Originally: Violence in Haiti
A look at the continuing conflict on the ground in Haiti.
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JONATHAN MANN, CNN HOST (voice-over): The impending state of siege.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE, HAITIAN PRESIDENT: The world sees this kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It’s a genocide. It’s a crime against humanity.
MANN: Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pleads for international help. His capital, Port-au-Prince, begins to brace for the rebels’ promised attack.
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Hello and welcome.
As recently as Monday, President Aristide was ushering in his country’s pre-Lenten carnival in the company of brightly-costumed dancers, urging his people to dance, but also pray at the same time.
As it’s turned out, they haven’t been doing much dancing. Haiti is essentially cut in two with the northern half under the control of loosely organized rebels. But it’s not one side against the other. It’s more complex that that. The president has been challenged for years by political opponents working within the law. The uprising began with violence just this month, apparently with one gang in one town, and it was joined, perhaps commandeered, by other gunmen, some of them exiled former soldiers, who reentered the country especially to get into the fray.
That mix of rebels has taken one town after another with nothing much left to capture but the capital, and they say they will capture it.
On our program today, Haiti’s opposition by all means.
We begin with Elizabeth Jones, in Port-au-Prince.
ELIZABETH JONES, CHANNEL 4 NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The violence in the northern city of Cap-Haitien continues. The rebels say they’re in control, but in reality Haiti’s second city has descended into chaos.
Rebel leaders insist that they will continue their push south although they won’t be drawn on which town will be targeted next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t know. We have to see where we should (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but I think it should be Port-au-Prince or (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
JONES: Members of armed pro-government forces have been detained, looting is widespread, and humanitarian organizations working in Cap- Haitien say the situation is desperate.
In the capital, Port-au-Prince, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide made his first public appearance since Sunday and called on opposition leaders to accept the American-backed peace plan that would share power. He also pleaded with the international community to intervene and help disarm the rebels threatening his capital.
ARISTIDE: It’s time for the opposition to stop the violence, to join us and to have the responsibility to be shared.
JONES: 50 American Marines have landed in the capital, still insisting that their mission is only to protect the U.S. embassy here, but already their presence is being felt, and clearly the Americans want to keep their lines open to all sides in the impasse.
Today the French foreign minister said that France does not rule out participation in a civilian peace force if it operates under a U.N. mandate.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office issued a travel warning for all British nationals to leave Haiti due to the highly volatile security situation.
The political opposition has until this evening to respond to an American peace proposal. The deadline was extended yesterday afternoon after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell phoned opposition politicians and persuaded them to spend another 24 hours considering the deal. Opposition leaders reiterated that they are not allied with the rebels, but both parties are demanding the president’s resignation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people here in Haiti have been saying that the only language that Mr. Aristide really listens to is weapons. Maybe they are helping our cause.
JONES: And it’s the potential rebel advance that is causing Aristide the most concern and creating a sense of fear on the streets of Port-au- Prince. The president’s supporters are erecting barricades around the city to slow any potential rebel attack. The advance has been swift and dramatic and people here know they could soon be witnessing a fight for the capital.
Elizabeth Jones, Channel 4 News, in Port-au-Prince.
MANN: We take a break now. When we come back, what happens next?
Stay with us.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are going to fight against the terrorists who are going to come here and massacre the people. President Aristide is the one who makes the right decisions for us. We are not willing to negotiate. Aristide should stay for five years.
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MANN: There are an estimated 600,000 Haitians living in the United States. A recent poll revealed they’re deeply divided about what’s going on in their country. Just over half of the people surveyed think President Aristide should stay in power, but most disapprove of the job he’s done. 56 percent of them said they thought the situation was better under the dictatorships of Francois Duvalier and his son Jean Claude. Only 14 percent said the situation was better under Mr. Aristide.
President Aristide was toppled by the army and then restored to power by the threat of a U.S. invasion 10 years later. The United States is not threatening anything of the kind this time around, but it is at the forefront of a group of nations trying to broker a deal. Their offer to support a new power-sharing arrangement is set to elapse at this hour, in fact about eight minutes ago.
CNN’s Elise Labott reports from Washington.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It’s a race for the future of Haiti before chaos takes over. The United States scrambling for a deal between the Haitian government and the opposition, before the rebels reach Port-au-Prince.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our view is that the parties need to step up to their responsibility, that this is the way forward for the government and for the opposition.
