[R-G] Aristide leaves Haiti after Bush blames him for crisis
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Feb 29 07:05:05 MST 2004
Under Pressure, Aristide Leaves Haiti
By TIM WEINER and LYDIA POLGREEN
Published: February 29, 2004
ORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 29 - President Jean-Bertrand Aristide left
Haiti Sunday at dawn, resigning under intense pressure from the United
States, according to Haitian and American officials.
Mr. Aristide was Haiti's first democratically elected president in the
island's 200 years of independence. But his presidency crumbled as armed
rebels seized Haiti's north this month and Bush administration officials
took an "Aristide must go" stance this weekend.
The rebels, led by veterans of Haiti's army, disbanded by Mr. Aristide,
had threatened to attack the capital unless the president left power.
Mr. Aristide flew from Haiti on a small jet that left Port-au-Prince at
about 6:45 a.m, according to a United States official here, bound for
the neighboring Dominican Republic.
If Haiti's constitution holds over the coming hours, the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court, Boniface Alexandre, would be sworn in as the head
of a transitional government until elections to be held in 2005. It
remains to be seen if Mr. Alexandre will be acceptable to the armed
Mr. Aristide was a radical Catholic priest when he rose to prominence in
the 1980's as an opponent of military rule and political dictatorship in
Haiti. He was expelled from his order for his politics in 1988 and
became the leader of a political coalition seeking democracy. Elected
president overwhelmingly in 1990, he was overthrown in a violent
military coup in 1991 and fled into exile, first to Venezuela, then the
He was returned to power in 1994 by a military invasion led by the
United States. Haiti's constitution barred him from succeeding himself
as president, but he won a second five-year term in 2000. Over the next
three years, his power was eroded as political corruption in his
government and political anger in the street grew out of control.
Many of his former supporters became his sworn enemies. An armed
rebellion erupted in Haiti's north on Feb. 5, and several hundred of the
rebels quickly seized half the nation and threatened to storm the
capital, sparking fear and havoc.
As recently as July, the foreign policy of the United States toward
Haiti was to let Mr. Aristide serve out his five-year term. "The United
States accepts President Aristide as the constitutional president of
Haiti for his term of office ending in 2006," Brian Dean Curran, then
the United States Ambassador here, said eight months ago.
Things changed. The Bush administration clearly decided in the past
three days, as a senior administration official said Saturday, that
"Aristide must go," and that message was communicated directly to Mr.
Aristide hours before he left this morning. France, Haiti's colonial
occupier, also called for the president to step down.
In a statement issued Saturday night and authorized by President Bush,
the White House blamed Mr. Aristide for "the deep polarization and
violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today."
His departure would enable a international peacekeeping force,
contemplated by the United States, France and other nations, but still
unformed, to land in Port-au-Prince, secure the capital and enable
desperately needed food and economic assistance to flow to Haiti, the
poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.
That force would try to stabilize Haiti -- a task that could take years
-- and prevent a fresh flood of desperate refugees trying to reach
Luigi Einaudi, assistant secretary general of the Organization of
American Statesand the group's point man on Haiti, who met often with
Mr. Aristide and his opponents, trying to resolve Haiti's deepening
political crisis, said in a telephone interview this morning that Mr.
Aristide "did what he felt was right for his country, which is in a very
"I hope that a succession can be handled constitutionally and
peacefully, without excessive turmoil," Mr. Einaudi said. "I'm very
concerned that the situation has so already undermined any state
authority that things will be difficult in Haiti for a long time."
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