Aristide's Last Days!

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Michel Nau_

Aristide's Last Days!

Post by Michel Nau_ » Fri Mar 17, 2006 1:02 pm

By DAVID ADAMS, Times Latin America Correspondent
Published February 28, 2006

Two years ago Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile, shocking his battered country. Haitians are still arguing:
Did he jump or was he pushed?

Without answers, some say Haiti cannot move forward.

Now, a clearer picture has begun to emerge.

On the evening of Feb. 28, 2004, armed rebels were marching on the capital. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, almost defenseless save for his 50-strong security detail, picked up the phone.

It rang at the residence of U.S. Ambassador James Foley. Aristide had decided to call it quits.

"We were completely stunned," said Foley. "We had not the slightest inkling that he would be prepared to leave, on that day."

But two years later, nagging doubts still surround the manner of Aristide's departure from office. Aristide has always insisted publicly he was kidnapped in a coup d'etat backed by the United States.

"He was not persuaded at all," said Foley. "He decided himself to leave. He feared he faced death if he could not get out."

Exiled in South Africa, Aristide is now talking of returning to Haiti after the election earlier this month of his former ally Rene Preval as the country's new president.

Some fear Aristide's return to Haiti could undermine Preval. Despite allegations of drug trafficking and human rights abuses, Aristide remains popular among Haiti's impoverished masses.

In large part this is because of popular resentment over the perceived manner in which he was forced to leave the country.

"The big question is did Aristide jump, or was he pushed?" said Dan Erikson, a Haiti analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. "It would help if there was greater clarity. It's entirely possible that the U.S. played a positive role and didn't get any credit."

Before the call to Foley, Aristide had been hanging tough. In a TV address earlier on the 28th he vowed departure was "out of the question."

Aristide appealed to foreign governments for "a few soldiers" to protect him from being overthrown. The rebels were a rag-tag bunch of renegade former military officers backed by drug money, he protested. But there was no appetite abroad to save Aristide's discredited regime.

His life was another matter.

Washington feared a bloodbath if the rebels attacked Port-au-Prince. Aristide still had armed followers in the slums who would surely put up a fight. As they came south the several hundred rebels were capturing weapons and ammunition at police stations along the way.

"We feared that in that confrontation the president would be killed," said Foley. A six-man U.S. Army team was dispatched to Haiti, prepared to mount a rescue of Aristide if necessary, he said.

The elite unit was to meet with Aristide's security personnel, including the head of his bodyguards from the California-based Steele Foundation.

Word came back that Aristide was ready to leave immediately, very different from his earlier defiant broadcast.

At 8:30 p.m., Aristide called Foley. It was the beginning of a long night. At first, Aristide wanted to know what the United States considered the best option for ending the violence.

"He spoke very eloquently about his desire for peace," said Foley. "I certainly told him that I was extraordinarily sorry that his term was ending this way and I told him that I thought history would remember him well as someone who made a sacrifice in the interests of the country."

Foley then rang Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"Secretary Powell was stunned, and he asked me what was going to be the consequence," he said. Foley replied that Aristide needed to be rescued before the rebels reached the capital.

Foley and Aristide spoke several more times. "The biggest question he had was where he wanted to go. He asked for some time to talk to his wife."

Washington told Foley a plane would soon be on its way to fetch the president. But Aristide would need to sign a formal resignation letter.

Foley worried that time was running out. So, apparently, was Aristide.

"During the night he had told me that he himself was extremely concerned that if his followers, even his entourage, learned that he was about to leave ... they might not let him," Foley said.

In fact, U.S. officials say Aristide told almost no one of his plans. Even members of his Cabinet, including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, were kept in the dark.

Neptune told the Los Angeles Times he got a call from "somebody close to Aristide" about 11 p.m. telling him to go to a meeting near Aristide's residence in Tabarre. There he found the minister of finance, Gustave Faubert, and a senator, Mirlande Liberis. Aristide phoned again at 1 a.m. and spoke to each of them. When it was Neptune's turn, he said, Aristide told him cryptically, "I am trying to undo something in the making." Neptune was baffled.

At 4 a.m. Aristide called again. "He told me "I am like a prisoner. If you want to leave, leave, or if you want to stay, stay,"' Neptune said.

Neptune was taken aback. "I didn't answer. I was furious because I should not have been told that at the last minute."

Around the same time, the U.S. Embassy's second in command, Luis Moreno, was on the way to Aristide's residence with the Army unit. They had to clear debris and barricades along the largely deserted roads. Their mission was to deliver Aristide safely to the airport.

When they arrived they met no opposition. In the driveway Moreno saw 40 to 50 armed Haitian police and the California security guards. They ushered the diplomat inside.