LABOTT: On the ground Tuesday, U.S. officials continued to press the opposition to accept a power-sharing plan by day’s end, but the deadline came and went despite a personal plea by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the opposition for compromise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plan that has been presented would create an independent prime minister and government that could run the country, create the responsible police forces. It would create a fair opportunity for all the parties in Haiti to participate in a peaceful, democratic and constitutional process.
LABOTT: The United States and its partners, Canada, France and the Caribbean community, have promised to send a police force to ensure the deal is implemented, but the plan keeps Aristide in office until his term ends in 2006 and with rebels advancing on the capital, the opposition is holding firm that Aristide must go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s going to be very difficult to reach an accord between Aristide and the political opposition. Simply put, they disagree on who should be president of that country, and so every other element on the table, whether it’s the prime minister, whether it’s legislative elections, is secondary to the question of the presidency.
LABOTT: History is repeating itself for both the United States and Aristide. The United States invaded Haiti in 1994 to restore Aristide to power after a military coup. Since then, the United States says Aristide has failed his people, but that democracy should prevail.
This time, the United States maintains there will be no military intervention to stop the violence, but some U.S. lawmakers warn U.S. indifference will lead to an exodus of Haitians trying to reach American shores.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no other alternative but the use of the United States’ influence. We must become engaged at a serious and sustained level to be — or failing to do so, be prepared to pay the cost of chaos 700 miles off our coast.
LABOTT (on camera): And although the opposition seems to have rejected the plan, there’s no shortage of diplomatic initiatives. The French have invited the parties to Paris for talks to end the standoff, and now Democratic presidential candidate Reverend Al Sharpton says he will go to Port-au-Prince to mediate.
Elise Labott, CNN at the State Department.
MANN: Haiti has had a tumultuous history. Since independence 200 years ago, it’s had 32 coups. On average, that’s one every six years. But in 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the first democratically-elected president in Haiti’s history. After the U.S.-led intervention and the four-year term of a close ally, Mr. Aristide was returned to the presidential palace. But the 2000 elections, especially the vote for the legislative assembly, were contested by the international community and by many Haitians as well.
Joining us now to talk more about where Haiti will go now is Luigi Einaudi, the assistant secretary-general of the Organization of American States.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us.
There was a deal on the table. The opposition has turned it down. What happens now? Is Haiti on its own?
LUIGI EINAUDI, ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES: Well, you know, Haiti is a very complicated country and Haitians a very intelligence people, and I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that the opposition has turned this deal down. What they have done is, as I understand it — I have not seen the text that presumably has in the last couple of minutes been handed to the head of our special mission in Haiti. What they do is they try to take a twist and say they appreciate the interest of the international community and they accept the monitoring mechanism that was designed precisely to monitor the international plan, and they say they would apply it to the timely and orderly departure of President Aristide.
So it’s in effect a no, but with elements of a yes, so that the ball isn’t dropped.
MANN: The country is on the brink of chaos. Do you think that’s a responsible position to take?
EINAUDI: Actually, I don’t. But then again, I’m not a Haitian.
I think you’re right. It is on the verge of chaos, of potential anarchy, and there is a very strong disregard in the position of all sides for the practical rule of law.
MANN: Now, is it just the Haitians themselves who are disregarding that question? And I ask you, because the United States has made clear it will send it or it will support an international security presence only as some kind of observation force, to observe an agreement that’s being respected on the ground. The French have said they might send some troops in if the U.N. Security Council calls for it, but I haven’t heard anyone say that they would come forward to actually send in armed men to stop the violence. That seems, to an outsider, to be primary right now.
EINAUDI: Well, it is if you’re a Haitian, but on the other hand I think that it’s probably realistic. I don’t know of any political leader who would want to send his police into a situation where there are no rules for them to enforce and where they just become a target for the contending factions.
MANN: Understood. So let me ask you this: are any of the diplomats or the outside mediators in contact with representatives of the armed factions? Is there any effort at all to try to deal with this problem through the same means that diplomats are bringing to the political figures and the lawful opponents of the presidency?
EINAUDI: That’s actually a very, very good question, and it’s one that reveals how sudden and how fast this extraordinary turn of events has taken.
