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Context Haiti 05/02/04 7:03PM EST Tuesday, 5/18/2004 [link to this item]

Haiti crisis news update

On April 14, Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek arrived for a tour of Port-au-Prince.  Meek called upon the government to bring a halt to the attacks against members of the Fanmil Lavalas party. While the congressman waited at Prime Minister Latortue’s office, rebel leaders Winter Etienne and Ferdinand Wilfort arrived and were passed through security.  “We were promised many things,” Etienne is quoted as saying, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, “and we are here to see what will happen to all these promises.”  No official announcement was made as to the outcome of the meeting between the rebels and the Prime Minister.

In response to wide spread complaints by international human rights groups that convicted murderer Louis Jodel Chamblain was at large in Haiti, the rebel leader, and infamous FRAPH commander, turned himself in during April and was taken into custody by remnants of the Haitian Police Force.  Chamblain was convicted in absentia, and, in accordance with Haitian law, will be retried now that he is present in the country.

 

Together with Guy Philippe, Chamblain commanded the rebels in the recent overthrow of the constitutional government of the country.  During the aftermath many of the records relating to his trial have been destroyed and many witnesses reportedly killed or driven into hiding.

 

Demands were also made for the arrest of FRAPH enforcer Jean Tatoun who was broken out of prison in August of 2002.  It was Tatoun who organized the protest, in early February of this year, in Gonaives, that resulted in bloodshed.  Tatoun called upon the rebels to restore order in the city.  They arrived on February 5 and the government of the country was overthrown shortly thereafter.

 

Tatoun was tried and found guilty of murder, for his part in the infamous Raboteau massacre, and sentenced to life at hard labor.  He was present at his trial and has no remaining legal appeals.  The terms of his surrender are reportedly being negotiated by the rebel leader Winter Etienne.

 

On April 24, rebels and members of former opposition attacked the police headquarters at Gonaives.  They disarmed the police, destroyed equipment and released prisoners.  The headquarters itself was destroyed.  Earlier during the weekend, rebel leader Winter Etienne announced that the rebels would be putting up a broad slate of candidates for the 2005 election.

 

On April 26, rebels in the Central Plateau region warned against any attempt to reestablish the Haitian national police (PNH) in that region.  According to the Haitian Press Agency, the group’s spokesman, Joseph Jean Baptist, reaffirmed that the rebels would not give up their arms or agree to be integrated into the PNH.  Baptist also announced that the rebels would be putting up a broad slate of candidates for the 2005 election.

 

On April 28, Minister of the Interior, Herard Abraham, called for ex-members of the Haitian military to present identification and to be received into the PNH.  On April 30, rebel leader Guy Philippe approved of the move and suggested that the necessary training could be completed in 10-15 days.

 

By the end of April, approximately 700 Haitian refugees reached U. S. territorial waters.  All but about 25 were repatriated to Haiti.  Another 2000 were found at sea and returned, as well.  There has been a considerable increase in drug interdictions against ships departing rebel controlled ports during 2004.

 

On May 2, rebels and members of the former opposition forced out the remaining National Port Authority employees from their facilities at the port of Cap Haitien.  The rebel forces have announced that they will appoint the necessary replacements.

-GWP | Comments
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