U.S., France Pushed Aristide Out
www.newsmax.com, Feb. 29, 2004
The surprise departure of embattled Haitian
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Port-au-Prince on Sunday
came after the Haitian leader lost critical support in Washington
"He does not belong in office, he
has no legitimacy," explained a senior French official in
a phone interview with NewsMax from Paris on Saturday.
That decision was conveyed by French
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin to a visiting Haitian government
delegation in Paris on Friday, the official said.
Before Friday, French diplomats were
"advising" Aristide to consider leaving but refrained
from any formal call for his resignation.
That changed dramatically and left the
embattled Haitian president with substantially fewer options to
The French official claimed that since
last week, when a proposal for a power sharing government of national
unity was accepted by Aristide (but partially rejected by the
rebels), the increase in violence in the impoverished Caribbean
nation came more from supporters of the Haitian president than
from rebel forces.
"Aristide was trying to use the
agreement to force a contingent of international police to come
to Haiti and save him from the rebels, it will not work,"
explained the French official. The official insisted that no police
force would enter Haiti until Aristide is gone.
With Aristide gone, Washington and Paris
are scrambling to send in an international poiice force to stabilize
events on the ground.
On the issue of Aristide, the French
official explained that "Paris and Washington were working
from the same page."
The State Dept. confirmed that Secretary
of State Colin Powell spoke with the Haitian president by phone
While Washington did not publicly call
for Arisitde to leave, Powell, according to the State Dept., told
the Haitian leader there were no other viable options left.
Flee or Die
With de Villepin withdrawing support
on Friday and Powell on Saturday. Arisitfe faced two options:
flee or die.
Now said to be in the neighboring Dominican
Republic, Arisride is believed to be considering safe haven in
Taiwan, Morocco or Panama. The embattled president officially
ruled out Panama last week, but Paris insists that is where he
will wind up.
It would be ironic because Panama is where
former Haitian strongman General Raoul Cedras now resides. It
was Cedras who originally toppled Aristide in a military coup
in the early 1990's. Cedras in turn was booted out by the Clinton
administration in the 1994 invasion which reinstalled the Haitian
Now, it seems both may live in comfortable
exile in Panama, though probably not together.
The French official also believes that
the chaos now on the ground in Haiti may force Washington to get
more directly involved.
Some 20,000 US nationals are still in
The State Dept. has advised those U.S.
citizens "to take shelter" and stay off the streets.
With the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince
essentially closed and the border with neighboring Dominican Republic
sealed, the only way out of Haiti is by sea. The U.S. Coast Guard
is in the process of sealing that exit option.
President George W. Bush has ordered
the Navy to dispatch a three-ship task force carrying 2,000 Marines
from its home port in Hampton Roads, VA to the Haitian coast to
support Coast Guard efforts to enforce a sea embargo of Haitian
During the 1994 crisis, almost 40,000
Haitian refugees sailed into southern Florida, creating an enormous
political firestorm in Washington and Miami.
In the event of a "bloodbath"
in the Haitian capital, the French source says the White House
is prepared to send the Marines ashore to "protect American
With the departure of Aristide, an international
presence backed by the U.S. military is expected by Tuesday.