Oct 5, 1994
Colonel Michel Francois Leaves Haiti
EDWARDS: This is “Morning Edition”; I’m Bob Edwards. The airport in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is scheduled to reopen to commercial traffic today after
months of being closed, and, in his speech yesterday to the United Nations, the
exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said he would return home on
October 15th. That’s the day Haiti’s military leaders have agreed to step down.
One of the three members of the regime, Police Chief Michel Francois, arrived
in the Dominican Republic last night after leaving the Haitian capital. NPR’s
Sunni Khalid reports.
SUNNI KHALID, Reporter: The sudden departure of the once-feared Lieutenant
Colonel Joseph Michel Francois was not so much a resignation, but, an act of
political surrender. Since the weekend, his police force, attaches, and
paramilitary allies such as FRAPH, were in full retreat following raids by U.S.
troops and the resurgence of Aristide’s political supporters.
With the weapon of political violence no longer available, there appears little
that Haiti’s remaining military rulers – Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras and
Brigadier General Philippe Biamby – can do to delay or prevent Aristide’s
return. U.S. Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager said momentum has clearly
shifted away from Haiti’s military regime and their allies, as Aristide’s
return draws near.
STANLEY SCHRAGER, Spokesperson, U.S. Embassy in Haiti: We still have between
now and October 15th, however many days that is, 12 days or whatever, to
continue to reduce the capacity for violence in this society on the part of
civilians and paramilitary groups. And what you’re seeing each day is a gradual
reduction in that capacity to engage in violent acts.
HAITIANS PROTESTING ON THE STREETS
KHALID: That much was conceded yesterday by Emmanuel Constant, the leader of
the FRAPH paramilitary group. Only last week, FRAPH mounted a bloody series of
attacks to disrupt pro-democracy street demonstrations in the capital. Now,
with most of his leadership locked up in U.S. military custody, his national
headquarters in ruins, a humbled and heckled Constant told a Port-au-Prince
press conference that FRAPH would work non-violently
within a restored democratic system.
EMMANUEL CONSTANT, Leader of FRAPH: This time, while all of us support the
record, and who pave the way peacefully for the transition of power, by October
15th and after.
KHALID: Clearly, American military might has prevailed on Haiti, but, it may be
several years before the survival of the country’s second chance at democracy
is assured. That much may depend on what happens in the coming days before and
after Aristide’s return, not so much whether Aristide’s opponents are new-born
democrats or converts to the supremacy of U.S. military power, but, if there is
a place for them in Haiti’s new political reality.
I’m Sunni Khalid in Port-au-Prince.