Haiti Boots French Ambassador Who Protected Ousted President
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ The provisional government on Thursday ordered the departure of the French ambassador, one of the key diplomatic protectors of Haiti’s elected president during an army coup six weeks ago.
In a news release broadcast on state-run television, the Foreign Ministry said Ambassador Jean Rafael Dufour ″is declared undesirable″ and has 48 hours to leave. He will no longer be considered a diplomat as of Sunday at 5 p.m., one day after the 48 hours expire, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, witnesses reported that gangs - possibly members of security forces - shot and killed a Haitian bodyguard to the U.S. ambassador and raped a female companion early Thursday. In another attack, 15 gunmen tried to raid the house of a chauffeur for the Venezuelan Embassy, but were unable to get in, local radio reports said.
It wasn’t known if the attacks were politically motivated or simple crime. France, Venezuela and the United States have been the three nations most forcefully calling for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return since his ouster in the Sept. 30 coup.
On Wednesday, a delegation from the 34-nation Organization of American States left Haiti following a three-day visit during which it insisted that the military allow Aristide’s return from exile.
Reached by telephone, Dufour said he was confident he would be back soon, with Aristide as president. ″I will see you soon in Port-au-Prince, not in Paris,″ he said.
He declined further comment ″so as not to poison″ a situation he described as ″delicate.″
Haitian officials said earlier Thursday that talks between Aristide and Haitian lawmakers on his possible return would be held in Cartagena, Colombia. No date was set for the talks, which would be brokered by the OAS delegation.
Military officials and politicians opposed to Aristide’s reinstatement have accused Dufour of meddling in Haitian internal affairs. The army fiercely opposes Aristide’s return; some soldiers vow to kill him if he tries.
Dufour personally intervened with the military to protect Aristide when the president was ousted. He provided shelter for weeks at the embassy for up to 20 Haitian backers of Aristide, including ousted Prime Minister Rene Preval.
Preval and the others moved this week to other embassies.
Last Friday, the government asked Dufour to leave but set no deadline. He ignored the request. He also ignored a request for the names of Aristide supporters at the embassy.
The statement said Dufour’s expulsion ″in no way affects the friendship of the Haitian government for France and the French.″ Haiti is a former French slave colony that gained independence in 1804.
France, along with most of the international community, has refused to recognize the new army-backed government.
The OAS approved heavy economic sanctions on this desperately poor Caribbean island nation of 6.4 million people. The United States joined in cutting off commercial trade with Haiti.
The embargo has created a severe shortage fuel shortage in Haiti and badly hurt industry, especially export-oriented businesses.
As part of an agreement reached Wednesday, the OAS will send a humanitarian mission to Haiti that will recommend measures to minimize the impact on the poor.
Aristide, an activist Roman Catholic priest, was elected with a huge majority last December in the country’s first free elections. He took office in February.
The army and many politicians charge he abused his power, ignored the legislature and encouraged mob violence against critics. Aristide says he was ousted because of economic and administrative reforms that would have curbed the power of the army and wealthy Haitians.
At least 200 people were killed in the coup as soldiers fired on civilians to discourage pro-Aristide protests and to avenge the killings of some soldiers by mobs.
In Thursday’s violence, 40-year-old Issac Remillien, a bodyguard to U.S. Ambassador Alvin Adams, was shot outside the one-room home of his female companion in the Port-au-Prince slum of Carrefour.
The woman said the gang looted a corner grocery, then surrounded her home and banged on the door until Remillen opened it. They killed him and three men then raped her inside her home before the gang left, carrying off her TV set, gold chain and other loot, she said.