left the country, residents here haven't had electricity or water, and the piles of trash have reached heights of more than 10 feet.
Gunbattles erupted, meanwhile, in the seaside slum of Cite Soleil on Saturday. The shantytown is also a pro-Aristide stronghold, but the gunfire was allegedly coming from gangs and not between peacekeepers and bandits. At least one person was wounded, and residents in the poor neighborhood said the fight began over a shipment of donated rice and flour.
Initially the U.S. Marines and French peacekeepers were sent to secure key sites and provide security. Their mission has changed, however, and now they are working with Haitian police to disarm the general population. U.S. troops have shot and killed at least six Haitians in the past week.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, arrived Saturday to check on the peacekeeping mission.
The violence is the biggest challenge facing Latortue, who was sworn in Friday and who has said bringing stability and peace to Haiti is his top priority.
Aristide has claimed he is still the legitimate leader of Haiti.
"Since the Americans kidnapped Aristide and made him leave the country, they should arrange for him to come back," said Daniel Charles, 33, a resident of Belair. "Aristide is Haitian. He's our leader, and we want him back in his country."
Patterson, chairman of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, has invited Latortue to visit Jamaica this weekend for talks on Haiti. It didn't appear he would go.
U.S. officials say Aristide asked for help and that they saved his life by arranging his departure aboard a U.S.-chartered aircraft during a bloody rebellion.
____ Associated Press reporters Ian James and Peter Prengaman contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Haiti's new Prime Minister is sworn in|
|By Peter Prengaman, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 13 - Haiti's new prime minister vowed to unite his country after a rebellion that pushed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power and criticized Jamaica's decision to host the exiled leader's return.
U.S. Marines, on patrol in a pro-Aristide neighborhood late Friday, killed two gunmen who opened fire on them, Marine Staff Sgt. Timothy Edwards said Saturday. U.S. troops have killed at least six Haitians after coming under attack or in efforts to prevent bloodshed.
The Marines also have engaged in nightly gunbattles with looters. On Friday, they guarded the National Palace as Latortue took the oath of office in front of 200 dignitaries and members of Haiti's former opposition.
"I"m a man of dialogue," the prime minister said. "I give you the assurance that I will work and listen to you all as much as possible."
Latortue said he would begin visiting cities across Haiti, starting with his hometown of Gonaives, where the bloody rebellion that ousted Aristide began Feb. 5.
Aristide fled Feb. 29 to exile in the Central African Republic, pressured by the United States and France and rebels moving in on the capital. At least 300 people have been killed during the rebellion and in reprisal violence since then.
Latortue warned that Aristide's plan to return to nearby Jamaica early next week was causing tension in the Haitian capital; he told Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson that hosting Aristide would be seen as "an unfriendly act."
Nonetheless, a U.S. and Jamaican delegation was scheduled to fly out of Miami on Saturday for Africa to escort Aristide back to the Caribbean. Delegates include U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and a representative of Patterson, African-American activist Randall Robinson told The Associated Press. Robinson said he also would be on the plane.
Aristide claims he is still Haiti's legitimate leader. Latortue denied that Friday, dampening speculation that the trip to Jamaica might lead to negotiations for the former president's return.
Latortue is a U.N. career officer and business consultant who arrived in Haiti on Wednesday after years in Florida. A U.S.-backed council earlier this week selected him to replace former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, an Aristide appointee.
Latortue said earlier Friday he wants to hold legislative elections in six to eight months.
"This is an occasion of hope for all Haitians," he said. "Together, we will form a responsible government that respects its institutions, and I will see that every dollar given to development projects will be well spent."
Latortue spoke with Patterson by telephone, and said the Jamaican leader told him Aristide "had no other place to go."
Patterson said Aristide would visit with his wife, Mildred, for eight to 10 weeks to be reunited with their two daughters, who were sent to New York City for their safety. Foreign Minister K.D. Knight said Aristide had been told not to use Jamaica as a staging post for any attempt to be reinstated in Haiti.
Patterson, chairman of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, has also invited Latortue to visit Jamaica this weekend for talks on Haiti. Latortue said if he goes, his trip will not overlap with Aristide's arrival.
Aristide claims he was abducted and forced from office by the United States. U.S. officials say Aristide asked for help and that they saved his life by arranging his departure aboard a U.S.-chartered aircraft during a bloody rebellion.
A Caribbean summit in Jamaica last week called for a U.N. investigation into Aristide's departure, a call echoed Wednesday by the 53-nation African Union. From Africa, Aristide has urged his followers to offer "peaceful resistance" to the U.S. "occupation."
Latortue reassured politicians from Aristide's Lavalas Family that they would be part of the transitional government. "We talked, and at times strongly disagreed," the prime minister said. "But we all agreed on the need for national reconciliation."
Rebel leader Guy Philippe said Friday he planned to travel around Haiti for several months "to know what my people want, to see how I can help." Philippe, who fled to the Dominican Republic amid charges he was plotting a coup in 2000, stressed he did not plan to run for office.
To promote security, Latortue wants his Cabinet to include retired army Chief of Staff Herard Abraham, who supports recreating Haiti's disgraced and disbanded army, a key rebel demand.
___ Associated Press writer Stevenson Jacobs contributed to this story from Port-au-Prince.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Posted Friday, March 12, 2004|
|Haiti leader objects to Aristide Jamaica trip|
|By Michael Christie and Ibon Villelabeitia, Reuters Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 12 (Reuters) - Haiti's new leader fired a diplomatic broadside at Jamaica on Friday for allowing ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to visit, while U.S. and French troops came under renewed attack by gunmen.
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, saying Aristide's planned return to the Caribbean had already stoked tensions, called Jamaica's decision to allow the former slum priest to visit from next week an "unfriendly act."
Latortue announced he might fly to Haiti's Caribbean neighbor this weekend to pursue an agreement with Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson to limit Aristide's stay.
"Since the word was known yesterday afternoon that Aristide is coming to Jamaica we have observed an increase in tensions in Port-au-Prince," Latortue told reporters.
He voiced his objections as U.S. Marines reported they had fought new gunbattles in a city where many people are seething over Aristide's departure. U.S. patrols came under attack in Port-au-Prince twice on Thursday evening.
The Marines, leading a 2,550-strong peace force of French, Canadian and Chilean troops, have fought at least half a dozen battles -- killing four people -- since they landed hours after Aristide fled into exile on Feb. 29.
Aristide, forced out by a month-long revolt and by U.S. pressure to quit, has insisted from exile in the Central African Republic that he is still president.
Latortue, named this week as part of a process to start restoring political order, said he had talked to Jamaican leader Patterson. "He has pledged that he will try to make Aristide's stay in Jamaica as short as possible," Latortue said.
Aristide, supported by many of the poor he championed but accused of despotism and corruption by his enemies, was expected to arrive on Tuesday on a visit that Jamaica originally said could last up to 10 weeks.
Patterson said Aristide was not expected to ask for political asylum. Aristide's proximity a mere 115 miles from Haiti's shores could fuel anger in the slums where he enjoys support, and which disarmament experts say are awash with arms.
MARINE PATROLS Illustrating the continuing tensions, Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Edwards said a Marine patrol came under attack in Port-au-Prince twice on Thursday evening.
"Neither the Marines nor the gunmen suffered casualties," Edwards said. A car dealership was destroyed by gunfire in the firefights. In a separate incident, French troops came under fire on Thursday morning, U.S. military officials said.
The gunmen were suspected of being Aristide supporters, enraged at the loss of Haiti's first democratically elected leader in what many of them are convinced was a U.S. coup.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, was due to visit Port-au-Prince on Saturday at the end of a Latin America trip, said a U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sent in under a U.N. mandate, the international force has the task of restoring order in this deeply divided country of 8 million.
Guy Philippe, a leader of the former soldiers who helped push Aristide out, dismissed the worries about Aristide's proximity. "He's finished. He's an old story," he said.
But opposition leader Charles Baker, a wealthy industrialist, said, "Patterson is making a very big mistake."
"Aristide will inflame passions and give more fuel to his assassins. If people are killed in Haiti with Aristide in Jamaica, Patterson will have part of the blood on his hands."
Latortue, 69, a former foreign minister and U.N. official, has pledged to bridge the chasm between Aristide's Lavalas Family party and the political opposition that led anti-government protests in the months before Aristide's fall. (Additional reporting by Amy Bracken in Port-au-Prince and Will Dunham in Washington)
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|U.S. troops come under fire in Haiti|
|By Ian James, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 12 - Haiti's new premier warned Friday that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's planned return to the Caribbean could threaten moves to stabilize the country still in turmoil two weeks after its leader's controversial flight and a monthlong popular rebellion.
Gerard Latortue, who was to be sworn in later Friday, told pro-Aristide politicians that he wants to hold legislative elections in six to eight months, Cabinet Minister Leslie Voltaire said of what looked like a rush to resolve the political crisis underlying Haiti's latest conflicts.
U.S. Marines came under fire at an industrial park producing garments for American companies and gunmen shot up a nearby car dealership, the U.S.-led peacekeeping force reported Friday.
The overnight gunfire came after a shootout erupted in front of the presidential National Palace on Thursday between police and protesters demanding Aristide's return.
Two young men were killed and 11 others suffered shotgun wounds, doctors said.
Radio stations reported a taxi driver was allegedly decapitated by angry Aristide militants. There was no immediate confirmation of those reports.
The U.S. State Department warned Americans not to travel to Haiti because of "the potential for looting, roadblocks set by armed gangs, and violent crime.
"Even within Port-au-Prince, travel remains extraordinarily dangerous," it said.
Latortue told reporters that Aristide is no longer Haiti's leader, dampening speculation that the trip to neighboring Jamaica might lead to negotiations for the return of Aristide, who insists he remains Haiti's legitimate president.
Aristide's return "could be a threat to stability in Haiti," he said.
Latortue criticized Jamaica for inviting the deposed leader, and said he told Prime Minister P.J. Patterson that "having former President Aristide in Jamaica, so close, is in our view ... an unfriendly act."
In telephone conversations Friday and Thursday, Patterson told him Aristide was visiting Jamaica "because he had no other place to go," Latortue said. That confirmed some countries' reluctance to be embroiled in the diplomatic fallout from Aristide's charges that Haiti's democratically elected president was abducted by the United States and forced from office.
U.S. officials say Aristide asked for help and that they saved his life by arranging his departure.
Aristide has been reluctantly hosted by the Central African Republic, where he was carried on a U.S.-chartered aircraft after he fled Haiti on Feb. 29 as rebels prepared to attack Port-au-Prince and U.S. and French ministers urged him to resign.
