[R-G] Haiti's repression begins
info at cinox.demon.co.uk
Tue Mar 2 08:34:05 MST 2004
Jean-Bertrand Aristide may have been allowed to leave, but middle class
vigilantes and police loyal to the rebels have entered Port-au-Prince’s
slums to hunt and kill his supporters, according to the Washington Post.
Residents of the slum quarter of La Saline told the Post uniformed police
and armed civilians patrolling in SUV’s “shot and killed several people.
Witnesses identified the armed civilians as mulattos, a reference to the
light-skinned Haitians who control much of the economy”. Two police officers
were reported killed in an adjoining quarter, as some fearful residents
vowed to fight back in self-defence. The rebels are led by former death
squad leaders and officers of the old Duvalierist army – including the most
well known, Guy Philippe, who told the Miami Herald last week that his
political role model was former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Aristide
supporters predicted the rebels would reconstitute the disbanded Haitian
army “to defend the country's tiny and reactionary economic elite and to
repress movements for progressive political change.”
– Supporting facts
March 2 2004
Rebels enter Haiti capital in triumph
Scott Wilson and Kevin Sullivan
PORT-AU-PRINCE – Thousands of Haitians danced in the streets Monday as
rebels made a triumphant entrance into this burned and looted city a day
after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide flew into exile.
But there were signs of political reprisals against Aristide supporters in
the capital of a country with a history of political upheaval followed by
bloody revenge. Haitian police operating alongside armed civilians shot and
killed several people in slums that are home to Aristide loyalists, and two
police officers also were killed, witnesses said.
Aristide arrived Monday in the Central African Republic, having left behind
a statement that he resigned to avoid further bloodshed after a three-week
insurgency in which more than 70 people were killed. However, he told
members of the Congressional Black Caucus and others by telephone that he
was kidnapped by U.S. forces and forced to leave Haiti at gunpoint -- an
allegation that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell rejected as "absolutely
baseless" and "absurd."
Haiti's temporary president, Boniface Alexandre, huddled privately with
other Haitian officials to determine the shape of an interim government. A
plan endorsed by the United States and other countries calls for
establishment of a citizens council to choose a new prime minister and
eventually to call new elections, but no details have been set.
Guy Philippe, the leader of the rebel insurrection that helped force
Aristide from office, rolled into the city in a pickup truck to thunderous
cheers at the head of a column of about 150 rebels. By the time he entered
the capital Monday, his forces had taken over nearly the entire country.
A small group of U.S. Marines watched Philippe's victory lap as they
patrolled the National Palace grounds in combat gear, part of a force of
several hundred ordered to Haiti Sunday by President Bush. Marines and
forces from Canada and France also took up positions at embassies and at the
airport. They were the first contingent of what U.S. officials said would be
a U.N.-mandated force of less than 5,000.
In Washington, a senior U.S. military officer said there were about 250
Marines in Haiti on Monday. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a
news conference that the total number of U.S. forces could rise to "1,500 or
2,000," depending on conditions and contributions from other countries.
The swift political change after Aristide's downfall raised questions among
Haitians about whether they faced change for the better or no more than a
transfer of power from one group of armed thugs to another. Pro-Aristide
gangs and members of his Lavalas party, which dominated Haitian politics for
a decade, went into hiding, while new alliances emerged among their
In the Central African Republic, Aristide issued a brief statement on radio
saying that those who ousted him had "cut down the tree of peace," but said
"it will grow again." The sudden power shift left this impoverished country
of 8 million with few functioning institutions, deep class divisions and
fears of more violence.
"Our determination has proven to the world that we don't want to live in a
dictatorship," said Harry Adeclat, a physician who joined about 2,000 other
people in front of the National Palace to welcome Philippe's arrival.
Some Haitians called for Aristide's arrest and return to Haiti to stand
trial on charges of official corruption and human rights violations. Groups
of students outside the palace also chanted for the arrest of Prime Minister
Yvon Neptune, Aristide's loyal lieutenant, who has remained in office
pending the formation of an interim government.
"That's the only thing we want out of this -- to judge him and put him in
jail," Leopold Sabbat, 52, said of Aristide while standing in front of a
looted downtown office building he owns. "We don't need revenge. The only
thing that bothers me is seeing him live somewhere with the fortune of this
It was not clear under whose command groups of police and civilians were
operating. But their patrols were based at the Petionville station, primary
command post for the uniformed police, armed civilians and former military
officers who appeared to make up the security forces in the city.
The forces entered slums where many pro-Aristide gangs have hidden amid
warrens of tin-roof shacks and piles of trash.
In La Saline, a seaside slum loyal to Aristide, witnesses said uniformed
police and armed civilians entered the port Monday morning driving
sport-utility vehicles, and shot and killed several people.
Witnesses identified the armed civilians as mulattos, a reference to the
light-skinned Haitians who control much of the economy. They said the police
were trying to reassert control over private docks at the port, which local
residents said were controlled until recently by gangs loyal to Aristide.
Not far away, in the pro-Aristide neighborhood of Belair, two police
officers were killed, police officials said.
"We are worried that we will be killed, and that the guys with the guns will
not put them down," said Jean-Renault, 39, a La Saline resident who declined
to give his full name. "We will have to fight back."
Police raided the home of Jonas Petit, appointed by Aristide in 2000 to head
the Lavalas party, and searched for weapons. Neighbors in the wealthy
Petionville district said Petit abandoned the house when Aristide resigned.
Since then, looters had emptied the house of its contents. The officers
found no weapons, but rounded up and arrested a half-dozen young men and
women from neighboring houses. One burly officer, looking for a house where
weapons might be hidden, slapped one man in the face and squeezed his neck,
shouting, "Tell us where the house is."
"He was the one giving the guns out to keep Aristide in power," said one
officer, referring to Petit. "If we had found him, he'd have been put under
There were concerns here and in Washington about the intentions of Philippe
and the other rebel leaders, many of them former soldiers or death squad
members and some convicted of human rights abuses. In Washington, Powell
said, "Some of these individuals we would not want to see re-enter civil
society in Haiti because of their past records."
Aristide supporters said they feared Philippe would reconstitute the army
and use it to influence politics -- perhaps even overthrowing the new
government if he did not like its actions. Aristide was overthrown in 1991
by the army; he disbanded it in 1994 following his return under U.S.
Philippe told reporters Monday that "when the government is formed, as
promised we will lay down our weapons."
In a statement, the pro-Aristide Haiti Support Group warned that the army's
"primary roles have been to defend the country's tiny and reactionary
economic elite and to repress movements for progressive political change. We
fully expect a reborn Haitian army to play exactly the same role."
At a police station near the National Palace, reporters asked Louis Jodel
Chamblain, a former death squad leader who is now a top rebel leader, if he
intended to take control of a reconstituted army. "That's my secret," he
said with a smile.
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