Key figures in Haiti’s crisis
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
©2004 Associated Press
(02-25) 16:52 PST (AP) —
A former slum priest, Aristide was extremely popular when he became Haiti’s first freely elected leader in 1990. The army ousted him in 1991, brutalizing and murdering his supporters until the United States intervened in 1994. Aristide was re-elected in 2000 but has lost support since flawed legislative elections that year led international donors to freeze millions of dollars in aid.
Opponents accuse 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 denies.
Besieged by a rebellion, Aristide has accepted a settlement plan supported by the United States, other Western Hemisphere countries and the European Union.
ANDY APAID JR.:
The most outspoken leader of the opposition coalition, Apaid is a factory owner born in the United States. His family fled Haiti under Francois Duvalier, or “Papa Doc,” who ruled from 1957 to 1971.
Favoring pressed pastel shirts and gold-rimmed glasses, Apaid looks like a Miami businessman but says he is totally Haitian at heart.
“I am just as much a part of this country as anyone,” Apaid, in his early 50s, said recently. “That’s why I am saying we must choose another path for the country.”
But without a constitutional amendment, he will never become president because of his dual nationality. He has rejected the U.S.-backed settlement plan, saying Aristide must leave office.
Another top figure in the opposition coalition, Paul is a former mayor of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, who was in hiding from the brutal military regime during much of his term until U.S. troops arrived in 1994.
Paul, who is in his late 40s, was head of a center-left coalition that nominated Aristide for president in 1990. Paul managed Aristide’s successful election campaign but broke ranks after Aristide left him out of his inner circle.
A playwright and journalist when dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled Haiti, Paul was jailed for opposing him.
The 35-year-old leader of a motley band of rebels threatening to take over Haiti, Philippe joined the revolt a week after it was started in Gonaives by a street gang that used to terrorize Aristide’s opponents and turned on Haiti’s president after its leader was assassinated.
Philippe came from neighboring Dominican Republic, where he fled in 2000 amid charges he was plotting a coup.
Philippe was born to peasants near the provincial town of Jeremie and is a former army officer who training at a military academy in Ecuador when Aristide disbanded the army. He returned to Haiti and was named by Aristide as former assistant police chief for northern Haiti.
Haiti’s military has a history of ruling with brutality, but Philippe says soldiers should stay in the barracks and insists that, under his command, things would change.
^DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN:
The French foreign minister who took the spotlight when he squared off against Secretary of State Colin Powell at the U.N. Security Council debates before the Iraq war, de Villepin is now working with Powell to find a solution to the crisis in Haiti, France’s former colony. De Villepin is trying to arrange separate meetings in Paris with Aristide and opposition leaders later in the week.
The State Department’s top official for Latin America, Noriega is working closely with multinational bodies, such as the Organization of American States and Caribbean Community, to find a peaceful, democratic solution for Haiti.
Noriega is a seasoned Latin hand who has singled out Fidel Castro for destablishing democratic governments and called on Castro’s friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to observe the rule of law. The U.S. czar for Latin America was Sen. Jesse Helms’ chief aide on the region before being appointed ambassador to the Organization of American States. Last year, with the support of conservative groups, he became the first assistant secretary of state for Latin America to win Senate approval since 1996.
The street gang leader who started Haiti’s rebellion freely admits that he used to go around terrorizing Aristide’s opponents. Metayer says Aristide armed his Cannibal Army gang for that purpose. The gang turned on Aristide after gang leader Amiot Metayer, Buteur’s brother, was assassinated last year, accusing the government of silencing him to prevent him giving damaging information about Aristide. Aristide denies any involvement with the gang. Buteur, who wears bands of bullets across his chest, has small ambitions: Last week he declared himself president of Haiti’s central Artibonite district. Like the other rebels, he says Aristide has to go before he’ll lay down his arms.
This sergeant in the now-disbanded Haitian army headed death squads in 1987 that intimidated voters before the army aborted November elections in a bloodbath of voters. After the army ousted Aristide in 1991, he became co-leader of the feared FRAPH death squad that is blamed for the murder, torture and maiming of hundreds of Haitians, particularly Aristide’s slum supporters. He fled to the Dominican Republic when U.S. troops intervened in 1994, and returned to the country two weeks ago to join the rebellion. Chamblain has been convicted, in absentia, and received two sentences of life imprisonment for his role in a 1994 raid on Gonaives’ Raboteau slum — where Metayer holds sway today — and the 1993 assassination of Aristide financier Antoine Izmery.
©2004 Associated Press