But his African hosts made clear they were providing only a temporary asylum, as Jamaica did Thursday. Patterson said Aristide would visit, with his wife Mildred, for eight to 10 weeks to be reunited with their two young daughters, who were sent to New York City for their safety. Foreign Minister K.D. Knight said Aristide had been told not to use Jamaica as a launchpad for any desire to be reinstated in Haiti.
Patterson also said that Latortue would visit Jamaica next week, for talks with him in his capacity as chairman of the 15-nation Caribbean Community to which Haiti belongs. Latortue said if he did "it will be before he (Aristide) is there."
A Caribbean summit in Jamaica last week called for a U.N. investigation into the circumstances of Aristide's departure, a call echoed Wednesday by the 53-nation African Union, which said Aristide's removal was "unconstitutional."
From Africa, Aristide has urged his followers to offer "peaceful resistance" to the U.S. "occupation."
The shadow of the diminutive Aristide, who came to power with fiery rhetoric about ending misery and uplifting the poor, continued to hang over the country even as Latortue indicated he would move quickly to appoint a transitional Cabinet and government to organize balloting to install an elected legislature.
Latortue was to be sworn in as premier Friday.
Earlier he reassured politicians from Aristide's Lavalas Family that they wold be part of the transitional government to be formed under a U.S.-backed plan, Voltaire said.
"The opposition is trying to say that Lavalas doesn't exist anymore, and it shouldn't participate," Voltaire complained
He said he believes Lavalas continues to command majority support "because it is the party of the poor." Aristide was wildly popular when he became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990, but he lost support as misery deepened and violence increased.
The opposition in elections would be drawn from the Democratic Platform coalition that united against Aristide but includes disparate groups from right-leaning coup supporters to liberal rights activists.
Latortue, 69, a U.N. career officer and business consultant who arrived in Haiti on Wednesday after years in exile in Florida, has said disarmament and reconciliation are his priorities.
On Friday, U.S. Marines trained their rifles on workers and checked identity papers at the industrial park near the international airport, acting on reports gunmen were planning to confiscate paychecks.
The complex was attacked by looters this week and at least one woman was wounded as security guards fired to chase away the thieves.
But workers were not happy: "We came here to work and we were forced to duck our heads below these Americans' rifles," said Myracia Batraville, 42, who makes 70 gourdes (US1.70) a day sewing T-shirts bound for J.C. Penney Co.
Marines said they came under fire at the complex Thursday night, but there were no injuries.
Nearby, they inspected damage at a Toyota dealership shot up by gunmen overnight. Show windows were shattered and walls pockmarked with gunshots.
To promote security, Latortue wants his Cabinet to include retired army Chief of Staff Herard Abraham, who supports recreating Haiti's disgraced and disbanded army, a key rebel demand.
Disarming Haiti's many factions will be the biggest challenge, and Latortue stressed the need for cooperation from some 2,600 peacekeepers from the United States, France and Chile. Canada plans to send 85 soldiers on Friday, the vanguard of a planned contingent of 450.
___ Associated Press writer Paisley Dodds contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Posted Thursday, March 11, 2004|
|Gunfire at Haiti's protest as weapons hunt starts|
|By Michael Christie, Reuters Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 11 (Reuters) - Gunfire broke out in Port-au-Prince on Thursday after police broke up a demonstration by supporters of Haiti's ousted president, while U.S. Marines leading an international peace force in the revolt-torn country began hunting for illegal weapons.
|Supporters of exiled Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide wave guns during a protest demanding his return, near the Presidential Palace, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, March 11, 2004. (Reuters/Eliana Aponte)|
Shots were fired from a slum area where protesters scattered, some breaking shop and car windows, after police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of several thousand supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as they approached the National Palace.
There were no reports of deaths or injuries in the unrest, the latest sign of volatility in the impoverished Caribbean country.
Aristide went into exile in Africa on Feb. 29, driven out by a monthlong armed revolt and by U.S. pressure to quit. More than 200 people have been killed in the violence.
Rebels who helped force Aristide out promised again to lay down their guns and U.S. Marines said a pledge to get tough on arms had been put into action.
Haitian police, French forces and U.S. Marines searched a suspected weapons cache site early on Thursday, said Maj. Richard Crusan. "No weapons were found," he said.
French gendarmes and legionnaires secured a defensive perimeter around the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Haut-Turtau, while Marines and police entered a house. A French military helicopter hovered overhead and passersby were shooed away.
There was no shooting, Crusan said. The Marines have killed four people since Sunday as they faced escalating attacks and rooftop ambushes by suspected pro-Aristide gunmen.
In Thursday's protest, which began in a stronghold of support for Aristide, the slum area of Belair, Haitian police used warnings on megaphones then tear gas to break up the crowd.
The crowd scattered back toward Belair. Some protesters then began breaking windows and setting fire to tires. The crowd emerged earlier from Belair singing and beating drums, blowing horns and chanting, "We want Aristide back," and "No Aristide, no peace."
When the march began, interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who flew into Haiti on Wednesday from Florida, was meeting at the National Palace with President Boniface Alexandre to begin work on drawing up a Cabinet.
GOING AFTER ILLEGAL WEAPONS
U.S. Army Gen. James Hill, who as head of the U.S. Southern Command oversees the deployment of 2,500 Marines, French gendarmes and Canadian and Chilean troops in Haiti, said on Wednesday the force would start going after caches of illegal firearms.
Rebel chief Guy Philippe said he had told his supporters to pursue peaceful methods to achieve their goals of inclusion in a new government, and the re-establishment of an army, disbanded by Aristide a decade ago after it staged a coup.
Asked if his renewed call to lay down arms meant his forces would be handing over weapons to the Marines, he merely reiterated: "I've always said the president is our commander in chief. We do what he tells us."
The rebels had already vowed to disarm after Aristide left. Their revolt was launched on Feb. 5 in the northwestern city of Gonaives and then rolled through the north after being joined by ex-soldiers and death squad leaders.
But when a crowd celebrating the president's ouster was attacked by gunmen on Sunday, and six people died, Philippe withdrew the pledge, saying if the U.S.-led force could not protect Haitians, the rebels would do the job themselves.
Latortue arrived promising to unite Haiti's deeply divided 8 million people, attack insecurity, disarm the population and create jobs in a country where the vast majority scrape out a subsistence living from barren, eroded soil.
Aristide, a champion of the poor who became Haiti's first elected leader in 1991 after helping to end the decades-long rule of the Duvaliers, had faced growing accusations of corruption and despotism since his Lavalas Family party swept elections in 2000 that were declared flawed.
He has alleged from exile in the Central African Republic that the United States staged a coup and forced his resignation. Washington fervently denied those claims.
Aristide's charges have inflamed the passions of his supporters in the sprawling slums of Port-au-Prince, a city of 2 million where a small elite gazes down on the poor masses from hilltop mansions.
Militant slum dwellers vowed to wage a civil war and to kill U.S. soldiers unless the former priest was allowed to return. (Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva)
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2004|
|U.S. blames Aristide for chaos in Haiti|
|By Agence France-Presse|
WASHINGTON, Mar. 10 (AFP) - Former Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide is responsible for the chaos gripping his country, a US State Department official said.
"The chaos in Haiti is obviously not the work of the US government," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Peter DeShazo told reporters at Washington's Foreign Press Club.
"This was the direct result of president Aristide having armed and empowered gangs and groups of thugs.
"The confrontation that has occurred ... was the direct result of policies taken by the government of president Aristide, by president Aristide himself," said DeShazo.
As violence escalated in Haiti, Aristide on February 29 left the country aboard a US-chartered airplane and went into self-imposed exile in the Central African Republic.
Aristide later claimed he was the victim of a "political kidnapping" by the US military, and blamed the United States for the subsequent chaos in Haiti, charges Washington vehemently denies.
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse
|New Haiti Prime Minister promises better security|
|By Michael Christie, Reuters Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 10 (Reuters) - Haiti's new interim prime minister arrived in his revolt-torn country on Wednesday and promised Haitians he would work to improve security and justice and provide more jobs.
Gerard Latortue, a former U.N. official and foreign minister, was picked on Tuesday by a council of "wise men" charged with steering the Caribbean country toward political stability after a monthlong armed revolt that forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.
Latortue, who takes over as prime minister until elections can be held, flew to Port-au-Prince on Wednesday from Florida, where he had been living.
In comments to reporters at the airport, he urged national reconciliation. He added his priorities were to improve security and justice, to get help from the international community to professionalize the police force, and provide more jobs for the country's legions of poor.
Outside, Haitian police in full black battle gear with helmets lined the front of the airport.
Aristide went to Africa on Feb. 29 as rebels closed in on the capital, leaving behind shooting and looting in the chaotic city. A U.S.-led foreign peace force that now numbers 2,300 arrived soon after to help restore order in the poorest country in the Americas.
"We would like the foreign troops here, in cooperation with the National Police, to help us disarm," said Latortue.
Latortue, 69, was expected to be sworn in, replacing Aristide appointee Yvon Neptune, and to select a Cabinet during the course of the week.
He said he might set up a committee to study whether Haiti should again create an army, a key demand of the former soldiers who joined the armed revolt that swept Aristide from power. Aristide disbanded the army after he returned to office in 1994, having been overthrown in a coup three years earlier.
The new prime minister is an economist and a former senior official of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. He was Haitian foreign minister under President Leslie Manigat, and left Haiti when Manigat was overthrown in a 1988 military coup.
He had been living in Florida, working as a business consultant and hosting a twice-weekly television talk show on the Haitian Television Network in Miami.
More than 200 people have been killed in the revolt that began on Feb. 5 and capped months of simmering political tensions in the country of 8 million people.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|Marines fight gunbattles in Haiti ahead of prime minister's arrival|
|By Agence France-Presse|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Mar. 10 (AFP) - US Marines fought firefights in the Haitian capital and started an operation to disarm gangs as the country's new prime minister arrived to strengthen the campaign to restore order.
US Marines said they believed two gunmen may have been killed outside the prime minister's residence, a spokesman said just before Gerard Latortue returned to become prime minister and try to form a national unity government to rule for up to two years before new parliamentary elections can be held.
Latortue, 69, was in Florida when he was named by a seven-member council of eminent Haitians on Tuesday night. Hours later US members of the international security force came under fire as they patrolled near the prime minister's official residence.
"There were three incidents last night where gunmen fired at Marines who in all three cases returned fire," said US spokesman Major Richard Crusan.
US troops thought they killed two people, but when they returned to the scene about three hours later they did not find the bodies, which may have been removed, Crusan told AFP.
