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Context of 'May 6, 2004: Caribbean Leaders Ask Organization of American States to Investigate Aristide Ouster'

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Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is escorted on a US-charted jet to the Central African Republic. The details of this event are disputed.
US' version of events - Aristide contacts US ambassador James Foley on the night of January 28 and asks him three questions: “What did he think would be best for Haiti? Would the United States guarantee his protection? And could he choose his destination for exile?” At 11pm, Ambassador Foley informs Aristide that the United States can ensure his safe departure if he decides to resign and adds that this is what the Bush administration feels he should do. [Independent, 3/2/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004; Washington Post, 3/3/2004] Aristide and his American wife decide that they will accept the American offer. [Washington Post, 3/3/2004] Later in the night, Foley attempts to email the president but Aristide’s computer has already been packed. [Washington Post, 3/3/2004] Some time after midnight, Ambassador Foley telephones the US Embassy’s second-ranking officer in Port-au-Prince, Luis Moreno, and asks that he escort Aristide and his wife to the airport. [Washington Post, 3/3/2004] Shortly after 4 am, US Diplomat Luis Moreno arrives at the gates of Aristide’s residence in the suburb of Tabarre with a fellow US diplomat and six State Department security officers. Inside Aristide’s house the lights are on. Aristide meets Moreno at the door with his suitcases packed. “You know why I’m here,” Moreno says in Spanish. “Yes, of course,” Aristide is quoted as saying in response. Moreno asks Aristide for a resignation letter and Aristide promises to give one to him before he leaves the island. “You have my word and you know my word is good,” Aristide is quoted as saying. They then travel to the airport in separate vehicles, without any further conversation. They arrive at the airport and about 20 minutes before the plane arrives, Moreno again asks for the letter. Aristide provides the letter and then the two converse for the next few minutes. “I expressed sadness that I was here to watch him leave,” Moreno later tells The Washington Post. “Sometimes life is like that,” Aristide responds. “Then I shook his hand and he went away.” [Aristide, 2/28/2004; Reuters, 3/1/2004; Washington Post, 3/3/2004] A US-charted commercial plane arrives in Port-au-Prince at approximately 4:30am. [Aristide, 2/28/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004] US authorities do not force Aristide onto the leased plane. He goes willingly. [BBC, 3/1/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004] At 6:15am, the plane departs. [Miami Herald, 2/29/2004] “He was not kidnapped. We did not force him on to the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly, and that’s the truth,” Secretary of State Colin Powell claims. [BBC, 3/1/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004] “The allegations that somehow we kidnapped former President Aristide are absolutely baseless, absurd.” [Reuters, 3/2/2004]
Aristide's version of events - US soldiers arrive at Aristide’s residence and order the president not to use any phones and to come with them immediately. Aristide, his wife Mildred and his brother-in-law are taken at gunpoint to the airport. Aristide is warned by US diplomat Luis Moreno that if he does not leave Haiti, thousands of Haitians would likely die and rebel leader Guy Philippe would probably attack the palace and kill him. Moreover, the US warns Aristide that they are withdrawing his US-provided security. [Democracy Now!, 3/1/2004; BBC, 3/1/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004] Aristide composes and signs a letter explaining his departure. [Democracy Now!, 3/1/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004] The president, his wife, and his brother-in-law board a commercial jet charted by the US government. His own security forces are also taken and directed to a separate section of the plane. During the flight, Aristide and his wife remain in the company of soldiers. The shades on the windows of the plane are kept down. Soldiers tell him they are under orders not to tell him where he is going. [Democracy Now!, 3/1/2004] The plane stops first in Antigua, where it stays on the ground for two hours, and then flies for six hours across the Atlantic to the Central African Republic. Aristide is unable to communicate with anyone on the ground during the entire 20-hour period he is on the plane because it is presumably not equipped with a telephone. Shortly before touchdown, Aristide is informed that the destination is the Central African Republic. Upon arrival, Aristide is escorted to the “Palace of the Renaissance,” where he makes one phone call to his mother in Florida and her brother. He is provided a room with a balcony, but is not permitted to move around, and he remains in the company of soldiers. [Democracy Now!, 3/1/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004] His phone is taken away by African authorities and [Miami Herald, 3/3/2004] he is not provided a replacement or a landline. On the morning of March 1, he contacts US Congresswomen Maxine Waters and family friend Randall Robinson with a cell phone that is smuggled to him.(see March 1, 2004) [Democracy Now!, 3/1/2004] In an interview with CNN, he says he considers the events a “coup d’etat” and a “modern” version of kidnapping. [Inter Press Service, 3/2/2004]
Joseph Pierre's version of events - According to Joseph Pierre, a concierge at Aristide’s residence, whose account is reported in the French newspaper Lib´┐Żration, Aristide is taken away early Sunday morning by US soldiers. “White Americans came by helicopter to get him. They also took his bodyguards. It was around two o’clock in the morning. He didn’t want to leave. The American soldiers forced him to. Because they were pointing guns at him, he had to follow them. The Americans are second only to God in terms of strength.” [Independent, 3/2/2004]