A witness, palace security agent Casimir Chariot, confirmed Moreno's version.

"They were security officers dressed like us, with earpieces," said Chariot. "These were not people who came with handcuffs to handcuff the president. These were men who came to assure the security of the delegation. ... It was all done very calmly."

Aristide was waiting with his bags packed. "Mr. President, you know why I am here," Moreno said.

He addressed the president in Spanish, the language they had always spoken since they first met a decade earlier. When the United States invaded Haiti in 1994 to put Aristide back in power, Moreno had been part of the team coordinating his return.

"Have you got something for me? I need that (resignation) letter," Moreno inquired.

"You know, Mr. Moreno, my word is my bond," he said, adding he would get the letter at the airport.

"We have to get going," said Moreno. "It's nasty out there."

The airport was only a short distance away, but Moreno was concerned that the rebels were on the way and pro-Aristide loyalists could return to the streets.

Moments after leaving, Moreno was surprised to see Aristide's palace security escort turn off the airport road, headed instead for downtown. Aristide continued to the airport with the team from the Steele Foundation. Only later did it dawn on Moreno that Aristide had concealed the exit plan from his own guards, sending them to a bogus palace meeting.

They waited on the tarmac for the plane's arrival. Moreno was getting nervous. The sun was coming up. Word came the plane was about to land. Moreno went over to Aristide's car and tapped at the window.

"I really need that letter now," he said.

Aristide didn't say a word, but reached over and took the letter from his wife's purse. Moreno felt compelled to say something.

"I'm very sad to say goodbye in these circumstances," he said.

Aristide answered in English: "Well sometimes, Mr. Moreno, life is like that."

Moments later a large, white unmarked plane touched down. Aristide and his wife hurriedly boarded. The Steele Foundation guards followed them.

At 6:15 a.m. the plane took off, headed for the Central African Republic.

Word of Aristide's departure spread quickly. Confusion reigned and the capital braced for the arrival of the rebels.

Aristide's palace security team showed up in disbelief at a downtown hotel near the palace, according to witnesses. They hid there for several days fearing retaliation.

Moreno was at the palace securing Aristide's personal belongings when he got wind that Aristide was claiming he had been kidnapped. After arriving in Africa, Aristide had phoned Rep. Maxine Waters of California, one of his staunchest U.S. supporters. "The world must know it was a coup. I was kidnapped. ... I did not resign," Waters said Aristide told her.

Moreno was surprised. "I knew what the facts were," he said. In fact, he was feeling very good about the role he had played. "I was disappointed. As a diplomat you train for moments like that. I really feel we saved many, many lives that night."

The rebels arrived in the capital later that morning aboard trucks and pickups and tried to storm the palace. Moreno was there with four other diplomats armed with revolvers to stop them.

About three days later a phone in the prime minister's office reserved for urgent business rang.

It was Aristide, calling from Africa. He asked to speak to Neptune. "What are you still doing there?" Aristide demanded.

"I'm just doing my job," Neptune answered. Aristide reproached Neptune for legitimizing the "coup." Neptune hung up on him.

He was furious, feeling Aristide had abandoned him to face the chaotic aftermath. Within hours of Aristide's departure the house where Neptune lived was burned down. He would later be jailed, where he remains today.

"I won't answer that phone again," he told an assistant. "Don't pick it up."

Times correspondent Chantal Regnault in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.

Another version

Post by » Fri Mar 17, 2006 3:58 pm

http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/ ... sure2.html

Post-mortem of a coup
published: Sunday | March 13, 2005

Myrtha Desulme, Contributor

One whole year after the February 29 coup, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ouster as duly elected leader of Haiti is still shrouded in controversy.

As fate would have it, 2005 does not carry a February 29, but that did not prevent advocates of democracy and human rights from Paris to Montreal, across Canada, and in 30 United States cities, from organising protest marches, vigils, film screenings, and religious services, which focused on standing in solidarity with the Haitian people, to mark the first anniversary of the infamous coup, the aftermath of which has been a humanitarian and political catastrophe.


US Security evacuated

As related to me by Aristide in conversations we had when I saw him in South Africa and during his stay here in Jamaica, on the evening of Saturday, February 28, 2004, against the background of a rapidly deteriorating political situation, U.S. diplomats accompanied by marines, descend upon the presidential palace in Haiti, and ordered the 19 security guards, who had up to that moment functioned as the presidential security detail, to abandon their posts.

These security guards were on assignment from the Steele Foundation, and were former members of the U.S. Special Forces.

They are told by the U.S. officials, that, given the building exigency, they are being ordered, for their own safety, to board the helicopter which has been provided for their evacuation, because if they got into difficulty, they could not count on U.S. soldiers to help them out. The security guards obeyed the orders from their former employers (the Pentagon).

