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1991-1994 - Raul Cedras

On September 30, 1991, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled Haiti for Venezuela. Aristide was ousted by the military in a bloody coup.The removal from office of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest and leader of the liberation theology movement, only months after his election as President of Haiti was orchestrated by the military/police and heralded a return to Haiti's cycle of violence and oppression. His ouster and the subsequent three years of tyranny by the de facto governmentof Lieutenant General Raul Cedras branded Haiti as a pariah.

Supporters of Aristide and other international observers believe that Aristide was ousted because his political agenda jeopardized the entrenched interests of the old Duvalier coalition of military, landowner, and business elite. At the root of the army's coup was self interest and the inability to accept any civilian control. The army, which for years has been a bastion of corruption and profiteering, considers itself virtually a fourth branch of government in Haiti. Many officers were known to regard the president as commander-in-chief in name only, with no real authority over the military.

With the 1991 coup, each of Aristide's attempts at reform was reversed. The de facto governments moved quickly to reverse Aristide's attempts to remove military authority from everyday life. No separate police force has been created. Prisons remain under army control. The human rights commission announced by President Aristide was abandoned. Perhaps most importantly, in rural areas, individual section chiefs removed by the Aristide government were restored to their former positions, and the system of section chiefs which Aristide tried to dismantle has been erected once again.

As a result of the military's denunciation of grassroots groups, a pattern and practice of violence, terror and psychological intimidation against the organized poor, their leaders, and those working with them has been renewed -- not only by military forces, but also by para-military forces that the Aristide government had been trying to dismantle.

From October 1991 until June 1992, a military-backed provisional government ruled Haiti with Joseph Nerette as President and Jean-Jacques Honorat as Prime Minister. In June 1992, both Nerette and Honorat resigned, and Marc Bazin was "approved" by the remnants of Haiti's National Assembly as Prime Minister to head a new "consensus" Government. He remained in power until June 1993, when he resigned and was not replaced.

In February of 1993, the junta that had ousted President Aritide denied the deployment of international human rights observers to monitor conditions in Haiti. As explained by Haitian strongman Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras, the observers could enter the country only if certain conditions were met, including international recognition of the junta-backed government of Prime Minister Marc Bazin and the lifting of the economic embargo. When United Nations (UN) negotiator Dante Caputo arrived in Haiti to work out an arrangement, he was met by demonstrations and insults. A frustrated Caputo eventually left the country under escort to protect him from possible mob violence. On a more positive note, continued international pressure did eventually convince Cedras to allow the observers into Haiti.

In the United States, President Bill Clinton in March 1993 declared his intention to restore Aristide to power and to rebuild the Haitian economy. Following this, Caputo again notified the Haitian junta that they should relinquish power. In April 1993, Cedras agreed to resign in exchange for amnesty for himself, his family, and members of his staff, Aristide, in exile, agreed to those conditions. On June 16, 1993, the United Nations Security Council, tired of Cedras' duplicity, voted to impose a ban on petroleum s,ales to Haiti while freezing the financial assets of important Haitians. This action seemed to have the desired effect.

On June 27, four days after the sanctions went into effect, Cedras and Aristide met separately with mediators at Governors Island, New York, to forge a workable agreement to return Aristide to power. On July 3, the Governors Island Agreement was signed, first by Cedras, who then left for Haiti, and later by Aritide. That agreement called for the Haitian president to nominate a prime minister, who would be confirmed by the Haitian parliament. Soon after the Governors Island Agreement was signed, Haiti underwent its worst period of violence since the 1991 coup. Hundreds of Haitians were killed or disappeared, while pro-Aristide activists were beaten, intimidated, or arrested, often in front of UN observers.

United States' military forces arrived in Haiti on September 19, 1994 following the successful, eleventh-hour "coercive diplomacy" that backstopped the negotiations of a team led by former President Carter with the power of an impending airborne invasion.

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Page last modified: 02-08-2011 16:44:53 ZULU