I was in Haiti on the first of January and the celebrations for the 200th anniversary were troubled by the existence of opposition and in the north of the beginnings of some occasional shooting and resistance, but basically nobody at that point foresaw the emergence of the kind of forces and the kind of popular response to those forces, that we’ve seen.
President Aristide tends to refer to them as terrorists, and he certainly has on his side the fact that we’re dealing with some people with some very shady origins, both in recent gangs and in the old military regime.
So in fact I think most of the world has been caught by surprise by their emergence and remains basically in contact with civilian opposition.
MANN: So what does the world do now? President Aristide was publicly pleading for international help just a short time ago. Is he going to get any?
EINAUDI: Yes, he was today again in this morning’s press conference.
I think that some efforts are being made. Many countries, not just the Canadians and the United States and possibly from further off the French, but also Caribbean neighbors, like the Bahamas, which is immediately offshore, or the countries of Caricom generally are looking at all of this really very seriously.
But the point we made before, that it is very hard to send people into a lawless situation, unless you’re talking about major military action, and I think on that score there is substantial unanimity that that’s not going to happen.
MANN: Luigi Einaudi, assistant secretary-general of the OAS, thank you so much for talking with us.
EINAUDI: Thank you.
MANN: We take a break now. When we come back, the rebels, who are they?
Stay with us.
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MANN (voice-over): Luigio De Chamblanc (ph) has quickly come to the fore of the chaos in Haiti. A former sergeant in the Haitian military, a decade ago he helped establish FRAP, a shadowy force blamed for countless deaths. Chamblanc (ph) fled into exile and was convicted of murder in absentia. Now he’s back and leading some of the rebels.
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MANN: Welcome back.
It’s hard for outsiders to know who really speaks for the Haitian opposition. There’s more than one opposition. The politicians say they have no links with the gunmen and the gunmen say that they are really politicians.
Joining us now to sort that out is Arielle Jean-Baptiste of the Haiti Democracy Project, a Washington-based advocacy group for peaceful change in Haiti.
Thank so much for being with us.
Let me ask you first of all this basic question. There seems to be a kind of slow political paralysis in Haiti, a slow political conflict with another conflict quickly moving, run by gunmen, superimposed on top of it. Are they related or is it just a coincidence that they’re happening at the same place at the same time?
ARIELLE JEAN-BAPTISTE, HAITI DEMOCRACY PROJECT: It’s a coincidence. What happened is that the democratic platform, which is made up of civil society, the masses, labor unions or opposition, are the real opposition in Haiti right now. They’ve been there, they’ve been around for a while. I think they’ve been staging peaceful demonstrations since October, and I think they’ve been ignored. Their cries have been ignored.
They have demanded that President Aristide resign peacefully. This other element just showed up. It just — I think everybody is caught by surprise on this one. But they just shoed up. They’re not related.
MANN: Who are they?
JEAN-BAPTISTE: Well, you have a slew of different personalities in the rebels. You have a former chief of police (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who had a falling out with President Aristide for some reason or another and he fled to the Dominican Republic. You have a former (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Mr. Aristide that he armed himself that turned against him after the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of his brother (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in September. Then you have Luigio De Chamblanc (ph) a former soldier turned paramilitary during the 1994, ’93 military rule.
So you have a melting pot of different personalities here, and they’ve taken over the scene.
MANN: Is this a political movement in any sense? Or is it essentially a group of guys with guns? Do they have an agenda? Do they have some kind of order that they want to establish in Haiti?
JEAN-BAPTISTE: Well, from what I understand, from what I’ve been reading, they would like the ouster of the president. That’s their agenda for the moment. They have asked the president to resign peacefully or else they’re going to come and get him themselves. That’s what I’ve been reading; that’s what I’ve been seeing.
But, you know, the most important thing to ask in this situation is that the Haitian people have welcomed these rebels. This is a huge question. Why are the Haitian people welcoming these rebels after years of being oppressed by some of these people? Why are they now welcoming them? This is a very important question and I think everybody should ask that question, because it has baffled me, personally.
MANN: Well, fair enough.
Let me ask you though about another group of men with guns, corresponding I guess you could say to the rebels, the gunmen who support the president. There’s another group that are called in Haiti the Shimay (ph) and I gather that translates in Haitian as the monsters. Who are the monsters?