When the Marines returned they were again fired upon, and attackers also fired automatic weapons at the residence, the spokesman said. US Marines guarding the port also came under fire from at least one gunman, said Crusan.
US Marines have killed two Haitians in recent days. One was shooting at the presidential palace and another failed to stop at a military roadblock, according to the military.
The multinational force of more than 2,500 troops has conducted daily patrols, secured key installations and in some cases assisted police in stopping looting. They have now been told to get guns off the streets.
General James Hill, the commander of US forces in Haiti, said he gave instructions on Wednesday to start the operation.
"You've got to take the guns off the street, if you have the ability to do it, and we do, to protect yourself and to protect the government," Hill told a Washington news conference.
"We will take as many weapons as we find on the streets," US Marines Colonel Mark Gurganus told reporters in Port-au-Prince. Haitians could still keep guns at home.
Diplomats hope the arrival of Latortue will boost stabilization efforts after Jean Bertrand Aristide resigned as president and fled on February 29.
Latortue, a former foreign minister who has also strong United Nations (news - web sites) experience, is to get straight to work on forming a new government.
"We give ourselves until the end of the week to form a government," said Paul-Emile Simon, one of the seven members of the council that selected Latortue and is to help him pick a government.
Simon expressed doubts presidential elections could be held within 50 days, as foreseen in the constitution, and said it could be as much as two years before legislative elections are held.
From his exile in the Central African Republic, Aristide has insisted he is still the country's leader, and his lawyers said they will press charges against the US and French ambassadors in Haiti for "abduction and illegal detention" of Aristide.
"President Aristide has asked me to lodge a lawsuit in France ... against French ambassador Thierry Burkard, the lawyer, Gilbert Collard, told AFP.
US lawyer Ira Kurzban said he would file a similar lawsuit in the United States against US Ambassador James Foley. US and French authorities have dismissed claims they forced Aristide to leave.
US officials insist they merely helped Aristide leave the troubled country at his own request. Aristide's departure triggered an angry reaction by his militant and often armed supporters, who went on a rampage of violence and looting.
Meanwhile, South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said after talks with Aristide in Bangui that it was uncertain the ex-president would be granted asylum in South Africa.
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse
|Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2004|
|Haiti Council picks new Prime Minister|
|By Peter Prengaman and Ian James, Associated Press Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 9 - Haiti's U.S.-backed advisory council picked a former foreign minister as the new prime minister on Tuesday, a step toward forming a transitional government in this troubled nation.
Gerard Latortue's appointment came as U.S. Marines said they would help Haitian police disarm the general population. The new program, set to begin later this week, will appeal to rebel groups and supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who have demanded weapons be taken away from their enemies.
Efforts to bring calm to this troubled Caribbean nation followed a bloody (photos) insurgency that ousted Aristide on Feb. 29, put rebels in control of half the country and sparked a frenzy of looting and violence. At least 130 people were killed in the rebellion; reprisal killings since Aristide's ouster have left at least 300 dead.
Unrest hit the capital again Tuesday as Aristide loyalists set up flaming barricades and stoned cars. There were no immediate reports of serious injury.
After five days of private meetings, the seven-member Council of Sages settled on Latortue, also a former U.N. official and an international business consultant.
Now Latortue and interim President Boniface Alexandre will try to work toward organizing elections and building a new government for Haiti.
Council member Dr. Ariel Henry said Latortue was chosen because the council believed he was "an independent guy, a democrat." Councilor Anne-Marie Issa described him as someone "to pull everybody together."
Latortue, who served as foreign minister in 1988, was in Miami, but was expected to fly to Haiti as soon as Wednesday, council members said. If he accepts the job, Latortue would replace Prime Minister Yvon Neptune.
Neptune stayed in his post even after Aristide fled the country Feb. 29. Aristide opponents have demanded that Neptune be replaced.
Also Tuesday, CIA Director George J. Tenet warned that in Haiti, "a humanitarian disaster or mass migration remains possible."
"A cycle of clashes and revenge killings could easily be set off, given the large number of angry, well-armed people on both sides," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Improving security will require the difficult task of disarming armed groups and augmenting and retraining a national security force."
Aristide, meanwhile, has insisted from exile in Africa that he is still president of Haiti, saying he was removed from office by the U.S. government.
State Department officials have denied those claims. But the 53-nation African Union and the 15-nation Caribbean Community have said they are investigating.
Ira Kurzban, a Miami-based lawyer for Aristide, told The Associated Press that he has called on U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to investigate.
"The kidnapping by the U.S. was part of a coup d'etat," Kurzban claimed.
In an interview Monday with National Public Radio, Powell again denied that Washington forced out Aristide, saying U.S. troops saved his life. Aristide "contacted our ambassador," Powell said, "and our ambassador made appropriate arrangements so that he could leave safely, which many people said we should make sure would happen that nothing would happen to him. And he left of his own free will."
Earlier, at a news conference in Port-au-Prince, Col. Charles Gurganus said the joint disarmament program would begin Wednesday. He also called on Haitians to tell peacekeepers who has weapons and to turn in any arms.
"The disarmament will be both active and reactive, but I'm not going to say any more about that," he said, giving few details of how the program will work.
Since the U.S. and French-led peacekeepers arrived a week ago, there has been confusion over who is in charge of disarming groups. On Monday, Gurganus said disarming rebels was not part of the peacekeepers' mission, but he indicated that could change if police asked for help.
Both Aristide loyalists and opponents have threatened violence if weapons aren't taken away from their enemies.
U.S. forces in Haiti, about 1,600 strong, have a limited set of circumstances during which they can use deadly force. They cannot stop looting, even of American companies. Nor can they stop Haitian-on-Haitian violence, officials said.
Their mission is to protect key sites, like government buildings and the airport, to pave the way for an eventual U.N. peacekeeping force.
Yet they find themselves getting dragged into policing the troubled nation, which is deeply divided among various rebel groups and militant Aristide supporters.
U.S. Marines started arriving Feb. 29, the day Aristide left. There are also 800 French Legionnaires and police, 130 Chilean troops and 70 Canadians as of Tuesday.
In the worst violence since Aristide left, gunmen opened fire on anti-Aristide protesters Sunday, killing six people and wounding more than 30. U.S. Marines said they killed one gunman.
Late Monday, Marines shot and killed the driver of a car speeding toward a checkpoint. A passenger was wounded.
In Washington, the U.S. Defense Department defended the Marines, saying they acted within their orders to fire when they felt threatened.
Hijackings and robberies have been common at roadblocks since Haiti's uprising began. Motorists including journalists often speed through checkpoints to avoid attacks by pro-Aristide militants and rebels.
Aristide was a wildly popular slum priest, elected on promises to champion the poor who make up the vast majority of Haiti's 8 million people. But he has lost support, with Haitians saying he failed to improve their lives, condoned corruption and used police and armed supporters to attack political opponents.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre was installed officially Monday as interim president. He made a plea for calm.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that he hopes the international community will have the patience and stamina necessary to commit to Haiti "for the long haul."
"It's going to take time, it's going to take lots of hard work," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "And we should not expect to do a Band-Aid job for two years or so, and then turn around and leave, only to have to return."
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|S. Africa refused to take Aristide|
|By Nicholas Kralev, The Washington Times|
The United States had understood that former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had secured refuge in South Africa and did not wait for Pretoria's formal consent to accept him before a U.S. plane took off from Port-au-Prince with Mr. Aristide on board on Feb. 29, U.S. officials said yesterday.
The former president, who has been in exile in the Central African Republic for eight days, called on his supporters yesterday to resist peacefully Haiti's "occupation," a day after at least five Haitians and a foreign journalist were killed in a massive demonstration in the capital celebrating his departure.
|*But one of Aristide's lawyers said Monday that the former president plans to sue the United States and France for kidnapping him, Reuters reported. "The suits will target the Bush administration and the French government," said Gilbert Coillard. "If we get support from some African states, we will also appeal to the relevant commission of the United Nations." - The New York Times, March 9, 2004|
On the day that Mr. Aristide left the country, Washington, which had contacted the South African administrative capital, Pretoria, while he still was on the ground, was certain that the response from the government of President Thabo Mbeki, a strong supporter of the former Haitian leader, would be positive.
"We took off with the understanding that South Africa would accept him," one U.S. official said. "But there was no confirmation from the South African government that they were willing to take him."
Asked whether Mr. Aristide said that he had made arrangements with Pretoria himself, the official said Mr. Aristide was not specific.
"He did say that his final destination of choice was South Africa, and we had the impression that South Africa would say yes," the official said.
"But 15-20 minutes into the flight, word was received that South Africa said no," he added.
The United States then began looking for any country that would take Mr. Aristide, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell managed to persuade the Central African Republic to give him at least temporary refuge, U.S. officials said.
"Aristide did want to go to South Africa, but they said they were not in a position to accept him right away," a senior State Department official said. "What happens from now on is something between him and South Africa."
Mr. Mbeki's government has been reluctant to accept Mr. Aristide before elections on April 14 and has been vague about what might happen after the vote.
But another State Department official said the United States is "working with the assumption that South Africa will take him once the elections are over."
In his first public appearance since he arrived in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, Mr. Aristide continued to reject Washington's claim that he had resigned and insisted that he had been a victim of a "political abduction."
"This unfortunately has paved the way for occupation, and we launch an appeal for peaceful resistance," he said at a press conference. "I'm choosing my words carefully for a peaceful resistance."
Mr. Aristide yesterday had told The Washington Times through French writer and Haiti expert Claude Ribbe that he still considered himself the rightful leader of the half-island nation.
The White House again reprimanded him for insisting he is still the president of his Caribbean nation and warned him against divisive provocations.
"Mr. Aristide has resigned his office and has left the country. And now the Haitian people are involved with grasping democracy and moving forward on an interim government," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters.
"And any comments that would stir up more division are not helpful, as the Haitian people move toward a greater democracy."
Mr. Aristide has said the letter he signed before his departure was not a "formal resignation" and he plans to return to his country soon.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, asked yesterday whether Mr. Aristide has freedom of movement, said:
"He is free to leave for any country that would grant him entry. And in terms of where he stands now, as far as asylum goes, free to go to any country that might grant his asylum request. Those are decisions that would be made by the individual countries that we wouldn't be involved in."
As he pointed out that Haiti's constitution does not allow Mr. Aristide to run for president again, Mr. Boucher said, "whether he has any political role or any particular role in Haiti, that would be something for Haitians down the road, as they choose their own government, for them to decide."