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Mildred Aristide, Maxine Waters, Joseph Pierre, Roger Francisco Noriega, Randal Robinson, James Foley, Luis Moreno, Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Haiti Coup, US-Haiti (1804-2005)

March 1, 2004: Aristide Says He Was Kidnapped

In the Central African Republic, Haitian President-in-exile Jean-Bertrand Aristide, uses a smuggled phone to contact US Congresswoman Maxine Waters and family friend Randall Robinson and “emphatically” denies that he had resigned (see February 28, 2004-March 1, 2004). Robinson tells Democracy Now that he had an early morning phone conversation with Aristide. “He did not resign. He was abducted by the United States in the commission of a coup,” Randall tells Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. Maxine Waters speaks with the president at about 9am. “He’s surrounded by military.” Waters will explain to Goodman. “It’s like he is in jail, he said. He says he was kidnapped.” She provides an account of Aristide’s exit that differs dramatically from the description of events that had been provided by the Bush administration the day before. [Democracy Now!, 3/1/2004] Later in the day, Aristide is permitted access to the press. When read a copy of his resignation letter, Aristide claims it’s a fraud. “That’s not right. They took out the sentence where I said, ‘If I am obliged to leave in order to avoid bloodshed.’ They took that off the document. That’s why they are lying to you by giving to you a false document,” Aristide says. [Reuters, 3/1/2004; Reuters, 3/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Maxine Waters, Randal Robinson, Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Timeline Tags: Haiti Coup

Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide flies from the Central African Republic to Jamaica despite objections from the United States and the new government of Haiti. Haiti’s new leadership then announces that it is temporarily suspending Haiti’s membership in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and that Haiti’s ambassador to Jamaica will be recalled. [Guardian, 3/15/2004; Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 3/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM)

Timeline Tags: Haiti Coup

CARICOM members meet in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis and call for a UN investigation into the February 29 ouster (see February 28, 2004-March 1, 2004) of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s. “In the light of contradictory reports still in circulation concerning the departure of President Aristide from office, heads of government (of CARICOM) believed that it is in the compelling interest of the international community that the preceding events and all the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power from a constitutionally elected head of state, be fully investigated,” the statement reads. [CARICOM, 3/26/2004; Inter Press Service, 4/13/2004] US Secretary of State Colin Powell will dismiss CARICOM’s call for a probe on April 5. “I don’t think any purpose would be served by an inquiry. We were on the verge of a bloodbath and President Aristide found himself in great danger.” [US Department of State, 4/5/2004; Agence France-Presse, 4/5/2004; Washington Times, 4/6/2004; Inter Press Service, 4/13/2004] And according to diplomatic sources interviewed by Inter Press Service, the US and France intimidate CARICOM into delaying its official request for a UN inquiry. Both countries warn that they will veto any resolution calling for a probe. [Inter Press Service, 4/13/2004 Sources: Unnamed sources]

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Colin Powell, Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM)

Timeline Tags: Haiti Coup

Trinidad Foreign Affairs Minister Knowlson Gift announces that the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) has requested that the Organization of American States (OAS) investigate the February 29 removal (see February 28, 2004-March 1, 2004) of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [Associated Press, 5/6/2004; Associated Press, 5/6/2004]

Entity Tags: Knowlson Gift, Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), Organization of American States (OAS)

Timeline Tags: Haiti Coup

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