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Haiti.... A new War?

post #1 of 7
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Updated: 01:40 PM EST
Marines Sent to Secure U.S. Embassy in Haiti
Rebels Plan to Attack Capital in Bid to Topple Aristide

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti (Feb. 23) -- Fifty Marines headed Monday to protect the U.S. Embassy and its staff after rebels overran Haiti's second-largest city and threatened to attack the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Residents of Cap-Haitien went on a rampage of reprisal and looting for a second day as supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide armed themselves and set up burning barricades outside Port-au-Prince. There were ominous but unconfirmed reports of rebels executing Aristide backers.

The Marines were dispatched to the capital to secure the embassy, according to Western diplomats and a Defense Department official.

Rebels Are Raging

Two police stations outside Port-au-Prince were attacked Sunday, leaving one passer-by dead, independent Radio Kiskeya reported.

A homemade bomb exploded overnight at Carnival celebrations at the Champs de Mars - Port-au-Prince's central plaza in front of the presidential National Palace, killing one teenager and wounding two people, radio stations reported.

The takeover of Cap-Haitien by about 200 fighters was the most significant advance by Aristide's opponents since the uprising began Feb 5. More than 70 people have been killed, including 17 on Sunday.

There were occasional bursts of gunfire Monday in Cap-Hatien, a city of 500,000 on Haiti's north coast. Rebels celebrated and detained supposed Aristide militants.

''I am a brick mason, I didn't do anything wrong!'' Jean-Bernard Prevalis, 33, pleaded as he was dragged away, his head bleeding. Residents alleged he was an Aristide activist and a drug trafficker.

''We're going to clean the city of all 'chimere,''' said rebel Dieusauver Magustin, 26, using the Creole word ''ghost'' to describe pro-government militants.

It was not clear what would happen to those who were detained. One rebel said they were saving them from lynching. Another, Claudy Philippe, said: ''The people show us the (chimere) houses. If they are there, we execute them.''

Police in Cap-Haitien remained barricaded in their posts, saying they lacked the means and the manpower to fight off the insurgents. Some hardcore Aristide militants roamed the streets and terrorized the president's opponents until the rebels moved in.

Thousands demonstrated in favor of the rebellion, chanting ''Aristide get out!'' and ''Goodbye Aristide.''

Looters stole 800 tons of food at the U.N. World Food Program warehouse, according to the agency's Andrea Bagnoli, and people torched the home of pro-Aristide Mayor Wilmar Innocent.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe predicted a quick victory.

''I think that in less than 15 days we will control all of Haiti,'' he said at a Cap-Haitien hotel as he drank a bottle of beer.

Philippe said nothing could be done to stop the looting and blamed Aristide's government for leaving most of Haiti's 8 million people hungry and desperate.

The rebels also cut cellular telephone service in the city, saying they wanted no communication with Port-au-Prince.

Sources close to the government said several Cabinet ministers in Port-au-Prince were asking friends for places to hide should the capital be attacked by anti-government protesters.

On Monday, France urged its citizens to leave Haiti. The United States did the same Thursday.

There are about 30,000 foreigners in Haiti, including about 20,000 Americans, 2,000 French and 1,000 Canadians.

The political opposition has said it will respond by 5 p.m. Monday to a U.S.-backed peace plan that calls for Aristide to remain president while sharing some power with rivals until new elections are organized.

The Red Cross, meanwhile, was trying to avert a collapse of medical care in Haiti, a senior official said Monday.

More on This Story

ร‚ยท Q&A: What's Behind the Uprising?
ร‚ยท Key Events in Haiti Since 1990

''The situation is unraveling very quickly, probably more quickly than anybody would have thought,'' said Yves Giovannoni, head of operations for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Committee of the Red Cross, speaking in Geneva. ICRC staff are reporting 30-50 people a day injured by the fighting.

The two-pronged rebel assault quickly engulfed key points in Cap-Haitien. The police station was burned, then looted, as was a pro-Aristide radio station. Thousands of people rushed to the port and carted off goods.

''We're all hungry,'' said Jean Luc, 11, who strapped four huge sacks of rice to his bicycle and was trying to pedal it home.

Residents also defaced posters of Aristide, who was wildly popular when he became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990 but lost support after flawed legislative elections in 2000 led international donors to freeze millions of dollars in aid.

Opponents accuse him of failing to help those in need in the Western hemisphere's poorest country, allowing corruption and masterminding attacks on opponents by armed gangs. Aristide denies the charges.

The rebels say they have no political agenda beyond ousting Aristide, but the man who started the rebellion, Gonaives gang leader Buteur Metayer, on Thursday declared himself the president of liberated Haiti.

Rebels have driven government forces from half the country. As Cap-Haitien stood on the brink of falling, police were barricaded in their posts, saying they lacked the personnel and firepower to fend off the insurgents.

Many people expressed joy at the rebel victory.

''The people are happy. Finally we're free from terror,'' said Fifi Jean, 30, as she stood in front of the blazing police headquarters, which was burned after the police fled amid the rebel assault. As night fell, fires broke out in the homes of some Aristide supporters in Cap-Haitien.

Philippe said he wanted to see Aristide thrown in jail and put on trial, although he did not know what charges the president would face, saying it would be up to Haitian judges.

The rebel leader was an officer in the army when it ousted Aristide in 1991 and instigated a reign of terror that ended in 1994 when the United States sent 20,000 troops to end the military dictatorship and restore the president to power.

