Haitian exiles upset over peace terms

September 19, 1994|By REUTTERS

MIAMI -- While officials in Washington expressed happiness at the agreement to end the Haitian crisis yesterday, the initial reaction from members of Miami's large Haitian exile community was anger at its terms.

Haitian-Americans assembled on street corners in the Little Haiti neighborhood north of downtown Miami, some holding signs and chanting against the accord shortly after President Clinton announced it to the nation in a televised address last night.

Hundreds massed on one street, blocking traffic. Police were on alert,

but the demonstration remained peaceful.

Members of the crowd held signs with mottoes such as "Get all thugs out of Haiti. We want Aristide."

They chanted, "No Aristide, no peace," and "Jimmy Carter, hypocrite. Cedras, got to go."

With U.S. troops on the verge of leading an invasion of Haiti by this morning, a U.S. delegation led by former President Jimmy Carter reached an agreement with Haiti army chiefs Lt.-Gen. Raoul Cedras and other military leaders under which they will step down by Oct. 15, after the Haitian parliament has passed an amnesty law.

Haitian exiles said they were angry because the agreement will allow their homeland's military leaders to remain in power for up to another month and because it set no date for the return of the democratically

elected president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted in a military coup three years ago.

"A whole month is a lot of time and a lot of people could die in a whole month," one demonstrator told Miami television station WSVN.

The Rev. Tom Wenski, pastor of the Notre-Dame d'Haiti Church, who heads the Haitian Catholic Center in Little Haiti, said disappointment with the agreement was understandable.

"Most of the people were willing to accept the presence of foreign troops in Haiti as a bitter medicine . . . in order to achieve the restoration of democracy," he told Reuters. "Right now, we [will] have foreign troops in Haiti without the restoration of democracy." But he said he did not expect the agreement would weaken the support of the Haitian people for Father Aristide.

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