The Miami Herald
Tue, Mar. 02, 2004

Rebel chief is hailed in capital

As a small foreign force secures key points in the capital, the top rebel leader enters the city that Jean-Bertrand Aristide left.

BY SUSANNAH A. NESMITH, NANCY SAN MARTIN AND MARTIN MERZER

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Rebel leaders rolled triumphantly into Haiti's capital Monday and, for once, jubilation supplanted violence. At the same time, U.S. Marines secured key sites around the city for a multinational force expected to include 5,000 troops.

Crowds applauded the rebels. Some people shouted ''Gonaives! Gonaives!'' in recognition of the birthplace of the rebellion. They chanted ``Aristide has left! Aristide has left!''

''We don't want to see [Haitian] police ever again because they killed too many people,'' said Reynaldo Mayen of Port-au-Prince. ``The best person in all of Haiti is named Guy Philippe.''

Philippe, the most visible of the rebel leaders who chased President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to exile in the Central African Republic, periodically stood up in the sun roof of a Mitsubishi Montero and waved to what he called ``my people.''

Also in the convoy was Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a once-feared paramilitary leader who joined the effort to oust Aristide. Many Haitians embraced him Monday.

Still, though tranquility generally ruled the day, many questions remained about Haiti's political future. No one was ready to predict an end to the violence that cost more than 100 lives in the rebellion and never seems far away in Haiti.

In recognition of that, about 450 newly arrived U.S. Marines and French and Canadian peacekeepers fortified their positions, which included the capital's airport, the seaport and the presidential National Palace.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that up to 2,000 U.S. military personnel eventually would participate in a 5,000-member international force authorized late Sunday by the United Nations.

The first U.S. landing force -- with M-16 assault rifles, grenade launchers and a dozen Humvees with mounted .50-caliber machine guns -- will not start patrols of Port-au-Prince until after an assessment of military requirements, officials said.

On Monday, some Marines were seen on the grounds of the National Palace as Philippe's convoy passed. Crowds cheered him and his men, and crushed in to try to touch the rebel leader, grabbing for his hand, his hair, his clothes, anything to be near him.

Still, not everyone rejoiced. Some Haitians, perhaps Aristide supporters fearing reprisals, watched impassively, even sullenly.

In other developments:

Aristide, from an unhappy exile in the Central African Republic, launched incendiary accusations.

In phone calls to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and others, he claimed the he ''did not resign'' and was ''kidnapped'' by U.S. diplomatic and military officials.

Officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department, and the U.S. private company that provided his American bodyguards, emphatically denied the assertions.

Many businesses reopened in Port-au-Prince, though gas stations were still without fuel. Small-scale looting was reported in some corners of the city.

Further suggesting a return of some order, American Airlines said it would resume flights to Port-au-Prince on Friday. The airline serves Haiti from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York City. It suspended service last Thursday.

State Department officials denied a Herald report that, in the final days of the rebellion, Washington blocked Aristide's efforts to increase his U.S. personal security detail. ''It's not true,'' a spokesman said.

Philippe and other rebel leaders met with politicians who had opposed Aristide but had not previously aligned themselves with rebel forces.

The meeting ended inconclusively, but Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed concern over the prospect of including rebel leaders in any new government.

''Some of these individuals we would not want to see reenter civil society in Haiti because of their past records,'' Powell said.

Philippe made his final push to the capital on dusty roads lined by supporters who clapped and cheered for him. Road blocks had been pushed aside along the route.

At 6 a.m., the caravan passed through St. Marc, the only town on his route that might have offered resistance.

It posed no trouble -- just evidence of the pain of a rebellion that lasted less than a month: Three burned bodies were sprawled in the middle of the town's main road.

Soon, nine rebel trucks and vans snaked through the capital with the men Philippe brought from Cap Haitien.

The first stop was the suburban Petionville police station. After a brief visit, Philippe moved onto another police station before heading downtown to the city's main police station.

While he was inside the station, people outside, mostly men, chanted his name and ``Long live the army.''

Aristide disbanded Haiti's army, but Philippe -- a former soldier and later a policeman -- is known here because he once was police chief in Delmas, a large district on the north side of Port-au-Prince.

He said Monday that he intended ``to give security to the city.''

Philippe's men were thrilled with the welcome, beaming to the crowds.

''I'm very happy to be here,'' said rebel Stephan Dormevil. ``The people love us here. This is where we need to be.''

Herald staff writers Trenton Daniel in Port-au-Prince and Ina Paiva Cordle, Jim DeFede, Renato Perez and Juan O. Tamayo contributed to this report.