The New York Times
October 14, 2004

Haiti's Ex-Rebels Back in Capital; Violence Feared

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Oct. 13 - Former soldiers who led a revolt against the former Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, gathered in the capital on Wednesday, saying reinforcements were coming to help end violence that has killed at least 48 people.

The advancing rebels would provide security in Port-au-Prince, a former master sergeant, Joseph Jean-Baptiste, said in a broadcast on Radio Vision 2000. The development threatens to generate conflict with United Nations peacekeepers and armed pro-Aristide militants.

More than 30 men in military fatigues, some heavily armed, gathered in an apartment in Pétionville, a hillside suburb overlooking Port-au-Prince. A rebel leader, a former major, Remissainthe Ravix, said reinforcements were on their way.

A core rebel force estimated at 200 has been joined by many recruits.

Port-au-Prince has been beset by shootouts and beheadings since a demonstration on Sept. 30 marking the 1991 coup that first overthrew Mr. Aristide. The police reportedly shot and killed two people at the demonstration, which was held by supporters of Mr. Aristide and his Lavalas Family Party.

The headless bodies of three police officers turned up the next day, and government officials blamed Aristide militants and a new campaign called Operation Baghdad.

Mr. Aristide returned to power in 1994 with military backing from the United States, but fled the country in February after a deadly three-week revolt led by a street gang and former soldiers. His supporters are demanding his return from exile in South Africa and an end to the "invasion" by foreign troops.

The rebels, who want to reinstate the army, which Mr. Aristide disbanded, have accused United Nations peacekeepers of doing little to stabilize the country.

The United States accused Aristide loyalists on Tuesday of "a systematic campaign to destabilize the interim government and disrupt the efforts of the international community."

A spokesman for the State Department, Richard A. Boucher, urged Lavalas Family leaders to "break with the party's legacy of violence and criminality," saying the interim government represented Haiti's best hope.

Mr. Ravix said former soldiers were tired of sitting by as the violence raged. Aristide supporters plan more demonstrations on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of Mr. Aristide's return from exile.