They are flown by helicopter, away from the national palace, leaving President Aristide with no armed protection.

A call had already been placed to another 25 reinforcement security guards, who were supposed to arrive on that same day, informing them that the U.S. would block their deployment.

The details of what transpired are disputed. According to the Americans, Aristide contacted Ambassador Foley on the night of January 28 and asks him three questions: "What did he think would be best for Haiti? Would the U.S. guarantee his protection? And, could he choose his destination for exile?"

At 11:00 p.m., Ambassador Foley informs Aristide that the U.S. can ensure his safe departure if he decides to resign and adds that this is what the Bush administration feels he should do.


Resignation Demanded

Aristide's version is that in the early hours of Sunday, February 29, armed U.S. marines accompanying Luis G. Moreno, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Haiti, surround Aristide's residence, while Moreno enters the premises.

Moreno is on a mission to force Haiti's constitutionally-elected president from the country. A fierce, psychological duel ensues. Moreno asks that Aristide compose a letter of resignation. Aristide refuses.

The diplomat makes it plain that not only are they in possession of incriminating evidence against him, but hostile rebels are fast advancing on the capital, and the U.S. cannot guarantee the safety of the president or his family. Thousands could die in a clash of his armed supporters and advancing rebels.

After a verbal tug-of-war, and a tense stand-off, Aristide, decides that he needs to buy time, so that the dead-of-night encounter can yield to a dawn, which would permit Haitians awaking and going about their daily businesses, to witness the extraordinary unfolding drama.

He asks to be permitted to speak to the international and Haitian media at a press conference. Permission is granted by Foley for Aristide to go on national television to appeal to the nation to remain calm, as he had done the night before.


Taken to airport

They exit the house and Aristide, his wife, his brother-in-law, and his bodyguard enter a vehicle which is part of a convoy of vehicles, while the diplomat enters another.

Noting that his is the only vehicle with untinted windows, he wonders to himself whether the objective is to better observe his movements, or something more sinister?

At this point in the story, Aristide pauses for emphasis, and looking me straight in the eye, asserts:

"I felt like a prisoner. Never did I dream, that I would live such a moment, when the outcome of an ostensibly diplomatic encounter would result in my wondering whether it was possible, that at any given moment, I could be summarily executed, and a story later concocted."

As the convoy winds its way through the dark and deserted streets of Port-au-Prince, it begins to dawn on Aristide, that his ploy has been turned against him, as the convoy is headed, not to the U.S. embassy for the press conference, but to the airport!

Upon arrival at the airport, at approximately 5:00 a.m., he alights from the vehicle to find that his 19 security guards have preceded him. Once again, Aristide is asked by Moreno for a resignation letter.

According to Aristide, realising himself trapped, he composes a letter of farewell to his people, explaining that he left because "the constitution should not drown in the blood of the Haitian people."


Frantic calls about asylum

At 5:45 a.m., while the airport towers are not yet open, a white, unmarked plane lands, bearing as sole marking, a U.S. flag in the middle of the vertical fin. After handing over his resignation letter, Aristide and his entourage are surrounded by "U.S. troops in full gear", who escort them unto the plane.

The Marines follow them into the plane, and take up their seats.
All blinds are drawn. At 6:15 a.m., the plane takes off, at the very moment when a Boeing 747, proceeding from South Africa, and headed to Haiti, filled with weapons and anti-riot gear, is refuelling on a tarmac in Jamaica, less than 300 miles away.

As the plane ascends, Aristide wonders where he is being taken, and whether he will ever see his homeland again.

While the plane is in the air, a mad scramble is underway. Frantic calls are being made all over the globe, from Paris to Washington, as the destination of the flight has not yet been determined. No country is willing to be a party to the shocking abduction.

After a gruelling 22 hours on board, cut off from the rest of the world, France at last manages to draw on the considerable influence it enjoys over its Central African Republic dependency, to obtain asylum for Aristide and his party, who are finally able to deplane. The coup d'état of February 29 has been duly executed.

Upon arrival in Bangui, Aristide is escorted to the 'Palace of the Renaissance', where he makes one phone call to his mother in Florida.

He is provided a room with a balcony, but is not permitted to move around. His phone is taken away by African authorities. The security detail is forced to remain onboard, and returns to the U.S.

The trip prevented them from revealing the details of the coup, until after Aristide was out of Haiti and in the Central African Republic.

After spending more than 24 hours incommunicado, someone manages to sneak a cellular phone to Aristide, who promptly calls U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, to inform her of his whereabouts.

Ms. Waters alerts the media, and the news of the coup explodes on the international airwaves. International geopolitics will never be the same again.


