Day-to-day whereabouts of Cedras are subject of intense speculation in Haiti

October 09, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Where is Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras?

One report had the Haitian army commander at the airport, leaving for exile in Spain. No, said another source, he left his house at 2 a.m. for the Dominican Republic. All wrong, went another account, the general and his wife were at their beach house.

But despite the --es from airport to border crossing by reporters, there was no credible evidence that General Cedras had gone anywhere, nor that he intended to, at least for now.

In fact, General Cedras, who had not been seen in public for more than 24 hours, turned up yesterday afternoon for his regular meeting with U.S. Ambassador William L. Swing and Lt. Gen. Hugh Shelton, commander of the 20,000 U.S. troops here.

The whereabouts of General Cedras, who has led a brutal military regime here since the army overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sept. 30, 1991, have been the subject of intense speculation for the past week.

But in the long run, the fate of Haiti's ruling general appears settled. Under an agreement he signed with former President Jimmy Carter, General Cedras and his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, have to leave the military upon parliamentary approval of a general amnesty or by Oct. 15, whichever comes first.

Legislators on Friday passed a measure giving Father Aristide the power to grant limited amnesties, but some U.S. diplomats said it is unlikely that the new bill would be used to force General Cedras to resign immediately.

Instead, the betting is that he will be left alone at least until Oct. 12, the date his formal three-year appointment as commander in chief expires.

"I think he will hold on until then," one diplomat said. "He thinks his honor requires that he fill out his term. There will be a small ceremony as he gives up the office, and then it's likely a trip to the airport and a flight out of here on a U.S. government plane."

The Carter agreement required that General Cedras, General Biamby and Police Chief Michel Francois resign from the army, but said nothing about leaving Haiti. However, Mr. Francois resigned his office last Monday and fled to the Dominican Republic.

The three officers are held responsible for the 1991 coup and the resulting bloody and corrupt military rule. Their removal is a specific U.S. condition for the lifting of international political and economic sanctions.

U.S. officials, diplomats and Haitian sources, including some close to General Cedras, think the general will choose exile.

General Cedras, who received advanced military training in Spain, owns a house in Barcelona and recently purchased an apartment in Madrid -- and he has enough money to live there in luxury as long as he wants, his friend said.

General Biamby is said to be far less willing to resign or to leave.

"Biamby is an odd one," said a U.S. official here. "He sees himself as a soldier's soldier and thinks he would betray his troops if he leaves and they are left behind."

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