PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s interim
president took the reins of his country’s shattered
government yesterday as supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide
demanded the ousted leader’s return.

Julie Pannuto
A U.S. Marine orders a man to go back to the other side of the street in downtown Port au Prince, Haiti, yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

U.S. Marines acknowledged they killed one of seven people gunned
down in weekend violence — the first armed action of their
week-old mission here.

Military helicopters circled overhead and U.S. Marines in
armored cars patrolled the streets yesterday outside the National
Palace as Boniface Alexandre was formally installed.

“Aristide or death!” Aristide supporters yelled at
the gates of the palace during the ceremony, their shouts carrying
into the room where Alexandre urged his countrymen to remain
calm.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” said Alexandre,
who has served as president for a week and was officially sworn in
Feb. 29. “We are all in the same boat, and if it sinks, it
sinks with all of us.”

Earlier, Aristide declared from his African exile that he was
still president of Haiti and urged “peaceful
resistance” in his homeland.

“I am the democratically elected president and I remain
so. I plead for the restoration of democracy,” Aristide said
from Bangui, Central African Republic, in his first public
appearance since he fled Haiti Feb. 29 aboard a plane chartered by
the U.S. government.

Aristide said his departure was a “political kidnapping
(that) unfortunately opened the road to an occupation.”

The United States denies Aristide’s charge that he was
forced to step down. But the 15-nation Caribbean Community has
called for an international investigation.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said,
“If Mr. Aristide really wants to serve his country, he really
has to, we think, let his nation get on with the future and not try
to stir up the past again.”

Aristide was a wildly popular slum priest, elected on promises
to champion the poor who make up the vast majority of Haiti’s
8 million people. But he has lost support, with Haitians saying he
failed to improve their lives, condoned corruption and used police
and armed supporters to attack his political opponents.

U.S. Marines and French Legionnaires have been in Haiti since
Aristide’s departure Feb. 29, the vanguard of a U.N. force to
restore peace to the country, where a monthlong rebellion left more
than 130 dead.

Yesterday, there were about 1,600 Marines, 800 French soldiers
and police and 130 Chilean troops in Haiti.

A United Nations team was on its way to Haiti to plan for a
multinational force that will deploy there within the next three
months, a U.N. spokesman said yesterday.

Yesterday, hundreds of people ransacked Port-au-Prince’s
industrial park, carrying away wood paneling, toilets, even a
plastic Mickey Mouse. One looter wore the top part of a horse
costume on his head as he made off with a mirror.

The looting took place less than half a mile from the
international airport where U.S. Marines have set up base.

Alexandre urged people “to keep calm. No one has the right
to do justice by themselves.”

Yesterday’s pro-Aristide demonstration was mostly
peaceful, a sharp contrast to the massive anti-Aristide protest
Sunday in which seven people were killed, including a foreign
journalist.

U.S. Marines acknowledged yesterday they killed one gunman at
Sunday’s demonstration. “He had a gun and he was
shooting at Marines,” Col. Charles Gurganus told reporters
yesterday.

Gurganus said they did not know who the man was, did not know
where his body is, and did not have his weapon, which he said was
snatched by someone.

The violence, the worst bloodshed since Aristide fled, led both
opponents and supporters of Aristide to threaten armed action,
damaging efforts to reach a frail peace.

Chief rebel leader Guy Philippe said Sunday’s attack never
would have happened if his men had not been asked to lay down their
arms.

He warned yesterday that “I will reunite my men and take
up arms” if the peacekeepers did not disarm Aristide
loyalists blamed for Sunday’s attack.

Later, Philippe met with opposition leader Evans Paul, with whom
he has wanted to discuss reconstituting Haiti’s disgraced
army, whose brutality and corruption is blamed for keeping Haiti in
misery.

Ignoring Aristide’s claims to Haiti’s leadership, a
recently appointed seven-member Council of Sages was interviewing
three top candidates for prime minister yesterday, to replace
Aristide appointee Yvon Neptune.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *