Rebels, U.S. Marines Enter Haiti Capital
By PAISLEY DODDS and IAN JAMES
The Associated Press
Monday, March 1, 2004; 1:04 PM
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Rebels rolled into the capital Monday and were met by hundreds of residents dancing in the streets and cheering the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. U.S. Marines and French troops secured key sites.
People clapped and waved as they yelled "Good job!" and called out the name of key rebel leader Guy Philippe. The convoy first rolled through Petionville, a wealthy suburb, before moving into the heart of Port-au-Prince.
When the rebels arrived at the plaza outside the National Palace and a nearby police station, thousands of Haitians converged on the square, shouting "Liberty!" and "Aristide is gone!"
Philippe later met in a hotel with members of the political coalition that had opposed Aristide, including Evans Paul, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince and a top opposition figure. Paul said Philippe "has played an important role."
Not everyone was happy to see the rebels in the capital. Some residents watched indifferently, their arms folded. At one point, the convoy stopped and rebels jumped out, sweeping their weapons from side to side, then moved on.
A half-dozen Marines in combat fatigues with assault rifles were seen on the grounds of the palace. The rebels and the Marines did not immediately approach each other.
Most of the 150 U.S. Marines who arrived Sunday night were at the capital's airport, some doing overflights in a helicopter. Some of the 50 Marines who arrived last week drove cautiously along the waterfront road, and pedestrians raised their hands in fright and surprise upon seeing them.
The U.S. and French forces spread out from the airport to protect key sites - the vanguard of a multinational force approved by the U.N. Security Council.
Col. David Berger, head of the U.S. Marine contingent, described the capital as "definitely not a hostile environment" for U.S. troops.
"Most of (Haitians) are going to welcome us. We're glad to be here," he told the AP.
Aristide, who fled Haiti under pressure from the rebels, the political opposition, the United States and France, arrived Monday in the Central African Republic for "a few days," according to the country's state radio.
Aristide said in a short broadcast on the African station that those who overthrew him had "cut down the tree of peace," but "it will grow again." Aristide has returned to rule Haiti once before, in 1994, when U.S. forces took him back to Port-au-Prince. He had been ousted in a military coup three years earlier.
Randall Robinson, former president of TransAfrica, a Washington-based group that monitors U.S. policy toward Africa and the Caribbean and supported Aristide, told CNN that the former Haitian president claimed he was abducted from Haiti by U.S. troops who accompanied him on a flight to the Central African Republic.
"He did not resign, he was kidnapped. We have undertaken a coup against a democratically elected government in Haiti," Robinson said, adding that Aristide told him that he and his wife were not allowed to make any telephone calls before leaving and did not sign a resignation.
© 2004 The Associated Press