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Jean-Bertrand Aristide 1990-1995

In 1990, faced with the imminent return to power of the Duvalierists, organizations throughout the society unite to propel the catholic priest Jean Bertrand Aristide as a candidate and win the elections undisputedly. Despite swirling violence, Haiti's presidential election of December 1990 proved to be a landmark occurrence. A team of international observers, led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, declared the election peaceful and legitimate.

Outspoken anti-Duvalierist and former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide won a landslide victory, claiming nearly 75 percent of the vote. Aristide's overwhelming victory represented the greatest threat to the continued power of Haiti's ruling elite since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship. As an individual, Aristide personified the aspirations of Haiti's disenfranchised. The son of poor Haitians, Aristide was a prominent and charismatic member of Haiti's grass roots church community, the Ti Legliz, and deeply dedicated to Haiti's poor. He was widely recognized as an outspoken critic of the succession of militarycontrolled governments that followed the aborted 1987 elections.

Aristide's stature and prominence increased following an armed attack in September 1988 on his St. Jean Bosco church in one of the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince. Thirteen parishioners were killed and 70 others were reported injured when armed men stormed the church under the watchful eye of soldiers at a military barracks across the street. Aristide was not injured in the attack and refused to stop his criticisms of the government.

The civil community found itself in power without preparation or political party. After surviving an attempted coup even before his inauguration, Aristide pledged to rid Haiti of the ethnic, racial, and economic hierarchy that had defined the country. In his first seven months in office, Aristide cut military corruption, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. He also balanced the federal budget for the first time in decades.

Seven months later the first democratic government in the history of Haiti was overthrown and the country again found itself under military rule for another three years. In the midst of reform, tensions mounted between the Aristide administration and military leaders. After several halting starts, a military coup, led by Brigadier General Raoul Cdras, erupted on September 29, 1991. The following day, rebels captured Aristide and forced him from the country. A military leadership council, referred to as the junta, seized control of the Haitian government. The revolt did not have widespread popular support. In fact, many civilians opposed the military's actions and the newly installed president (Joseph Nrette) but were powerless to fight the army. Foreign criticism came swiftly. The United States condemned the coup leaders and pledged to see Aristide restored to office. Additionally, the United Nations (UN) Security Council refused to recognize Haiti's new leaders.

From October 1991 to September 1994 an unconstitutional military de facto regime governed Haiti. Various OAS and UN initiatives to end the political crisis through the peaceful restoration of the constitutionally elected government, including the Governor's Island Agreement of July 1993, failed. When the military refused to uphold its end of the agreements, the de facto authorities refused to allow a return to constitutional government, even though the economy was collapsing and the country's infrastructure deteriorated from neglect.

In June 1993, after failed negotiations, the UN imposed a worldwide fuel and arms embargo on Haiti. The United States stopped all commercial flights to the island and urged U.S. citizens to evacuate. When these measures failed to break the hold of the junta, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to raise a multinational force to restore civil authority in Haiti. Only with a United States-led military invasion looming did the junta agree to step down in return for amnesty for themselves and the rest of the army.

On July 31, 1994, as repression mounted in Haiti and a UN-OAS civilian human rights monitoring mission (MICIVIH) was expelled from the country, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 940. UNSC Resolution 940 authorized member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and to restore Haiti's constitutionally elected government to power.

In the weeks that followed, the United States took the lead in forming a multinational force (MFN) to carry out the UN's mandate by means of a military intervention. In mid-September, with U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti by force, President Clinton dispatched a negotiating team led by former President Jimmy Carter to persuade the de facto authorities to step aside and allow for the return of constitutional rule. With intervening troops already airborne, Gen. Raoul Cedras and other top leaders agreed to accept the intervention of the MNF. On September 19, 1994, the first contingents of what became a 21,000-member international force touched down in Haiti to oversee the end of military rule and the restoration of the constitutional government.

On October 15, 1994, President Aristide addressed a jubilant crowd, becoming the first exiled Haitian president to be restored to power. In 1995 Aristide completed his term, and Haiti had its first successful transition between two democratically elected presidents.




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