At the National Palace in Port-au-Prince yesterday, former Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre, wearing a blue, yellow and red sash, formally was installed as the new president behind closed doors under heavy guard by foreign troops.
"We are all brothers and sisters," said Mr. Alexandre, who has served as president for a week. "We are all in the same boat, and if it sinks, it sinks with all of us."
U.S. Marines acknowledged that they killed one Haitian at Sunday's demonstration. "He had a gun, and he was shooting at Marines," Col. Charles Gurganus told reporters.
A U.N. assessment team was scheduled to arrive today to begin work on rebuilding Haiti.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.
Reprinted from The Washington Times of March 9, 2004.
|Marines kill driver at Haiti checkpoint|
|By Peter Prengaman, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 9 - U.S. Marines shot and killed the driver of a vehicle speeding toward a military checkpoint, a spokesman told The Associated Press on Tuesday, the second reported fatality at the hands of American forces.
Also, a United Nations team was scheduled to arrive Tuesday to help plan the deployment of a multinational U.N. peacekeeping force within three months.
The Marines and French Legionnaires, along with Chilean troops now form the vanguard of military efforts to stabilize Haiti after a rebellion that drove President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile and in violence including reprisal killings has left more than 300 dead.
In Port-au-Prince, the U.N. resident coordinator for Haiti said the world body and U.S. and French-led peacekeepers were working on a disarmament plan for Haiti that they hoped to have in the next two days.
Aristide loyalists and opponents have been increasingly frustrated with the forces already in Haiti and have threatened renewed violence if their enemies aren't disarmed. U.S. military officials have said disarmament is not part of their mission.
On the political front, a specially appointed Council of Sages was expected to announce a new prime minister Tuesday to replace the Aristide-appointed Yvon Neptune.
As the council met to discuss the appointment, militants demand Aristide's return threw rocks and set barricades of tires ablaze, blocking a main road in the capital and threatening renewed turmoil.
In the Marine shooting at the checkpoint Monday night, a passenger in the car also was wounded, the spokesman, Sgt. Timothy Edwards told AP by telephone.
"When you see a vehicle approaching at high speed it is seen as a threat, so the Marines opened fire," Edwards said. "The driver was killed. ... A second man was injured and turned over to the Haitian police."
On Sunday, Marines shot and killed a gunman who fired at them during a demonstration in which seven people died, including a foreign journalist, and more than 30 were wounded.
Edwards said the body of the driver killed Monday night was turned over to the Red Cross.
But a body remained near the checkpoint area on Port-au-Prince's main road Tuesday morning, and a man who said his cousin had been shot and killed by Marines identified it as that of Mutial Telusma.
The cousin, Jean-Claude Batiste, said Telusma had picked up his brother, Sedelin Telusma, from his work at the international airport around 8 p.m. and was driving home at high speed, which is normal in Haiti.
"The road was blocked and he didn't know, just kept going and he was shot," Batiste told AP, recounting the story from Sedelin Telusma, who was treated for two gunshot wounds.
Sunday's violence was the worst bloodshed since Aristide fled a monthlong rebellion Feb. 29. It prompted the first armed action by the Marines and led both opponents and supporters of Aristide to threaten their own armed action, damaging efforts to reach a frail peace.
The toll from a monthlong rebellion and reprisal killings rose to more than 300, with the Pan-American Health Organization reporting an estimated 200 corpses at the state morgue as being victims of the violence.
The seven-member council of newly appointed officials was expected to pick a new prime minister from three top candidates ignoring Aristide's claim from exile in the Central African Republic that he remains Haiti's democratically elected leader.
At his first public appearance since his departure, Aristide on Monday renewed allegations that he was abducted and forced from power by the United States.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated Washington's emphatic denials of pressuring Ariside out and insistance that U.S. forces, in fact, saved his life.
"It was not a kidnapping," Powell said. Aristide "contacted our ambassador, and our ambassador made appropriate arrangements so that he could leave safely, which many people said we should make sure would happen that nothing would happen to him. And he left of his own free will."
On Monday, former supreme court justice Boniface Alexandre was installed officially as interim president with an appeal for calm. "We are all brothers and sisters," he said. "We are all in the same boat, and if it sinks, it sinks with all of us."
The new prime minister would form a transitional government from Aristide's Lavalas party and a disparate opposition coalition. Under a U.S.-backed plan, that government would call elections.
The candidates were:
_Businessman Smarck Michel, Aristide's prime minister in 1994-95, who resigned over differences in economic policy.
_Retired Lt. Gen. Herard Abraham, who voluntarily surrendered power in 1990, allowing the transition that led to Haiti's first free elections, which Aristide won.
_Gerard Latortue, a former U.N. official and international business consultant who was foreign minister in 1988 to former President Leslie Manigat.
Manigat was toppled in one of the 32 coups fomented by Haiti's army. That same army ousted Aristide in 1991 and was disbanded after 20,000 troops came to Haiti in 1994 to halt an exodus of boat people to Florida and restore democracy.
Aristide, a popular slum priest, was elected on promises to help the poor who make up the vast majority of Haiti's 8 million people. But Haitians say he failed to improve their lives, condoned corruption and used police and armed supporters to attack his political opponents.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Posted Monday, March 8, 2004|
|U.S. scolds Aristide for saying he still leads Haiti|
DALLAS, Mar. 8 (Reuters) - The White House on Monday scolded ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrande Aristide for insisting he was still the president of his Caribbean country and warned him not to stir up divisions there.
"Mr. Aristide has resigned his office and has left the country. And now the Haitian people are involved with grasping democracy and moving forward on an interim government," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters traveling with President Bush here.
"And that's where the focus should be right now. And any comments that would stir up more division are not helpful, as the Haitian people move toward a greater democracy," he added.
Aristide earlier repeated his accusations -- which the United States denies -- that he was abducted by U.S. forces when he left the country a week ago.
Speaking at a news conference in the Central African Republic where he is in exile, Aristide suggested there should be a peaceful resistance in his country to what he called the U.S. "occupation" of Haiti. "I am the elected president and I remain the elected president," Aristide said.
"I am pleading for the restoration of democracy."
The Bush administration says it helped Aristide depart Haiti but the decision to go was his own.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|U.S. Marines say they kill Haiti gunman|
|By Paisley Dodds and Ian James, Associated Press Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 8 - U.S. Marines shot and killed a gunman during an outbreak of gunfire at a weekend demonstration by Haitians celebrating the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a spokesman said Monday.
The gunfire occurred during an anti-Aristide march Sunday, prompting the Marines to return fire in the first armed action of their week-old mission to stabilize Haiti.
At least six other people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the worst bloodshed since Aristide fled Haiti on Feb. 29 and U.S. and French peacekeepers arrived. The death toll rose to seven after one of the wounded died overnight.
Chief rebel leader Guy Philippe, who said the attack never would have happened if his men had not been asked to disarm, warned they would take up weapons again if peacekeepers don't force Aristide supporters to put down theirs.
Also on Monday, Aristide declared from his African exile that he was still president of Haiti and urged "peaceful resistance" in his homeland.
Sunday's demonstration, billed as a "victory march," began with a few hundred people in the capital's Petionville suburb, with Haitian police in the lead. Bringing up the rear were U.S. Marines in five Humvees mounted with machine guns and two truckloads of French troops.
Pro-Aristide militants said they, too, would march, and a confrontation seemed inevitable.
As the number of protesters swelled to thousands, the peacekeepers got hemmed in.
The marchers ended up on the vast Champs de Mars plaza in front of the National Palace and chanted that Aristide stand trial for alleged corruption and killings committed by his armed militants.
Several witnesses said they saw Aristide militants open fire from the roof of the Rex movie theater across the plaza.
U.S. Marine Col. Charles Gurganus said gunfire broke out on the northeast corner of the plaza and several people were wounded before Marines spotted two gunmen. When the gunmen tried to attack the Marines, the troops shot and killed one of them, he said, adding that he did not know what happened to the other man.
Asked how he knew the man killed was a gunman, Gurganus said: "He had a gun, and he was shooting at Marines. That's what I call a gunman."
No Marines were wounded.
Aristide fled under pressure from a popular rebellion and officials from the United States and France and was flown to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, on a plane arranged by Washington.
In his first news conference in exile, Aristide insisted he was still president.
"I am the democratically elected president and I remain so. I plead for the restoration of democracy" in Haiti, Aristide told reporters in Bangui.
He also repeated that the United States forced him from power allegations that have been denied by Secretary of State Colin Powell and other Bush administration officials.
"It was in fact a political kidnapping," Aristide said. "This political kidnapping unfortunately opened the road to an occupation."
He urged "peaceful resistance."
The number of U.S. troops in Haiti increased over the weekend to more than 1,600, including roughly 1,500 Marines, said a defense official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Angry survivors of Sunday's violence accused the U.S. and French troops in the peacekeeping force of not preventing the attack.
"The peacekeepers were nowhere near where the shooting was," said Alma Coastal, 31, who was shot twice in the left shoulder.
French commander Col. Daniel Leplatois defended his troops, saying: "We're not able to secure the lives of all of the demonstrators."
Aristide supporters said they had canceled their march because peacekeepers had not promised the same level of security they gave their opponents. A pro-Aristide rally was instead planned for Monday.
"The Americans are only here to protect those who helped oust Aristide," said Ednar Ducoste, 23. "If we had guns, we would be fighting against them right now."
Prime Minister Yvon Neptune said the Marines abided by "rules of engagement (that) permit that they use proportional force."
Neptune an Aristide appointee whom protesters also want tried ordered police to "start disarming all who carry illegal weapons."
Many of the victims were shot with high-velocity bullets from weapons like M-16s and M-14s, said Dr. Ronald Georges. But Gurganus said the "shots sounded like they were from handguns."
Wailing victims flooded the Canape Vert hospital where Georges works, and blood covered the floors of the two operating rooms.
Among the dead was Spanish TV correspondent Ricardo Ortega. Dozens were injured, including photographer Michael Laughlin, 37, who works for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He was shot in the face and shoulder but was in stable condition.
Doctors lacking supplies struggled to treat the injured despite the delivery of emergency supplies via a French air force helicopter.
On the political front, three top candidates for prime minister were interviewed Monday by the recently appointed Council of Sages, which said it would decide by Tuesday. The premier would form a transitional government from Aristide's Lavalas party and an opposition coalition.
The candidates are: _
Businessman Smarck Michel, who was Aristide's prime minister in 1994-95 but resigned over differences in economic policy.
_ Lt. Gen. Herard Abraham, probably the only Haitian army officer to voluntarily surrender power to a civilian, allowing the 1990 transition that led to Haiti's first free elections, which Aristide won in a landslide.
