U.N. Vote Gets Support From Haiti’s Streets but Not Its Elite
Some Haitians welcomed the U.N. approval Sunday of the use of force to topple their military government, saying that freedom is worth any sacrifice. Others predicted a disaster.
“I’m afraid Haiti is going to become a new Somalia,” said Antoine Joseph, a former president of the lower house of Parliament. A multinational peacekeeping force has failed to curb clan fighting in Somalia.
The U.N. Security Council authorized “any means necessary” to force Haiti’s military rulers to step down and allow deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to return.
“They are stepping in to restore constitutional democracy, that is to say, stepping in to violate it,” said Jean-Claude Roy, a conservative politician who has close ties to the military.
“If Aristide is restored to office by a foreign intervention, he is finished,” said Joseph, who opposed the 1991 coup that toppled Aristide but has nonetheless supported the military.
“He will be a puppet with no moral authority in the eyes of the Haitian people,” Joseph said.
Coup leader Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras attended a Methodist church service shortly before the Security Council approved the resolution.
“After this service, I have enough strength to defend the country,” he said.
Reaction on the street differed. Bus drivers Jean-Claude, 38, and Pierre, 40, didn’t want to give their full names for fear of reprisals. But they favored an end to military rule by any means.
“I support a military intervention if it uproots the military system we’ve got now,” said Jean-Claude. “Haiti doesn’t need a military occupation, but ever since we won our independence, we’ve never been free.”
“I want another Haitian army,” Pierre said. “This army is no good. I don’t want this army to go on torturing and sowing the streets with dead bodies.
“National sovereignty isn’t the problem,” he added. “I want the Haitian army to disappear.”
Haiti’s military rulers have defied a worldwide trade and oil embargo and a U.S. ban on most financial transactions with the Caribbean nation.
The Clinton Administration repeatedly has threatened an invasion and, following Sunday’s U.N. vote, is “prepared to organize and lead” an invasion force, said Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
U.S. Navy ships carrying 2,700 Marines are stationed off Haiti.