- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Defying government loyalists, more than 1,000 protesters demonstrated against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide yesterday as exiled paramilitary forces joined rebels in a bloody uprising that has killed about 50 people.

Shouting “Down with Aristide,” members of a broad opposition alliance known as the Democratic Platform marched through Port-au-Prince, saying they didn’t support violence but shared the same goal as the rebels — ousting the embattled president.

“We’re still dealing with pacific, nonviolent means, but let me tell you, we have one goal,” said Gilbert Leger, a lawyer and opposition member. “We do support [rebel] efforts.”

Demonstrators ended their peaceful march when police told them they would have to change their route because of security concerns.

Militants loyal to Mr. Aristide crushed a similar antigovernment demonstration on Thursday, stoning opponents and blocking the protest route. The government said between seven and a dozen attackers had been arrested, but a foreign technical adviser to the police said there have been no arrests.

On Friday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell urged Mr. Aristide to “reach out to the opposition, to make sure that thugs are not allowed to break up peaceful demonstrations.”

Haiti has been wracked by violence since Feb. 5, when armed rebels seeking to oust Mr. Aristide began a rebellion in Gonaives, Haiti’s fourth-largest city. The rebels have fortified Gonaives with flaming barricades, rusted cars and discarded refrigerators.

Although the rebels are still thought to number less than Haiti’s 5,000-member police force, paramilitary leaders and police living in exile in the Dominican Republic have reportedly joined them.

Two Dominican soldiers were killed on the Dominican border at Dajabon on Saturday and their weapons were taken from them. It was not clear who was responsible for the killings, but in recent days a force of 20 men led by exiled paramilitary leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain crossed the border.

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia said yesterday that authorities would arrest any Haitian suspected of taking part in the uprising who tries to enter the Dominican Republic.

Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former Haitian soldier who headed army death squads in 1987 and a militia known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, which killed and maimed hundreds of people between 1991 and 1994, was seen in Gonaives.

Chamblain fled to the Dominican Republic after U.S. troops were sent to restore Mr. Aristide to power and end a bloody dictatorship in 1994.

Also spotted was Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled to the Dominican Republic after being accused by the Haitian government of trying to organize a coup in 2002.

Witnesses reached by telephone said the men were working with rebels in Gonaives, but were massing in Saint-Michel de l’Atalaye, about 28 miles to the east.

Dominican Gen. Fernando Cruz Mendez said Mr. Philippe would be arrested if he tried to re-enter the Dominican Republic.

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