_ Gerard Latortue, a former U.N. official and an international business consultant who was foreign minister in 1988 to former President Leslie Manigat.
Also on Monday, hundreds of looters ransacked the industrial park near Haiti's airport, carrying away boxes and plastic bags of goods on their heads half a mile from the terminal where U.S. Marines are based.
Aristide was a wildly popular slum priest when he became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990. But he lost support after being re-elected in 2000. Haitians said he failed to improve their lives, condoned corruption and used police and armed supporters to attack political opponents.
___ AP writer Peter Prengaman contributed to this story from Port-au-Prince.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Posted Sunday, March 7, 2004|
|At least six killed, more than 19 wounded in anti-Aristide march in Haiti|
|By Ibon Villelabeitia and Joseph Guyler Delva, Associated Press Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 7 (Reuters) - Suspected supporters of exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide sprayed gunfire into a crowd of thousands of jubilant revelers outside the National Palace on Sunday, killing at least four people and wounding 19.
Hospital officials said the dead included Spaniard Ricardo Ortega, a correspondent for the Antena 3 Spanish television station. A Reuters cameraman said at least four other journalists were wounded, including American Michael Laughlin of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. A spokesman for the paper said he was shot in face and shoulder.
Please see also: related photos .... U.S. Marines returned fire after druglord Aristide's bandits fired at freedom fighters
Eyewitnesses said gunmen linked to Aristide's Lavalas movement fired from rooftops and burst into the capital's main square in a pickup truck, a jeep and on foot, shooting into a festive crowd celebrating the fall of the president.
"A whole group from Lavalas came down the Champs de Mars firing in every direction," said Ingrid Arnesen, a CNN producer who witnessed the attack. "Heavy machine gun fire."
U.S. Marines in the impoverished Caribbean nation leading an international peace mission roared to the scene in machine gun-mounted Humvees as panicked demonstrators ran for cover and military helicopters hovered over the palace.
"It was a massacre," said Haitian National Police chief Leonce Charles, who was appointed to the job last week.
The shootings, which witnesses said came from pro-Aristide neighborhoods, shattered a largely peaceful demonstration in which thousands took to the streets in a noisy parade to celebrate the fall of Aristide, who fled to Africa on Feb. 29 following a bloody revolt. More than 200 people have been killed in the month-long rebellion.
The march, closely watched by U.S. Marines, French troops and Haitian National Police in riot gear, came two days after thousands of angry supporters of Aristide burst out of slums and marched on the U.S. embassy to protest the "U.S. occupation" and demand his return.
In Sunday's march, revelers hoisted Guy Philippe, the leader of a ragtag band of rebels who helped oust Aristide, on their shoulders, shouting "Philippe, Philippe!" Another rebel commander, former death squad chief Louis Jodel Chamblain, signed autographs.
Witnesses said the gunfire erupted from street level and from the tops of buildings surrounding the square and many blamed Aristide's most militant and ruthless supporters, known as the "chimeres."
"I saw about a hundred chimeres a couple of blocks from Champs de Mars," said Thierry David Henry, a university student attending the rally. "They were shooting down at the crowd from the buildings."
"I was driving in my car past Champs de Mars when I saw two people shot dead and fell in front of my car," said witness Nadia Paul. "The shooting was coming from a drive-by car."
In the wake of the shootings, the body of a man in a blue shirt lay in the Champs de Mars in front of an unfinished monument started by Aristide to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence from France.
U.S. Marines rushed through the streets in tank-like Light Armored Vehicles and pointed rifles at rooftops. Wailing relatives and friends packed the Canape Vert hospital where most of the wounded were taken. The shooting spree brought immediate pleas from Aristide's political opponents for international forces to disarm the chimeres.
The U.S., French, Chilean and Canadian forces in Haiti, which number about 2,300, had been on high alert on Sunday, expecting rival demonstrations. But until the shooting, Aristide's supporters had not materialized in the streets.
"Why are they there if they are not going to protect the people?" opposition leader Marie Denise Claude said. "The international community must disarm the thugs."
A U.S. military official said the Marines were not fired upon and did not fire any shots.
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who became a champion of Haiti's impoverished masses when he helped overthrow the brutal Duvalier family dictatorship in 1986, was ousted by a bloody revolt that killed more than 200 people and by pressure from the United States and other foreign nations.
From his exile in the Central African Republic, Aristide has claimed he was kidnapped by U.S. forces, an allegation the U.S. government has denied.
A council of elders named to help form a new government broke from a daylong meeting on Saturday without naming a prime minister, a task expected to be completed this week.
Among the top candidates are Smarck Michel, a businessman who served as prime minister in 1994 and 1995 but ultimately broke with Aristide over differences in economic policy, former Haitian army Gen. Herard Abraham, former Foreign Minister Gerard Latortue and Axan Abellard of the Center for Free Enterprise and Democracy.
(Additional reporting by Amy Bracken and Eliana Aponte)
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
Editor's notes: What the United States is waiting for to indict, put on trial and sentence Aristide to a long prison term, perhaps 99 years, for trafficking in narcotics? Chief bandit Aristide trained, financed and armed the terrorists who murdered freedom fighters and the Spanish Television correspondent for Antena 3 in Haiti Sunday. Baltazar Garçon, the courageous Spanish judge who had Chilean dictator Agusto Pinochet arrested for murdering Spanish citizens, must now indict Aristide and issue an international arrest warrant against him for causing a Spanish citizen to meet brutal death in Haiti.
|Posted Saturday, March 6, 2004|
|Central Africa dictator moves to silence ousted Haitian dictator Aristide; telephone will not be taken away from deposed Haitian dictator, at least for the time being|
|By Agence France-Presse|
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, BANGUI, Mar. 6 (AFP) - The government of the Central African Republic was moving to silence its difficult guest, ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but said it is not ready to expel him from the country.
"The government has instructed the foreign ministry and myself to once again go and point out to him that he has an obligation to be discreet that he must respect," government spokesman Parfait M'bay said following a cabinet meeting late Friday night to discuss what to do with Aristide.
|Please see also: related photos|
"We are not however going to take away the telephone from him, nor oblige him to leave without consulting with the friends who asked us to welcome him."
National radio earlier announced that all local and foreign journalists with questions relating to Aristide, who has annoyed his hosts with embarrassing statements, must henceforth first address themselves to the CAR authorities.
"All agents of the private press and the foreign press must go to the foreign ministry over any matter related to the stay of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, for better coordination and orientation," said a broadcast government statement.
Aristide arrived in the impoverished, landlocked country on Monday, after fleeing weeks of violence and rebellion on his Caribbean island nation which has left hundreds dead.
Officials here said he was just passing through before going into exile somewhere else. They were due to debate his presence on Tuesday but put it off because President Francois Bozize and Prime Minister Celestin Gaombalet were not in the capital.
Since his arrival, Aristide has raised hackles, first by saying in an interview on CNN that he had been ousted by a coup orchestrated by Washington and then complaining that he was a prisoner in Bangui.
That brought a sharp response from the government, which told him to show some respect for his host nation's hospitality and its allies, without whose help Aristide "would be dead by now," in M'bay's words.
Several European and US media teams have since shown up to cover his story. The government on Friday said they should all seek accreditation.
On Thursday, Aristide said he planned to go back to Haiti, insisting he had not officially resigned.
Aristide levelled more accusations against the CAR's friends, accusing France of colluding with the United States to remove him from office after he asked Paris to repay Haiti's "independence debt", estimated to be worth 21.7 billion dollars (17.8 billion euros).
"It's as clear as day. I demanded, on behalf of Haiti, the restitution of this debt, which was our right... They (the French) reacted by unkindness, resorting to persecution and a systematic campaign of disinformation, and by colluding in this political kidnapping," Aristide said in a phone conversation with French writer Claude Ribbe, of which AFP obtained a recording.
He added that he was "not the kind of person to stay in exile."
The French foreign ministry called the term collusion "totally inappropriate".
"Things are very clear, there is no case whatsoever for any polemic. We said that Mr Aristide had to face his responsibilities, and he did," ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous told journalists in Paris.
Observers have said that Bangui came under pressure from foreign powers to take in Aristide, probably in exchange for aid and international recognition of a post-coup government.
The state coffers have been emptied by years of high-level corruption and political instability, and the current government came to power after the coup on March 15 last year in which elected leader Ange-Felix Patasse was ousted.
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse
|Posted Friday, March 5, 2004|
|Haiti takes small steps toward new government|
|By Ibon Villelabeitia and Jim Loney, Reuters Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Supporters of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide criticized the foreign "occupation" of their country on Friday as Haitian officials began to patch together a new government.
|Truo, left, was long known as a pro-Aristide's militant. This week, he fell afoul of vigilantes in the provincial city of Petit-Goave who beat, stoned and burned him to death. More photos|
"I don't like to see the Americans in our palace. We are under occupation," said Omicar Olamy, who was among about 300 people at the iron fence surrounding the National Palace as Haiti's flag was raised and its national anthem played under the watchful eyes of heavily armed U.S. Marines.
U.S. military vehicles mounted with machine guns and missile launchers rumbled through the teeming streets of the capital, sending a strong message to rebels and armed pro-Aristide militants it was time to lay down their arms.
Five days after Aristide was ousted by a bloody rebellion, a new tripartite council made up of people chosen by the government, Aristide's political foes and foreign nations went to work.
Aristide's Minister of Haitians Living Abroad, Leslie Voltaire, was named by the government. The political opposition Democratic Platform picked Paul Denis, a former senator, and the international community chose Adama Guindo, the United Nations (news - web sites) resident coordinator.
The council will select a seven member "Council of Wise Men" within a week to pick a new prime minister and begin the process of establishing a new government.
Haiti's legislature has been largely defunct since early January. Only a few senators have time left in their terms.
Haitian and foreign officials have been struggling with the process of installing interim president Boniface Alexandre, who according to the constitution must be ratified by the legislature. It was still uncertain on Friday when a formal swearing in would be held at the palace.
MILITARY VEHICLES RUMBLE THROUGH STREETS
U.S., French, Chilean and Canadian troops in Haiti numbered about 2,000, according to the commanders of the multinational force approved by the United Nations to restore order after days of looting and shooting following Aristide's flight into exile in the Central African Republic on Sunday.
More than 100 people died in the armed revolt that began on Feb. 5 when an anti-Aristide gang took over the northern city of Gonaives. Former soldiers in Haiti's disbanded army and ex-paramilitaries joined the revolt, taking over a series of towns in the north.
