Marines sent to Haiti

Aristide quits, flees

multinational force planned

Rebellion, world pressure force Haitian president to escape into exile

`Haiti will have life and peace'

March 01, 2004|By Mark Matthews and Tom Bowman | Mark Matthews and Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- President Bush ordered hundreds of U.S. Marines to begin restoring order and serve as the vanguard for a multinational force in Haiti yesterday after the Caribbean nation's president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, went into exile, forced out of office by a growing rebellion and intense international pressure.

Shortly after dawn yesterday, Aristide, protected by U.S. security forces, boarded a plane outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, and left the country, his final destination unknown.

The Pentagon announced last night that at the request of the new president of Haiti -- Boniface Alexandre, formerly chief justice of the country's Supreme Court -- the Marines had started moving onto the island and were to continue arriving today. "We don't have a number at this point," said a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command in Miami. Pentagon officials said at least 600 Marines would be deployed from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The Marine force would pave the way for a multinational force approved unanimously last night by the United Nations Security Council. The troops were authorized to remain in Haiti for three months, at which point the Security Council would be prepared to establish a peacekeeping force.

Bush's order came a decade after the United States sent 20,000 troops to bolster Aristide's triumphant return to the presidency and marked the third U.S. military intervention since 1915 in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country and a land with a history of misrule.

The dispatch of the Marines, passage of a U.N. resolution and efforts to put together an international force occurred against a backdrop of chaos in the capital after Aristide's sudden departure. Thousands of armed Aristide supporters rampaged through the streets, firing on vehicles and looting, according to news reports.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe, who had threatened to lay siege to the capital, told CNN that he would welcome the arrival of international troops and that his forces "don't intend to fight anymore."

"We need them," he said of the international troops. "They will have our full cooperation."

Aristide was opposed by a loose coalition of political opponents as well as an armed rebel group. It is unclear whether any political figure has sufficient backing to unify the country.

Bush gave no indication how long the Marines would remain in Haiti, but John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that a multinational military force could be in the country for several months, followed by a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Bush, announcing the deployment on the White House lawn, said a "new chapter" had opened in Haiti's history.

"President Aristide resigned. He has left his country," Bush said, reading a three-paragraph statement. "The constitution of Haiti is working. There is an interim president, as per the constitution, in place.

"I have ordered the deployment of Marines, as the leading element of an interim international force, to help bring order and stability to Haiti. I have done so in working with the international community. This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future."

France announced plans to send in about 200 troops based in the French West Indies to protect its citizens in Haiti, followed by 100 military police who will arrive today from France. French troops will coordinate with U.S. forces, officials said. Canada, Brazil and some Caribbean nations were expected to contribute to the international force, diplomats said.

Aristide resigned after weeks of violence that claimed up to 100 lives and hours after the White House accused the Haitian leader of failing to adhere to democratic principles and held him largely to blame for the unrest.

Aristide was elected president in 1990, overthrown in a military coup in 1991 and reclaimed the presidency in 1994 as a result of a U.S.-led military intervention that was billed as an operation to restore democracy.

But Aristide saw his stature plummet amid allegations of violent incitement and government corruption. Though he left office in 1995 at the end of his first term, he remained a force in the country, returning to power in 2000 elections that were widely viewed as flawed.

The presidency was officially transferred yesterday morning to Alexandre. Prime Minister Yvon Neptune was to remain in office, though dozens of ministers and Aristide supporters crossed the border into the Dominican Republic yesterday, seeking asylum.

In a farewell statement read by Neptune, Aristide said: "My resignation will avoid bloodshed. Life for everyone, death for no one." He said Haiti's constitution "should not drown in the blood of Haitian people. Haiti will have life and peace."

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