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The 2004 removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide

The overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Project: 2004 Ousting of Jean-Bertrand Aristide
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In Washington, there is an anti-Aristide demonstration sponsored by the Haiti Democracy Project. Several hundred protesters, including many Haitian Americans and recent exiles, attend the event. Many of the demonstrators arrive in buses from New York and Boston. [Miami Herald, 1/30/2004]

Entity Tags: Democratic Convergence, Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Category Tags: The opposition/post-Artistide gov't, The overthrow of Aristide

Rebels take over cities in northern Haiti and move towards Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, overrunning President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s local police forces and vowing to overthrow him. [New York Times, 2/29/2004] The rebels include various factions. The leading groups are led by Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a convicted murderer and former death squad leader under “Baby Doc” Duvalier, and Guy Philippe, also a known human rights violator (see October 31, 1991) (see 1997-1999). [CounterPunch, 3/1/2004; Amnesty International, 3/3/2004; Associated Press, 3/3/2004]

Entity Tags: Louis-Jodel Chamblain, Roger Francisco Noriega, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Timeline Tags: US-Haiti (1804-2005)

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

US Secretary of State Colin Powell states the US has “no enthusiasm” for sending troops to protect Haiti’s government from the approaching rebel forces. [BBC, 2/18/2004]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell

Category Tags: Foreign involvement, The overthrow of Aristide

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin outlines a proposal he will submit to the UN on February 26, which calls for Aristide’s resignation and recommends that an international security force be dispatched to Haiti to help stabilize the country. According to the minister, President Aristide “bears heavy responsibility for the current situation” and it is his responsibility “to accept the consequences while respecting the rule of law.” Villepin adds: “Everyone sees quite well that a new page must be opened in Haiti’s history.” [New York Times, 2/26/2004] Notably, a few months before, Aristide’s government had called on France to pay some $21 billion in reparations to Haiti (see November 2003). [London Review of Books, 4/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Dominique de Villepin

Category Tags: Foreign involvement, The overthrow of Aristide

Guy Philippe tells the Miami Herald during an interview conducted in Cap Haitein, Haiti, that the man he admires most is former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. “Pinochet made Chile what it is,” the 35-year-old rebel says. Philippe adds that US President Ronald Reagan is his next favorite. [Miami Herald, 2/28/2004; One World, 3/2/2004; Jamaica Observer, 3/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Augusto Pinochet, Ronald Reagan, Roger Francisco Noriega

Category Tags: The opposition/post-Artistide gov't, The overthrow of Aristide

US officials delay a small group of additional bodyguards from the Steele Foundation on their way to Haiti. [Democracy Now!, 3/2/2004]

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

Shortly before his ouster, Aristide contacts the US firm that provides his security, the San Francisco-based Steele Foundation, and asks for additional guards. The company—made up of former US Special Forces soldiers, intelligence officers, and other security experts—has been providing Haiti with its security services since 1998. Haiti’s contract with the firm is approved by the US State Department. But Aristide’s last minute attempt to increase his security is blocked by the White House. According to news reports, the Steele Foundation asks the US embassy in Port-au-Prince if it can rely on American protection in the event that the rebels arrive at the presidential palace. The Steele Foundation is told that no such protection would be provided. The company had earlier helped repel attacks against the presidential palace from paramilitary groups in December 2001. [Miami Herald, 3/1/2004; Democracy Now!, 3/2/2004; Associated Press, 3/2/2004]

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

In the evening, Aristide family friend Randal Robinson calls Aristide’s residence in Port-au-Prince. An unfamiliar voice answers the phone and says that both the president and his wife are busy and cannot take the call. [Democracy Now!, 3/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Randal Robinson, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Mildred Aristide

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide informs Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson and Foreign Minister K. D. Knight that he does not plan to resign, despite demands from armed rebels who are quickly closing in on the capital. [Associated Press, 3/2/2004]

Entity Tags: K D Knight, P J Patterson

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

US Secretary of State Colin Powell calls former US Congressman Ron Dellums, who is working for Aristide as a Washington lobbyist, and warns him that the United States will not protect Aristide from the rebels. [Associated Press, 3/2/2004]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Ron Dellums

Category Tags: Foreign involvement, The overthrow of Aristide

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: US-Haiti (1804-2005)

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

US President George Bush announces that the US is sending US forces to Haiti to help stabilize the country. [Reuters, 3/1/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US-Haiti (1804-2005)

Category Tags: Foreign involvement, The overthrow of Aristide

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

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

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)

Category Tags: The overthrow of Aristide

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)

Category Tags: Foreign involvement, The overthrow of Aristide

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice demands that Jamaica expel Jean-Bertrand Aristide from the region, claiming that his presence in the Caribbean will increase tension in Haiti. She also threatens Jamaica, saying that if anything happens to US soldiers in Haiti, that Jamaica would be blamed and subjected to the full force of the US. [Democracy Now!, 4/25/2004]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Category Tags: Foreign involvement, The overthrow of Aristide

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