PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide resigned and flew into exile yesterday, pressured by a
bloody rebellion and the United States. Gunfire crackled as the
capital fell into chaos, and U.S. Marines arrived in the
country.

Julie Pannuto
Haitians roam the streets in front of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, yesterday, after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned and flew into exile. (AP PHOTO)

The contingent totaled fewer than 100 Marines and more were to
arrive today. They were the vanguard of a multinational force that
the U.N. Security Council approved late yesterday night, and France
said it would send troops today.

“The government believes it is essential that Haiti have a
hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter,”
President Bush said at the White House. “I would urge the
people of Haiti to reject violence, to give this break from the
past a chance to work. And the United States is prepared to
help.”

Aristide’s whereabouts were uncertain late yesterday, with
officials saying his jet stopped to refuel in the Caribbean island
nation of Antigua. A senior Caribbean Community official said
Aristide told him during the refueling stop he was bound for South
Africa.

After word spread of the president’s departure, angry
Aristide supporters roamed the streets armed with old rifles,
pistols, machetes and sticks. Some fired wildly into crowds on the
Champs de Mars, the main square in front of the National
Palace.

The head of Haiti’s supreme court said he was taking
charge of the government, and a key rebel leader said he welcomed
the arrival of foreign troops.

“I think the worst is over, and we’re waiting for
the international forces. They will have our full
cooperation,” Guy Philippe told CNN.

The crisis has been brewing since Aristide’s party swept
flawed legislative elections in 2000, prompting international
donors to freeze millions of dollars in aid.

Opponents also accused Aristide of breaking promises to help the
poor, allowing corruption fueled by drug trafficking and
masterminding attacks on opponents by armed gangs — charges
the president denied.

The discontent erupted into violence 3 1/2 weeks ago as rebels
began driving police from towns and cities in the north.

Yesterday, France decided to send a detachment of between 120
and 140 soldiers to Haiti, said Catherine Colonna, spokeswoman for
President Jacques Chirac. She said the troops would arrive today
and they would work “in coordination with the United
States.”

A French military spokesman in Guadeloupe said the contingent
would consist of 200 soldiers from the French Caribbean territory
of Martinique.

Though not aligned with rebels, the political opposition had
also pushed for Aristide to leave for the good of Haiti’s 8
million people, angered by poverty, corruption and crime. The
uprising killed at least 100 people.

Anarchy reigned for most of the day in Port-au-Prince. More than
3,000 inmates held in the National Penitentiary were released.
Looters emptied a police station and hit pharmacies, supermarkets
and other businesses, mostly on the capital’s outskirts.

“Chop off their heads and burn their homes,” rioters
screamed, echoing the war cry of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the
general who ousted French troops and torched plantations to end
slavery in Haiti.

Some anti-Aristide militants organized armed posses that prowled
the streets in pickup trucks, searching for Aristide supporters. In
the back of one a man lay unconscious — or dead — with
a head wound.

But police moved in during the afternoon, scared away the crowd
in the front of the palace, and the violence ebbed.

James Voltaire, 28, said Haiti’s constitution had been
violated. “Whoever the president is, it’s going to be a
losing situation. As long as we don’t see our real president
(Aristide) we will stay mobilized,” he warned.

It was unclear where Aristide would go. U.S. National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice said he was going to a “third”
country, meaning he would not take refuge in the United States as
he did the last time he was ousted, in 1991.

Aristide’s jet refueled on the island of Antigua and was
en route to South Africa, government and airport officials in that
Caribbean country said. But officials in Johannesburg said there
had been no recent contact with Aristide nor an offer of
asylum.

It was not clear where Aristide’s wife was. The
ex-president and Mildred Trouillot Aristide had sent their two
daughters to her mother in New York City last week.

Three hours after Aristide’s departure, Supreme Court
Justice Boniface Alexandre declared at a news conference that he
was taking control of the government as called for by the
constitution. He urged calm.

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