Aristide said from his African exile that he was kidnapped. The U.S. government has denied the allegation but residents of Aristide strongholds said they believed it.
In the pro-Aristide Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bellair, where glass and debris litters the streets and the stench of sewage hangs in the air, residents said foreign troops should help protect them from gunmen that raid the area nightly.
Residents have said rebel troops, whose leaders pledged to lay down arms and withdraw from the city, have been conducting reprisal raids against Aristide supporters.
"At 6 p.m. we all have to go and find a hole to hide," said Hubert Louis, 31. "If the foreign troops want to show they want to support the people, they should protect us from the soldiers who are chasing us."
U.S. Marine Col. Mark Gurganus, head of the multinational force, said foreign forces were not choosing sides and would intervene only in life-threatening situations. "There is no place in this town that we won't go," he said.
Rebel leader Guy Philippe said on Thursday he was withdrawing from the city after pledging to lay down his arms, and would tour cities in the north during the next two days to explain to his troops why he decided to end the rebellion.
Foreign forces continued to pour into the capital. At least 1,000 American, 800 French, 130 Chilean and 60 Canadian troops were on the ground by Thursday.
Aid groups began distributing food and medicine to hospitals, orphanages and health care centers, but said security would have to improve before all of those in need could be reached. Sporadic gunfire was reported in the Cite Soleil and La Saline slums.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|Posted Thursday, March 4, 2004|
|Marines receive mixed reaction in Haiti|
|By Mark Stevenson and Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 4 - U.S. Marines trained their rifles down gritty streets and into a teeming market as they patrolled the Haitian capital with other peacekeepers Thursday, drawing smiles and a few angry words, but no resistance.
Hatred is still simmering among various factions nearly a week after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a rebellion that left at least 130 people dead, with new killings discovered outside Port-au-Prince.
As the Marines rolled into the looted port area in eight Light Armored Vehicles and ventured into the crowds, onlookers gathered around in curiosity but showed no fear.
Former bruatal dictator Aristide's bandit stoned and burned alive in the provincial city of Petit-Goave / $350,000 found in the basement of ex-tyrant Aristide's home
At one point, a Marine poured a canteen of water over his head to cool off in the sweltering heat, drawing chuckles from passers-by.
"I feel much safer now the Marines are here," said Frantz Labissiere, 44. "I wouldn't be here if the Marines weren't here."
But not everyone shared his view. As the convoy passed an angry knot of people, one youth shouted: "You took our president now you're taking our country!"
Others held up photographs of Aristide, who fled the country Sunday as rebels neared the outskirts of the capital and the United States and former colonial ruler France pressed him to resign.
Haiti's first freely elected leader lost a lot of popularity in Haiti and in Washington, which restored him to power in 1994 after he was ousted in a 1991 military coup because he allegedly used militant loyalists to attack and intimidate his opponents, failed to help the poor and condoned corruption. Aristide, in exile in the Central African Republic, has denied the accusations.
The Central African Republic will offer him permanent asylum if he asks but would find it difficult to pay for his upkeep, the government said Thursday.
"I can't say definitively if Mr. Aristide will stay here or if he'll go, but if he asks us, we won't refuse him," Communications Minister Parfait Mbaye told The Associated Press in Bangui.
The Organization of American States announced the establishment Thursday of a tripartite council that is the first step to forming a government of national unity in Haiti. The members are Leslie Voltaire, who was Aristide's Minister for Haitians Abroad; former opposition Sen. Paul Denis, a member of the Democratic Platform coalition; and Adama Guindo, the U.N. resident representative in Haiti.
The three are to choose, by consensus within one week, seven members for a Council of Sages which in turn will propose a new prime minister.
The killing of Haitians continued, despite the arrival of the U.S. Marines and French troops as the vanguard of a U.N. peacekeeping mission, as well as a pledge by rebel leader Guy Philippe that his men would disarm.
On Thursday, Philippe traded his military clothes for a blue polo shirt and jeans, and was unarmed. He told The Associated Press he wants go to "many cities, to see how people are living and how I can help." He said he has given the order to his forces to disarm, and said their weapons were "in the bases" around Haiti.
In Gressier, six miles west of Port-au-Prince, the bodies of four men were seen in the street Thursday. All were shot in the head and three had their hands tied behind their backs two with rope, one with a shirt. The fourth man's hands weren't tied and it appeared he may have been trying to flee when he was shot.
Some Haitians doubted Philippe's pledge and the arrival of peacekeepers would end revenge killings.
"The rebels want to take over the country," said Gracious Laguenne, a tailor. "As soon as the Americans leave, they're going to come back and it will be the same thing all over again."
The St. Petersburg Times, meanwhile, reported Thursday that looters found stacks of $100 bills possibly as much as $350,000 in a hidden safe at Aristide's mansion in suburban Tabarre. The bills were either crumbling into dust or stuck together so tightly that they couldn't be pulled apart, the newspaper said.
As the Marines expanded their control over the capital, merchants began cleaning off pro-Aristide graffiti. A worker wiped "Viv Aristide" off the metal gates of an auto dealership.
The Marines cleared debris from barricades that had been built by Aristide militants to protect the city from the rebels. Others used mechanical hooks atop Humvees to lift concrete barriers.
A few gas stations opened and long lines grew. The colorfully painted tap-tap pickups that are the most popular form of transport took to the road. Charcoal vendors set up shop on the sidewalks, as did shoeshine boys and women selling fruit and vegetables.
Daphnee Saintilima, trying to sell papayas, voiced the concern of most people in this country, where two-thirds of the 8 million people go hungry every day.
"The most important thing for me is to feed my family. I'm tired of politics. Politics doesn't feed me," she said.
But for some, the foreign peacekeepers are an occupying force cementing Aristide's removal.
"People are still angry" at Aristide's departure, said Marie-Claude Augustine, 46. "Just because we have tanks patrolling, it doesn't make things better. The rebels need to just go and so do the Americans."
South Africa added its voice Thursday to calls for an independent international investigation into the circumstances of Aristide's departure from Haiti.
Aristide flew to exile in Africa aboard a U.S-provided jet as rebels closed in on the capital Sunday. When he arrived in Central African Republic, he claimed U.S. troops forced him to leave.
"The suggestion that President Aristide may have been forced out of office, if true, will have serious consequences and ramifications for the respect of the rule of law and democracy the world over," South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a statement.
The Bush administration denies Aristide's accusations. But the 15-nation Caribbean Community said Wednesday that the circumstances of his departure were suspicious and should be investigated by an independent international investigation.
Chilean troops joined the force, with 120 arriving at the Port-au-Prince airport. Another 220 were expected in the next two days, said Chilean Ambassador Marcel Young. ___ Associated Press writer Ian James in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Posted Wednesday, March 3, 2004|
|Duvalier eyes return to Haiti, rights groups alarmed|
MIAMI, March 2 (Reuters) - Deposed Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier wants to return as soon as possible to his homeland, where Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted as president after an armed rebellion.
Duvalier said in a television interview aired late on Monday, a day after Aristide fled Haiti, that he had requested a diplomatic passport several weeks ago, although he does not plan to run for president. "That is not on my agenda," the 52-year-old former ruler, who has lived in France since his forced exile in 1986, told WFOR-CBS4 television in Miami.
Duvalier's exile ended a brutal three-decade family dictatorship begun by his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. The government of Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, has said the Duvalier regime stole $500 million from the country's treasury.
Human Rights Watch, already concerned that the leaders of Haiti's rebels include killers and human rights abusers, said Duvalier's return would be disastrous.
"There were some 30,000 killings committed under the reign of him and his father," Joanne Mariner, deputy director of rights group's Americas Division, told Reuters. "We couldn't imagine a worse leader for Haiti. Our goal would be to see him in court."
The White House also took a dim view of his comments.
"I don't think that he would contribute to heading Haiti down the path of prosperity and democracy," White House National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Duvalier said he welcomed the presence of U.S. Marines sent to help restore order in Haiti and that he was deeply concerned by the situation in the Caribbean state, although he expected Haiti to stabilize quickly.
"I'm shocked by the situation my country is in," he said.
He said he was in constant touch with people in Haiti, although he has no relationship with the anti-Aristide rebels who took control of much of the country.
"I think I'm getting close and that I will soon have the opportunity to go back to my country," he said.
Duvalier has said repeatedly in the past that he would like to return to Haiti, including in 2000 as Aristide was elected to a second term.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|Haiti rebel leader says he is military chief|
|By Alistar Scrutton and Jim Loney, Reuters Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 3 (Reuters) - Haiti's rebel leader declared himself chief of the military and police on Tuesday in defiance of the United States, but the presence of U.S. Marines forestalled a rebel attempt to seize the prime minister.
Guy Philippe, speaking at a news conference surrounded by members of his armed force and Haitian National Police, said he was Haiti's military leader. Hundreds of rebels, many in military fatigues and brandishing automatic weapons have entered the capital city.
"I am commander-in-chief of the national resistance front, military chief," the former police chief, 36, said.
He also said he would respect the authority of acting president Boniface Alexandre, who took over after Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned on Sunday and fled the country.
In a sign that the rebels are not in control, they failed in a bid to arrest Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, a close Aristide ally appointed by the ousted president. A rebel convoy arrived at Neptune's house in Port-au-Prince, but turned away after seeing U.S. Marines guarding the residence.
The presence of former death gang leaders among the rebels' leadership has concerned human rights activists, who also said they were dismayed by deposed dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier saying he wants to return to Haiti as soon as possible.
Louis Jodel Chamblain, a rebel leader whose right-wing militia killed thousands during an earlier military regime, was mobbed on Tuesday by adoring fans, who asked for his autograph as he sat on the roof of a car in the upscale suburb of Petionville.
Philippe said he welcomed the presence of U.S. troops, who are spearheading a U.N. force to bring order to a country convulsed by a month-long uprising that claimed some 80 lives. The Pentagon said it will send a total of 1,500 to 2,000 troops to head a force numbering less than 5,000, but hopes to hand over its leadership to another country.
Washington says it is trying to create a council of a dozen prominent Haitians to organize early elections and says its forces will work to disarm the rebels.
U.S. officials had asked Philippe's rebels to lay down their arms, something the rebel leader himself promised before he entered the capital.
Philippe said he would disarm the rebels if Alexandre asked. "The president is the legal president, so we will follow his orders," he said.
About 500 U.S. Marines were to be in the country by late on Tuesday, guarding the airport and other key sites such as a looted port. Col. David Berger, commander of the multinational force, told reporters, "I have no instruction to disarm the rebels."
Dozens of rebels occupied the former military headquarters -- turned by Aristide into a women's ministry and museum. They threw crucifixes from one window, claiming they found a "Voodoo" room used by the ex-president.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters: "The situation clearly is more stable and quieter today. The forces that were opposing Aristide seem to have made a conscious decision to behave and that's a good thing."
Philippe appeared to warn Alexandre when he said that the "people of Haiti will talk to him as they talked to Aristide" unless he creates a new army.
Aristide disbanded the army, which was behind a series of coups, in the 1990s, leaving law and order to a poorly equipped police force that collapsed during this month's rebel campaign.
Several thousand Haitians demonstrated outside the U.S.-guarded National Palace in support of the rebels. The gleaming white presidential office in the middle of the peeling and impoverished city had been a symbol of Aristide's power.
Haiti was convulsed by an uprising that began on Feb. 5 when an armed gang took over the northwestern city of Gonaives and was later joined by former soldiers and paramilitaries.
Aristide went into exile in the Central African Republic and charged that he was kidnapped in an American coup d'etat, an allegation U.S. officials dismissed as baseless nonsense but which may give a political boost to Aristide supporters.
"Our vote was stolen. We elected Aristide for five years. His term was not completed so he is still our president," 19-year-old Patrick Sanon said in a poor district that was a center of an Aristide state housing project.
Many Haitians fear a spate of revenge killings against hard-line Aristide supporters known as "chimeres" by rebels, led by Philippe and Chamblain.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva in Port-au-Prince)
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|Posted Monday, March 1, 2004|
|A Turbulent Career|
|Aristide raised Haiti's hopes, then shattered them|
|By Tim Weiner, The New York Times|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 29 Jean-Bertrand Aristide rose from his priesthood in Haiti's slums to its presidential palace by preaching democracy.
|The Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, then a parish priest, in September 1988. Soon afterward, he was expelled from his religious order for his political activities.|
But once in power, he dashed the hopes of many who had hailed him as a champion of the oppressed and the man who ended decades of dictatorship. In the end, the disillusioned say, he could not practice what he preached.
His last three years as president were made more miserable by the increasingly tough opposition of the United States, culminating in the hard shove that toppled him from power on Sunday morning. The same nation that helped reinstate Mr. Aristide a decade ago had a airplane waiting to take him back into exile.
Many who once supported Mr. Aristide blame the man himself.
"As a politician, he reverted to that same authoritarianism he had condemned for so long," said Robert E. White, a former United States diplomat and now president of the Center for International Policy in Washington. He knew Mr. Aristide well, having worked with him in Washington almost daily for two years during the president's exile from power, before his return to Haiti, backed by American military might, in 1994. "Aristide is an immensely talented man with no talent for compromise," Mr. White said. "I don't believe Aristide had a democratic bone in his body."
Nevertheless, he said, Mr. Aristide "was a constitutional president elected in a free and fair election.
"By putting the skids under Aristide," he added, "the United States has undermined constitutional government in Haiti."
Mr. Aristide, 50, slight and scholarly with a mystical air, was born in the southern town of Port Salut on July 15, 1953. He studied theology, sociology and psychology in Canada, Britain, Italy and Israel. Ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1982, he led the St. Jean Bosco church in La Saline, one of this city's worst slums.
His sermons denouncing the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, broadcast on a Catholic station, Radio Soleil, made him a hero to millions in Haiti and many foreigners who know and love this miserably poor country. The sermons continued in the years of military dictatorship that followed Mr. Duvalier's overthrow in 1986.
In September 1988, his church was attacked while he was saying Mass. The assailants killed congregants and burned the church. Not long after, Mr. Aristide was expelled from his religious order for his political activities.
He survived a series of attempts on his life and, cutting through the thicket of Haitian politics, won the nation's first democratic election, overwhelmingly, in 1990.
"He was a kind of anti-politician," said Brunson McKinley, who watched Mr. Aristide's rise to power while serving as American ambassador in Haiti from 1986 to 1990. Mr. Aristide first "called for boycotting elections and railed against the political class" and then joined the institutions he once despised.
He was elected twice, and handed power peaceably to his successor in 1996, unique achievements in a land long governed by dictators and despots.
He took office in February 1991, seen by many as a kind of saint from the slums. Then, barely eight months later, the Haitian military deposed him. When Mr. Aristide was restored to power in October 1994, to finish his five-year term with the full backing of American power, President Clinton hailed his return as "a victory for freedom around the world."
But after he was re-elected and inaugurated for a second term in February 2001, Mr. Aristide lost much of his support at home and abroad. He fulfilled few of the enormous expectations he had raised in part because Haiti, one of the world's poorest nations, met a virtual cutoff of American and international aid during his second term because of accusations of political and economic corruption.
His tortured relationship with the United States worsened after he and President Bush took office within weeks of each other three years ago. Many administration officials saw him as little more than a leftist leader of a country whose principal exports were refugees in rickety boats and transshipments of Colombian cocaine.
The opposition of those officials now puts them in the awkward position of seeming to have pushed a freely elected president from power in America's backyard.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company. Reprinted from The New York Times of March 1, 2004.
|Aristide tells AP the U.S. forced him out|
|By Eliot C. Mclaughlin, Associated Press Writer|
ATLANTA, Ga., Mar. 1 - Jean-Bertrand Aristide claims he was forced to leave Haiti by U.S. military forces, according to a telephone interview with the exiled Haitian president Monday.
Aristide was put in contact with The Associated Press by the Rev. Jesse Jackson following a news conference, where the civil rights leader called on Congress to investigate Aristide's ouster.
When asked if he left Haiti on his own, Aristide quickly answered: "No. I was forced to leave.
"Agents were telling me that if I don't leave they would start shooting and killing in a matter of time," Aristide said during the brief phone interview that was interrupted at times by static.
When asked who the agents were, he responded: "White American, white military.
"They came at night ... There were too many, I couldn't count them," he added. Jackson said Congress should investigate whether United States, specifically the CIA, had a role in the rebellion that led to Aristide's exile.
Jackson encouraged reporters to question where the rebels in Haiti got their guns and uniforms.
"Why would we immediately support an armed overthrow and not support a constitutionally elected government?" Jackson said.
Aristide, who fled Haiti under pressure from the rebels, his political opponents, the United States and France, arrived Monday in the Central African Republic, according to the country's state radio. He has claimed that he was abducted from Haiti by U.S. troops who accompanied him on a flight to the Central African Republic.
The White House, Pentagon and State Department have denied allegations that Aristide was kidnapped by U.S. forces eager for him to resign.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Rebels, U.S. Marines enter Haiti capital|
|By Paisley Doods and Ian James, Associated Press Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 1 - Rebels rolled into the capital Monday and were met by hundreds of residents dancing in the streets and cheering the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The United States denied allegations Aristide was kidnapped by U.S. forces eager for him to resign and be spirited into exile.
Most of the 150 U.S. Marines who arrived Sunday night were at the capital's airport, some doing overflights in a helicopter. Some of the 50 Marines who arrived last week drove cautiously along the waterfront road, and pedestrians raised their hands in fright and surprise upon seeing them.
The U.S. and French forces spread out from the airport to protect key sites the vanguard of a multinational force approved by the U.N. Security Council.
People clapped and waved as they yelled "Good job!" and called out the name of key rebel leader Guy Philippe. The convoy first rolled through Petionville, a wealthy suburb, before moving into the heart of Port-au-Prince.
When the rebels arrived at the plaza outside the National Palace and a nearby police station, thousands of Haitians converged on the square, shouting "Liberty!" and "Aristide is gone!"
Philippe later met in a hotel with members of the political coalition that had opposed Aristide, including Evans Paul, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince and a top opposition figure. Paul said Philippe "has played an important role."
Not everyone was happy to see the rebels in the capital. Some residents watched indifferently, their arms folded. At one point, the convoy stopped and rebels jumped out, sweeping their weapons from side to side, then moved on.
A half-dozen Marines in combat fatigues with assault rifles were seen on the grounds of the palace. The rebels and the Marines did not immediately approach each other.
Col. David Berger, head of the U.S. Marine contingent, described the capital as "definitely not a hostile environment" for U.S. troops.
"Most of (Haitians) are going to welcome us. We're glad to be here," he told the AP.
Aristide, who fled Haiti under pressure from the rebels, the political opposition, the United States and France, arrived Monday in the Central African Republic for "a few days," according to the country's state radio.
Aristide said in a short broadcast on the African station that those who overthrew him had "cut down the tree of peace," but "it will grow again." Aristide has returned to rule Haiti once before, in 1994, when U.S. forces took him back to Port-au-Prince. He had been ousted in a military coup three years earlier.
Randall Robinson, former president of TransAfrica monitoring group, said the former Haitian president told him in a phone call that he was abducted from Haiti by U.S. troops who accompanied him on a flight to the Central African Republic.
"He asked that I tell the word that it is a coup," Robinson said in a statement. "That he was abducted by American soldiers and put aboard a plan, told to make no phone calls to anyone, put aboard a plane with his sister's husband and his wife."
Secretary of State Colin Powell called those allegations "absolutely baseless, absurd."
"He was not kidnapped," Powell told a news conference.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld added that "the idea that someone was abducted is inconsistent with everything I saw."
An Associated Press correspondent, traveling with more than 70 rebels under the command of Philippe set out before dawn from the western town of Gonaives, driving past scenes of death and destruction.
In the town of St. Marc, the convoy rolled past three charred bodies in the road. The rebels took the town early in the uprising, which began Feb. 5, but were forced to retreat as government forces counterattacked.
Philippe said he planned to make preparations for the new president, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre, to assume office.
"We're just going to make sure the palace is clean for the president to come ... that there is no threat there," said Philippe, who was in the military in the period when it repressed dissident politicians.
On Sunday, Alexandre said he was taking control of the government as called for by the constitution.
It was unclear how the rebel force would be greeted by the U.S. and French troops, who were planning to establish security at diplomatic missions and other sites. Philippe earlier said he welcomed the peacekeepers.
Powell said he did not want some of leaders of the rebel groups to try to take any role in a new government.
"Some of these individuals we would not want to see re-enter civil society in Haiti because of their past records and this is something we will have to work through," Powell said.
Berger said 150 Marines had arrived from 8th Battalion, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"The U.S. forces have been sent here to secure key sites in the capital to achieve more security and a stable environment," Berger said. "People who interfere with that mission, we will handle with appropriate force."
At the airport, U.S. and French military commanders huddled over a map of Port-au-Prince as a French military attache pointed out locations where armed pro-Aristide militants have been known to gather.