JEAN-BAPTISTE: Well, President Aristide, what he did was arm a bunch of thugs after he destroyed the Army. As a matter of fact, one of the guys now that’s part of the rebels was his former — he armed them himself. These are the Shimay (ph). They’ve been terrorizing opponents. If you’re against President Aristide, his Shimay (ph) have been terrorizing — they’re armed by Mr. Aristide himself. But they can turn against you at any time.
MANN: Given that it’s the Shimay (ph) fighting against the rebels, does it matter what the politicians want at this point? Jean-Bertrand Aristide is still president, of course, but is he really the issue? Is the opposition really the issue? Or are we witnessing now this war which is taking precedence over the previous lower-level political conflict?
JEAN-BAPTISTE: I think that things will work out once I guess the opposition gets what it wants, and I mean the democratic opposition. I do not mean the rebels.
Mr. Aristide has been the problem all along and I think for once — it’s always been about him. And I think for once I think that he needs to do a patriotic gesture. Things are getting out of hand in Haiti, and he needs to do a patriotic gesture and move on, because the rebels are not going to stop. They have said it. They’re not going to stop until they get his ouster, and who is going to stop them.
MANN: Well, that’s my question for you. Even if President Aristide were to resign entirely, something that he says is not in the cards, it doesn’t seem like anyone is going to stop the rebels. The outside governments that seem so interested in Haiti say their interest ends when it comes to actually putting their own soldiers in harm’s way to stop the violence. Is this going to turn into simply a contest of brute force that someone has to win with guns on the ground?
JEAN-BAPTISTE: Well, D’Philippe (ph), the head of the rebels, has said himself — I don’t know if he is to be believed, but he did say himself that he’s not after the power himself. Once he gets it out, I think he will work it out with the Democratic platform. That’s what he has said himself.
I can’t confirm. I can’t say that this is 100 percent true. But this is what he has said.
It’s one of those things that we just have to wait and see. We really don’t know what’s going to happen.
MANN: Some people say that the democratic lawful opposition is trying to profit in fact from the work of these thugs, of the gunmen, because they’ve put so much pressure on the president, because they forced the rest of the world to pay attention to what they’ve been saying all along. Do you think that passively or actively they are in fact trying to profit from this unrest?
JEAN-BAPTISTE: I think the Democratic platform has been overtaken by everything that has happened. I don’t think they’ve profited. I think what has happened has taken over them. I don’t think they’re really profiting, but I think that what happened is that Mr. Aristide is such a repeat offender in terms of not keeping his word — I mean, over and over again they have tried to compromise with him and he’s never come through, and so now they have nothing to lose. I think that’s the way they feel. They have nothing to lose by wanting his resignation and by just sticking by their demands for him to resign.
MANN: Does it seem like a matter of time, though, until Port-au- Prince falls? It would look to an outsider like the momentum is all in one direction and the rebels are going to be running that country very shortly.
JEAN-BAPTISTE: Well, I don’t believe the rebels will be running the country. I think that they might take over Port-au-Prince and the surprise might even be that once they do take it that there won’t be any Shimay (ph) around, but everybody — I’ve spoken to Port-au-Prince a couple of times yesterday. Everybody is waiting.
We are waiting here. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We just don’t really know what’s going to happen.
MANN: What other possible outcome could there be?
JEAN-BAPTISTE: That’s a difficult question for me to answer. The outcome that could probably be is that the Democratic platform — the United States speaks to them right now and agrees to their proposition. That’s probably the best outcome.
MANN: Arielle Jean-Baptiste of the Haiti Democracy Project, thanks so much for being with us.
JEAN-BAPTISTE: Thank you.
MANN: One last thing before we go. One of the pressures prompting the United States to intervene in Haiti a decade ago was a flood of refugees. 40,000 people fled the country in the early 90’s, many of them turning up as boat people requesting asylum in Florida. And as well, African-Americans within the Democratic Party were pressing then-President Clinton for U.S. intervention.
If Washington isn’t intervening more actively this time, those may be part of the reason. So far, there is no sign of a new refugee crisis. The United States has planes patrolling the skies near Haiti and they aren’t seeing boats, they aren’t seeing people building boats, and African- American Democrats don’t hold much sway with members of the current Bush administration.
That’s INSIGHT for this day. I’m Jonathan Mann. The news continues.
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LOAD-DATE: February 25, 2004