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Aristide resigned and fled from Haiti aided by Washington

Saying he wanted to avoid a bloodshed, Haiti’s President Jean Bertrand Aristide went into exile in the morning February 29.
Supreme Court chief took over. Anarchy reigns in country’s Capital, Port Au Prince as rebels celebrate and former government supporters set fire.

Haiti’s drama is coming to an end. After three weekes of armed rebellion, President Jean Bertrand Aristide resigned and went into exile Sunday morning amid great local and international pressure to quit and open a gate to a democratic transition in Latin America’s poorest coutry. Arisitde said in his last speech as Head of State that he was leaving power to avoid a certain bloodshed in the capital, Port Au Prince.

According to different sources, the embattled Haitian leader was taking out with aid of Washington. US Secretary of State, Collin Powell had asked Arisitide to review his decision to stay in power until 2006, as French Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin had openly asked for Arisitide resignation.

All Sunday long, celebrations broke out in rebel-held areas, but angry supporters set fires in the capital, and gunfire rang out. International military forces would be rapidly deployed to restore security in Haiti, said the US ambassador. In the meantime, the head of Haiti's Supreme Court says he is assuming power as stipulated by the constitution and asked the population to stay in calm. Arisitde followers and the legal opposition will take part of the new administration.

In a statement, Mr Aristide said: "The constitution should not drown in the blood of the Haitian people...If my resignation is to prevent bloodshed, I accept to leave." Aristide’s final destination is not known yet, but some sources said he might have asked Morocco and Taiwan for political asylum.

On Saturday, Arisitde’s followers had set barricades all over Port Au Prince to resist a possible breake through from the rebel forces, but no opposition was seen on Sunday. Shortly after Aristide aired his resignation, rebels entered into the city and faced no resistance. Then, hundreds of people converged on the presidential palace in the capital, Port-au-Prince and a pall of smoke is hanging over the city after at least one petrol station was set on fire.

All along the weekend looters cleaned up city’s port and some shooting could be heard, according to witnesses.

History

Haiti has been  Latin American poorest country for decades. Last month, Haiti marked 200 years as an independent State from the French Empire. The anniversary sparked the protests against authorities all over the country, as the police quelled an anti-government demonstration that day.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was born in 1953 and educated at a Roman Catholic school and seminary. He was ordained in 1982 and became a strong supporter of liberation theology, which pressed the church to engage with social problems, including poverty and oppression. In 1986 he helped to establish a home for street children.

At that time, Aristide was a democratic leader who enjoyed of great support from the poor masses of the country. He fought against the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier. But his political stance and growing support angered Haiti's incumbent leaders, and he was the target of several assassination attempts in the 1980s.

Shortly after Duvalier's fall in April of 1986 Aristide led a memorial march to notorious Fort Dimanche prison in memory of the 30,000 Haitians who lost their lives there under Duvalier. The Haitian military opened fire on the crowd of praying demonstrators but Aristide continued a live broadcast on Radio Soleil during the massacre, confirming his reputation as a fearless opponent of the regime.

In the fall of 1990 Haiti prepared for presidential elections that many feared would end in violence as they did in 1987 when voters were massacred at the voting poles. On the final day of registration Aristide announced his candidacy for the presidency. The announcement electrified the country and after a six week campaign that Aristide dubbed "Lavalas" or a cleansing flood, he was elected president in Haiti's first free and fair election with an overwhelming 67% of the vote.

In 1991, Aristide was overthrown by a military coup and exiled in the United States. He was reinstated by a US intervention in 1994, but without army support and forbidden from standing for second consecutive term. In 2000 wins contested elections.

Hernan Etchaleco

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