U.S. Marines set up a security perimeter at the airport, kneeling in the grass as about 80 French Marines arrived in C-160 transport planes. The French Marines' supplies included crates of bottled Evian water.
Asked how troops would interact with the rebels and remnants of armed Aristide supporters, he said: "I have no instructions to go about disarmament."
"We have a specific purpose," he said. "People who interfere with that mission, we will handle with appropriate force."
Powell said the U.S. forces "will have a lead role" initially in restoring order to Haiti following the three-week rebellion that swept Aristide from power.
"I think initially we will comprise the bulk of the effort," Powell told CBS on Monday. "But I think over time, those numbers will shift."
The contingent of French troops was to first secure French diplomatic sites.
"We will go to the French Embassy and the ambassador's residence and as events unfold we will decide if there are other places (to secure)," said French Lt. Col. Louis Acacio.
Aristide's home in the suburb of Tabarre, meanwhile, was looted and trashed. Pictures, documents and a grand piano were dragged out onto the courtyard of the three-story villa, then abandoned.
Family and school pictures lay among the disorder. Broken plates littered the area by the pool. Books strewn about included several written by Aristide and one about Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist leader from Jamaica.
Aristide and his wife arrived in the Central African Republic for what will be at least temporary asylum, said Communications Minister Parfait Mbaye.
Aristide's departure was secured by U.S. forces at his request, U.S. officials said. Haiti's first democratically elected president, who was pressured to leave by the United States and the rebels, would travel next to South Africa, according to state radio and a senior Caribbean Community official.
South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said it had not received a formal request to host the 50-year-old former slum priest.
Aristide sent his two daughters to New York last week.
An American-based security firm guarding Aristide was told by the United States that the president could not count on Washington's protection in the event of rebel hostilities at the palace, a Bush administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The crisis has been brewing since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000, prompting international donors to freeze millions of dollars in aid.
Opponents also accused Aristide of breaking promises to help the poor, allowing corruption fueled by drug trafficking and masterminding attacks on opponents by armed gangs charges the president denied.
Though not aligned with rebels, the political opposition had pushed for Aristide to leave for the good of Haiti's 8 million people, angered by poverty, corruption and crime. The uprising killed at least 100 people.
Three hours after Aristide's departure, Alexandre said he was taking control of the government as called for by the constitution.
"The task will not be an easy one," he said. "Haiti is in crisis. ... It needs all its sons and daughters. No one should take justice into their own hands."
Alexandre has a reputation for honesty but could face a legal obstacle: The Haitian constitution calls for parliament to approve him as leader, and it has not met since early this year, when lawmakers' terms expired.
___ AP reporters Michael Norton in Kingston, Jamaica, Mark Stevenson in Port-au-Prince, and Joseph Benamsse in Bangui, Central African Republic, also contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|U.S. wants Haiti Elders Council, pours in Marines|
|By Saul Hudson, Ruters Writer|
WASHINGTON, Mar. 1 (Reuters) - Washington scrambled to create a council of "eminent" Haitians to fill a power vacuum on Monday and poured in Marines to restore order despite President Bush 's past scorn for U.S. peacekeeping missions.
The dozen council members will organize early elections while up to 2,000 Marines will back police in disarming rebels after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide quit on Sunday under U.S. pressure in the face of a deadly revolt, U.S. officials said.
Aristide charged on Monday he was kidnapped by U.S. soldiers and flown to Africa against his will, an accusation dismissed as nonsense by the Bush administration.
A senior State Department official said when Americans picked Aristide up from his home to escort him to the airport, he showed them a resignation letter he had written and said, "That's life sometimes."
Some Democrats said the U.S. policy of rejecting Aristide's pleas for police reinforcements as rebels overran half of the impoverished country pushed the democratically elected leader from power while failing to negotiate a viable alternative.
Aristide "was democratically elected, but he did not democratically govern or govern well, and he has to bear a large burden, if not the major burden, for what has happened," Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters.
"Now we are there to give the Haitian people another chance, and we will be working with Haitians to help Haitians put in place a political system, and we will support it to the best of our ability," he said.
In the 2000 presidential election campaign, then-Republican candidate Bush criticized his predecessor, President Bill Clinton, for dispatching U.S. troops all over the world, and especially to Haiti, to take part in "nation-building."
Critics said Bush's apparent contradiction was because his main aim in an election year was to prevent an exodus of refugees reaching Florida -- a state he won by a razor-thin margin in 2000 -- rather than stop rebels ousting Aristide.
Bush is also overseeing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep peace and help build the nations, but, unlike Haiti, those followed a U.S.-led war to topple the governments.
On Monday the United States was set to almost double its force to at least 450 Marines in the Caribbean nation, which lies about 600 miles south of Florida.
The Marines, the beach-head for a U.N.-backed international peacekeeping mission expected to total about 5,000, is much smaller than the 20,000 troops used when the United States restored Aristide to power a decade ago. But Washington wants to quickly shift control to other countries.
The Marines were expected to initially form the bulk of the peacekeepers endorsed by the United Nations and gradually give way to police reinforcements and allow other nations to take the lead, Powell said.
U.S. diplomats were working to form a commission made up of the opposition, the government and the international community that should within days install the council, State Department officials said.
Washington was focusing on forming the commission with Aristide's interim successor, Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre, Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and probably a representative from the Caribbean bloc, CARICOM.
The council of elders would arrange presidential and parliamentary elections and regroup Haitian police. Haiti's constitution says elections must be held within three months to replace Aristide.
The Department of Homeland Security stepped in on Monday to coordinate U.S. efforts to keep Haitians at bay. The U.S. Coast Guard, which last week repatriated more than 500 refugees caught at sea, deployed extra ships, helicopters and airplanes on patrol.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited
|Posted February 29, 2004|
|Aristide flees Haiti, Judge claims power|
|By Paisley Dodds and Ian James, Associated Press Writers|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 29 - Haiti's beleaguered President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned and flew into exile Sunday. Gunfire crackled throughout the capital as it fell into chaos, and the United States said international peacekeepers including Americans would be deployed soon.
The head of Haiti's supreme court said he was taking charge.
|Port-au-Prince today, after tyrant Aristide flees Haiti like roach|
|Cap-Haitien today, after the fall of totalitarian dictator Aristide|
A key rebel leader, meanwhile, said he would be sending his forces to the capital soon "to give security to the people."
U.N. diplomats said key Security Council members would begin to talk Sunday about a resolution to authorize an international force for Haiti, which erupted into violence three weeks ago when rebels began driving police from towns and cities in the north.
Though not aligned with rebels, the political opposition had pushed for Aristide to leave for the good of Haiti's 8 million people, angered by poverty, corruption and crime. The uprising only the most recent violence in this Caribbean nation killed at least 100 people.
Prime Minister Yvon Neptune told a press conference that Aristide resigned to "prevent bloodshed."
At the same news conference, U.S. Ambassador James Foley insisted the United States had not asked Aristide to resign. France, Haiti's former colonial power, had suggested that Aristide step down.
"President (Jean-Bertrand) Aristide made a decision for the good of the Haitian people," Foley said. "International military forces including U.S. forces will be rapidly arriving in Haiti to begin to restore a sense of security."
There were conflicting reports on where Aristide was headed. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said South Africa was the country most often mentioned.
Seretary of State Colin Powell conferred on Saturday with South African President Thabo Mbeki about the situation.
Radio reports on the island of Antigua said Aristide's jet had refueled there en route to South Africa, but officials in Johannesburg said there had been no recent contact with Aristide nor an offer of asylum.
Powell also spoke by telephone with the foreign ministers of Argentina, France, Jamaica and Panama. The official declined to discuss details of the conversations.
Other reports said Aristide would go to Morocco, Taiwan or Panama. But officials in Taiwan said there were no plans to shelter the ousted Haitian leader, and Morocco said he was not welcome. Panamanian officials would not address the issue.
Three hours after Aristide's departure, Supreme Court Justice Boniface Alexandre declared at a news conference that he was taking over as called for by the constitution. He urged calm.
"The task will not be an easy one," Alexandre, a former jurist in his 60s with a reputation for honesty. "Haiti is in crisis. ... It needs all its sons and daughters. No one should take justice into their own hands."
Despite Alexandre's declaration that he was in charge, the Haitian constitution calls for parliament to approve him as leader and the legislature has not met since early this year when lawmakers' terms expired.
Port-au-Prince was in chaos Sunday as news emerged of the president's departure.
Angry Aristide supporters roamed the streets armed with old rifles, pistols, machetes and sticks. Some fired wildly into crowds on the Champs de Mars, the main square in front of the National Palace. Looters pillaged supermarkets and pharmacies.
Foley said he was confident leaders of the popular rebellion that helped force Aristide's departure would lay down arms. "I do think we saw a certain willingness on their part to allow an orderly transition," he said.
Half the country is in the hands of the rebels, including former soldiers of the army that Aristide disbanded during a political career tainted by alleged fraud.
On Saturday, the United States urged Aristide supporters to cease looting and robbing in Port-au-Prince and rebel fighters to halt their march toward the capital.
Key rebel leader Guy Philippe, told The Associated Press his forces would head for the capital. He was at a rebel base north of the northern port city of Cap-Hatien, where he also said he hoped no country would give refuge to Aristide.
"We just hope no country will accept Aristide, so they will send him back to be judged. He did bad things," Philippe said.
Another rebel commander, Winter Etienne, said the fighters a motley group led by a former army death squad commander, one of Aristide's provincial police chiefs and a former pro-Aristide street gang would disarm once a new government is installed.
As he spoke, rebels rode through the key northern port city of Cap-Haitien in trucks, waving at hundreds of people who took to the streets to dance and sing in celebration.
Crisis in Haiti under Aristide has been brewing since his party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000 and international donors froze millions of dollars in aid.
Opponents also accused him of breaking promises to help the poor, allowing corruption fueled by drug-trafficking and masterminding attacks on opponents by armed gangs charges the president denied.
It was the second time the 50-year-old former slum priest fled his country. Aristide was ousted in a 1991 coup, months after he was elected president for the first time. He was restored to power three years later by U.S. troops.
President Bill Clinton (news - web sites) sent 20,000 troops to restore Aristide but insisted he respect a constitutional term limit and step down in 1995.
Aristide hand-picked his successor, Rene Preval, but was considered the power behind the scenes until he won a second term in 2000. Those elections were marred by a low turnout and an opposition boycott.
It was not clear where Aristide's wife was. The ex-president and Mildred Trouillot Aristide had sent their two daughters to her mother in New York City last week.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
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