Aristide, Cedras arrive for first of U.N. meetings

June 28, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

UNITED NATIONS -- Thousands of Haitians gathered outside the U.N. Plaza to show solidarity for ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as he prepared to negotiate with the man who toppled him from office -- Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras.

U.N.-mediated talks aimed at restoring democracy in Haiti began on Governors Island, but there was no face-to-face meeting between the two leaders yesterday.

Dante Caputo, U.N. special envoy for Haiti, met separately with Mr. Aristide and General Cedras and said there was "common ground." But his discussions focused on procedural matters, not the substance of an agreement to restore Mr. Aristide to power.

"We are just starting," Mr. Caputo said. "It has been positive so far."

The meeting will be the first between the two leaders since the September 1991 coup that toppled Mr. Aristide after eight months in office.

The leaders were initially scheduled to meet at the U.N. building, but security concerns prompted a move to a Coast Guard base on Governors Island, in the East River at the southern tip of Manhattan.

Talks are expected to last several days.

Outside the United Nations, a demonstration that began with about two dozen people early yesterday grew to more than 6,000 at its peak in mid-afternoon, police said.

Haitian activists from New York, Boston and Miami addressed the crowd. Among them was Rolande Dorancy, executive director of a Haitian refugee center in Miami, who led the group in a chant.

"Who do we want?" Mr. Dorancy asked.

"Aristide," the crowd responded, waving Haitian flags, placards and posters with Mr. Aristide's likeness and supportive slogans.

The crowd repeatedly chanted, "No Aristide, no peace."

Jacques Lockler, 26, of Queens, N.Y., was among the supporters.

"I am here to support my country and my president," said Mr. Lockler, who left Haiti five years ago. "I want Aristide to go back. When Aristide was there, the country was good. But now it is no good. Aristide has to go back; Cedras has to leave."

Nicole Hill, 32, a social worker from Brooklyn, N.Y., left Haiti 13 years ago but said she would like to return.

"This is the last negotiation," Ms. Hill said. "Aristide has to return now . . . If Aristide goes back, I will return to help my country."

The scene was not as festive in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, where police stormed a religious service and arrested and beat several parishioners at the Church of Notre Dame. Churchgoers were chanting slogans in favor of Mr. Aristide in a nationally televised service.

About 15 parishioners were arrested, said a diplomat who was in attendance. Collin Granderson of Trinidad, head of the International Civilian Mission, the joint U.N.-Organization of American States human rights monitoring team in Haiti, complained to police.

"Obviously, they were arrested illegally," Mr. Granderson said.

TeleNational, the state TV network, briefly showed police hauling away churchgoers -- then cut to a taped speech by Mr. Cedras, delivered on Friday on the eve of his departure for New York.

Mr. Aristide arrived at the talks in a caravan of limousines that crossed Buttermilk Channel aboard a ferry. He traveled to New York with about 20 aides, including Rene Preval, his appointed prime minister; Jean Casimir, Haitian ambassador to the United States; Evans Paul, mayor of Port-au-Prince; and Miami attorney Ira Kurzban.

Mr. Cedras agreed to meet with the ousted president on Wednesday, the deadline set by the U.N. Security Council to restore Mr. Aristide.

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