US rattles its sabre at Haiti's army rulers

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AS UNITED STATES and Canadian naval ships prepared to enforce a United Nations embargo on Haiti last night, Washington threatened further military intervention to protect the 1,000 Americans living in the Caribbean state.

'We don't rule out anything at all,' said Madeleine Albright, the US ambassador to the UN. A Marine unit of up to 600 men is being sent to Guantanamo, the US base in Cuba, ready to evacuate American citizens if the Haitian military retaliate against them.

Haiti's military rulers are defiant in the face of sanctions on the sale of oil, arms and police equipment to Haiti, which come into effect at 11.59 tonight. General Raoul Cedras, the army commander, has openly disavowed the agreement under which he was to step down to make way for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom he ousted in a coup two years ago.

However, last night General Cedras said Haiti was no threat to the US, and wanted to solve its problems by itself. 'The Haitian people do not want to be confronted by American might. We have no intention to defy the United States . . . Our country is no threat to peace. It is not at war.'

The six American and three Canadian vessels will in effect blockade Haiti's two ports, Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien. The 7,000 strong Haitian army and police force and their paramilitary auxiliaries are not short of arms. The most important of the sanctions is the embargo on oil imports. Diplomats say Haiti has stockpiled up to 10 weeks' supply.

In Congress, Bob Dole, the Republican Senate leader, said yesterday that he was drafting an amendment to limit the ability of President Bill Clinton to use US forces as part of a UN peace-keeping force. 'We need to back away from the UN dictating US policy,' he said.

Senator Dole said this would probably not affect the stationing of US ships offshore. Underlining the US right's dislike of President Aristide, a left-wing Catholic priest, Mr Dole said: 'I wouldn't risk any American lives putting Aristide back in power.'

On Friday, the day General Cedras was meant to resign under the Governor's Island accord of 3 July, he wrote to the UN special envoy, Dante Caputo, saying the 'agreement appears to be at a dead end'. Mr Caputo had earlier blamed General Cedras and Lieutenant-Colonel Michel Francois, chief of the Port-au-Prince police, for the campaign of violence against President Aristide's supporters.

Most UN personnel have already been evacuated from Haiti but Mr Caputo will stay. He has said he believes General Cedras will try to resume negotiations.

Lt-Col Francois is considered the most powerful officer in Haiti, and responsible for sabotaging the Governor's Island accords, agreed to under intense US pressure. He his colleagues are likely to be insulated from the impact of the embargo.