One year later

One year later, activists have renewed their call for an end to the foreign occupation; release of all political prisoners; a halt to the political repres
sion of Aristide's supporters; restoration of constitutional government and the return of Haiti's democratically-elected president; support for the calls by the OAS, CARICOM and the African Union for an investigation into the circumstances of Aristide's removal; a stop to the indefinite detention and automatic repatriation of Haitian refugees; and immediate granting of 'temporary protected status' to all Haitian refugees currently in the U.S. and surrounding Caribbean countries, until democracy is restored to Haiti.

Citing concerns about American pressure, and "circumstantial evidence" that the U.S. may have helped incite the rebellion against Aristide, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) submitted a bill to Congress on February 17 calling for an investigation.

"The American people and the world deserve to have the facts surrounding any U.S. involvement in what was, in effect, a coup d'état," said Lee, adding that she has had no direct contact with Aristide on the issue.


Disastrous toll

The toll of regime change on the bicentenary year has been disastrous. The de facto government has been a complete failure. It has been unable to enforce the rule of law, disarm the gangs, or restore the government's authority in the cities controlled by former soldiers.

Chaos, violence and insecurity reign. Schools are shut down, hospitals are not operating, and roads and infrastructure are in disrepair. Heavily-armed gangs and former soldiers roam Haiti freely. Residents of poor neighbourhoods are murdered with impunity.

Human rights organisations have expressed serious concerns about arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment in detention centres, and summary executions attributed to members of the Haitian National Police.

There are over 700 political prisoners in Haiti's jails, including several members of government and prominent supporters of Lavalas, such as former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert, and Haitian singer Anne Auguste, who have been detained for months without formal charges.

The de facto government was the only government in the path of Hurricane Jeanne, which did not warn, evacuate or protect its citizens. Jeanne killed over 3,000 Haitians, and left thousands more hungry and homeless.

The president of the electoral council resigned last November, warning that other panel members are trying to rig the ballot, and that the council is not capable of ensuring the elections will be free and fair.


Foreign interference

Foreign interference in Haiti's affairs continues to be the architect of this ongoing debacle.

The process of disarmament must begin, and the all-out-war against the citizenry be replaced by dialogue to promote peace and the return to constitutional order, for the right to freedom of assembly and the right to life for all Haitian citizens to be respected, and for the Haitian people to be allowed to continue their heroic 200-year struggle for freedom, sovereignty, dignity and self-determination, unimpeded.



Myrtha Desulme is a Haitian businesswoman living in Jamaica for several years.

Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Fri Mar 17, 2006 7:12 pm

[quote]As related to me by Aristide in conversations we had when I saw him in South Africa and during his stay here in Jamaica, on the evening of Saturday, February 28, 2004, [/quote]
This is a she said, he said situation.
When the Haitian people will know the truth!!

Myrtha Desulme said :[quote] Aristide asked Ambassador Foley "What did he think would be best for Haiti? Would the U.S. guarantee his protection? And, could he choose his destination for exile?" [/quote]
Whaaaaaaat!!! Aristide asking a blan, an Euro about his opinion of what did he think would be best for Haiti?
Unbelievable!!! Saaa mwen pa vle kwe nan saaa!!!

[X]

I sincerely hope that it is not true. 8)

Where is the truth, and who has it, then let it be told!!!

I don't care!!

As a human being, I am glad that Aristide and his family are still alive, and I hope that they would be allowed to exercise their constitutional right, to come back home.

Myrtha said :[quote]Foreign interference in Haiti's affairs continues to be the architect of this ongoing debacle.[/quote]

Tell me about it!!! This is sadly true!!!
Li le pou lide nou yo sispand fe kontay sou do pep la!!

Gen moun ki soti pou yo defome listwa pep la, min Pep la pa sot, we pa we yon jou kanmemm yap finn pa konnin la verite!!

Li di, yo di, gen sak di, kiles ki di, samdi, pavle di.

Pakite nou nan fe nwa!!

Banou yo ti limye souple!! 8) 8)

Michel :D

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Sun Mar 19, 2006 2:47 pm

Michel, sometimes I wonder...

Let's make some sense here. Aristide had a lot of armed people (you can call them anything). Anyway, Guy Philippe had about 35 to 50 people armed with M-1 and a few M-16. Furthermore, they were in Gonaives then Cap. Right before his so-called resignation, Aristide stated that He would not give up.

Then the next morning, He resigned...

Michel, fE respE w non papa! Se jwe w ap jwe oudimwen ou kwE nan sa w ekri yo?

Now, let's go back to the Masters of Deception! I guess you would trust them. Afterall, they found WMD and the terrorist threat in Iraq... Isn't it true, my good Friend? Whose story is more credible, Aristide's or Theirs?

Ou kwE nan tonton nwEl toujou!!!

leonel

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