In taking Cap-Haitien, rebels said their force only met resistance at the airport, where Philippe said eight civilians loyal to Aristide were killed in a gunbattle. Seven other bodies were seen Sunday in Cap-Haitien.

Aristide supporters commandeered a plane from the airport, and witnesses said those who fled on it included seven police officers and former Aristide lawmaker Nawoum Marcellus, whose Radio Africa had been inciting violence against opponents.

''We came in today and we took Cap-Haitien; tomorrow we take Port-au-Prince,'' boasted Lucien Estime, a 19-year-old who joined the rebellion from the hamlet of Saint Raphael, south of Cap-Haitien. ''Our mission is to liberate Haiti.''

The United States blames Aristide for the crisis and has said it does not want to send troops to restore order.

The opposition coalition Democratic Platform insists any plan must include Aristide's resignation.

Aristide accepted the plan, but indicated he would not negotiate with the soldiers who had ousted him in 1991.

02/23/04 13:24 EST

With the war in Iraq still going on..... I think that our Armed Forces is getting to be strectched very thin. What do You think about this new turn of events?
post #2 of 7
We are keeping close track of what is going on there in Haiti. I have been getting those news via the Latin American service of the BBC. I had not mentioned it before as I didn't had any source to cite in English... all are in French and Spanish.

According to some this may be a civil war already... despite the fact that Haiti has no army, everything is due to the National Police.

On top of the newstories that you have brought foward there is the matter of who will send troops.

It is obvious that an international peace keeping force is needed, as the people who are poised to take over in Haiti, don't seem to have the least intentions on Democracy. But, the Bush administration, seems not to be interested to do that at this moment. Apparently they are capable of preemtively invading a country, which has done nothing on an excuse based on lies, but when they can do a real job of democracy, they ain't interested.

However, Canada seems to be talking about sending troops, and the French parliament is discussing going there, and have even drafted a plan in which their three caribbean departments take a lot of part in the rebuilding process.

Another thing which has been discussed through the media around here is for some of the hispano american countries to intervene themselves in it. Cuba has already got several medical missions on the country to provide medical attention, and the Dominican Republic is concerned of a massive influx of refugees across the border. Refugees have been arriving by boat as far away as Jamaica. It is obvious that the richer caribbean nations ought to participate in this. Some people are worried that some refugees may arrive here in Puerto Rico, as happened back when Duvalier was ousted.

All is very concerning.
post #3 of 7
I think the U.S. will probably react realistically, i.e., will say that its military is simply stretched too thin (Iraq, Afghanistan, potentially South Korea), which would be the simple truth. If other countries fail to act, it will be forced to intervene when the blood toll reaches unbearable proportions (cf. Bosnia). That's the downside of having assumed the role of "global cop". I'm still very bitter about the failure of European countries to take action while Yugoslavia disintegrated; everybody just sat and watched the bloodbath on prime time every evening, waiting for the U.S. to do something. And I'm appalled that Karadjic and Mladic (sp?) are still at large.
post #4 of 7
Haiti has been unstable, since the Nineteenth-century slave revolt, that threw out the French. On numerous occasions, since T. Roosevelt's administration, US Marines have been sent there, to quell unrest. The most recent foray was 10 years ago.

Successive corrupt regimes (the Duvaliers, Cedras and Aristide) have kept the country mired in poverty and violence. If I remember correctly, Haiti is the poorest country, in the Western Hemisphere and this is directly attributable to its deplorable rulers.
post #5 of 7
A piece of related trivia....

Did y'all know that the USA occupied Haiti for 19 years back at the turn of the last century. That time has been described as the height of Haiti's wealth and well-being.

Also, currently, Haiti is 98% deforested due to cutting trees for cooking fires at least in part to embargoes placed on the island during the previous uprisings.
post #6 of 7
Originally posted by lotsocats
A piece of related trivia....

Did y'all know that the USA occupied Haiti for 19 years back at the turn of the last century. That time has been described as the height of Haiti's wealth and well-being.

And a country has to be REALLY poor when its moment of highest wealth and well being is precisely when it was occupied by a foreign power, for in order for a country to reach its highest possible levels of wealth and prosperity it cannot be under a foreign administration.

In Haiti, the literacy rate is 50%, just to give you an idea of how low that is, Cuba has over 90%, and Puerto Rico has 86%.
post #7 of 7
On my last cruise, we stopped at a recreation area, owned by Royal Caribbean, at Labadee, Haiti. We took a costal cruise, to the bay where Columbus anchored and established a settlement, in 1492.

We passed many little fishing boats, with sails made out of clothing. The fishermen waved and stood up, as we sailed by - they were buck naked. On the boat, voodoo dancers put on a show and we tipped them pretty well. Back on shore, a native market was set up, with local crafts and very good prices. According to the tour guide, this is the only way, for the people in that area to make any money, as it is a 3-day walk, over the mountains to the nearest city.

The mountains were covered in smoke, from charcoal pits. The people earn their living, making charcoal to sell as cooking fuel. When they get enough, to make it worthwhile, they sail a fishing boat to wherever they can sell it.

The natives who cater to the cruise ships seem to do well, by Haitian standards. They earn USD and get food and other goods, from the cruise line. Maybe, the cruise lines should take over Haiti and make it a tourist destination.
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