Where is Raoul Cedras? One report had the Haitian army commander at the airport, leaving for exile in Spain. No, said another source, he left his house at 2 a.m. for the Dominican Republic. All wrong, went another account, the general and his wife were at their beach house.
But despite the dashes from airport to border crossing by reporters, there was no credible evidence that Cedras had gone anywhere, nor that he intended to, at least for the time being.
In fact, Cedras, who had not been seen in public for more than 24 hours, turned up Saturday afternoon for his regular meeting with U.S. Ambassador William L. Swing and Lt. Gen. Hugh Shelton, commander of the 20,000 American troops here.
The whereabouts of Cedras, who has led a brutal military regime here since the army overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sept. 30, 1991, had been the subject of intense speculation for the past week.
But in the long run, the fate of Haiti’s ruling general appears settled. Under an agreement he signed with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Cedras and his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, have to leave the military upon parliamentary approval of a general amnesty or by Oct. 15, next Saturday, whichever comes first.
Legislators on Friday passed a measure giving Aristide the power to grant limited amnesties, but some U.S. diplomats said it is unlikely the new bill will be used to force Cedras to resign immediately.
Instead, the betting is that he will be left alone at least until Wednesday, when his formal three-year appointment as commander in chief expires.
The Carter agreement required that Cedras, Biamby and Police Chief Michel-Joseph Francois resign from the army but said nothing about their leaving Haiti. However, Francois resigned Monday and fled to the Dominican Republic.
U.S. officials, diplomats and Haitian sources, including some close to Cedras, think he will choose exile.
Cedras, who received advanced military training in Spain, owns a house in Barcelona and recently purchased an apartment in Madrid--and he has enough money after three corrupt years in Haiti to live there in luxury as long as he wants, said a friend who has known him since childhood.
Biamby, a close Cedras associate, is said to be far less willing to resign or to leave.
“Biamby is an odd one,” said a U.S. official here. “He sees himself as a soldier’s soldier and thinks he would betray his troops if he leaves and they are left behind.”
American officials said they believe Biamby is mentally unstable, and they have been conducting a series of covert activities aimed at driving him from the country one way or another.
“The likely scenario is that Biamby will quietly resign when Cedras does and then go home and wait to see what happens. . . ,” a boyhood friend of Biamby said.
“But he hates the United States and will not be driven from the country by Americans.”