2004 Haitian coup d'état

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2004 Haitian coup d'état

U.S. Marines patrol the streets of Port-au-Prince on 9 March 2004
Date29 February 2004

Anti-government victory;

  • Aristide ousted
  • Interim government installed
 Republic of Haiti National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti

 United Nations

Commanders and leaders
Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Haiti Buteur Métayer

Casualties and losses
50 (estimated) Unknown Unknown

A coup d'état in Haiti on 29 February 2004, following several weeks of conflict, resulted in the removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office. On 5 February, a rebel group, called the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation and Reconstruction of Haiti, took control of Haiti's fourth-largest city, Gonaïves. By 22 February, the rebels had captured Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haïtien and were besieging the capital, Port-au-Prince by the end of February. On the morning of 29 February, Aristide resigned under controversial circumstances and was flown from Haiti by U.S. military and security personnel.[1][2][3][4] He went into exile, being flown directly to the Central African Republic, before eventually settling in South Africa.[5]

Aristide afterwards claimed that he had been "kidnapped" by U.S. forces, accusing them of having orchestrated a coup d'état against him, a claim denied by U.S. officials.[5][6] In 2022, a dozen Haitian and French officials told The New York Times that Aristide's earlier calls for reparations had caused France to side with Aristide's opponents and collaborate with the United States to remove him from power,[7] however this was denied by the United States Ambassador to Haiti at the time, James Brendan Foley.[8]

Following Aristide's departure, an interim government led by Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre was installed.

Events prior to the coup d'état[edit]

Controversy over Aristide's election in 2000[edit]

The opposition in Haiti accused the government party of election fraud in the Haitian general election, 2000,[9] as did Europe and the United States.[10] The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) stated that there were delays in the distribution of voter identification cards.[11] U.S. Congressman John Conyers wrote:

Unfortunately, there were irregularities that occurred in the election and there is a post-election problem of the vote count that is threatening to undo the democratic work of the citizens of Haiti. Without doubt there were irregularities that occurred in the election which have been conceded by the CEP.[12]

In contrast, Aristide's supporters claim that an opposition boycott of the election was used as a ploy in order to discredit it.[13]

In response to this election, European nations suspended government-to-government assistance to Haiti. The U.S. Congress banned any U.S. assistance from being channeled through the Haitian government, codifying an existing situation.[10]

Aristide's request for reparations from France[edit]

In 2003, Aristide requested that France pay Haiti over US$21 billion in reparations, which he said was the equivalent in today's money Haiti was forced to pay Paris after winning independence from France 200 years ago.[14][15]

The United Nations Security Council, of which France is a permanent member, rejected a 26 February 2004, appeal from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for international peacekeeping forces to be sent into its member state Haiti, but voted unanimously to send in troops three days later, just hours after Aristide's forced resignation.[citation needed]

"I believe that (the call for reparations) could have something to do with it, because they (France) were definitely not happy about it, and made some very hostile comments," Myrtha Desulme, chairperson of the Haiti-Jamaica Exchange Committee, told IPS. "(But) I believe that he did have grounds for that demand, because that is what started the downfall of Haiti," she says."[14][15][16]

Following the 2004 Haitian coup d'état, the appointed provisional prime minister Gerard Latortue rescinded the reparations demand.[7]

Cross-border paramilitary campaign against Haiti's state 2001–2004[edit]

The role of rightwing paramilitary groups in violently targeting activists and government officials aligned with the Aristide government has been well documented. Freedom of Information Act documents have shown how paramilitary forces received support from sectors of Haiti's elite as well as from sectors of the Dominican military and government at the time. According to researcher Jeb Sprague, these groups also had contact with U.S. and French intelligence.[17]

Ottawa Initiative[edit]

The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti was a conference hosted by Canada that took place at Meech Lake, Quebec (a federal government resort near Ottawa) on 31 January and 1 February 2003, to decide the future of Haiti's government, though no Haitian government officials were invited.[18][19][20][21]

Journalist Michel Vastel leaked information about the conference that he says was told to him by his friend and conference host Denis Paradis, Canada's Secretary of State for Latin America, Africa, and the French-speaking world, in his 15 March 2003, article in Quebec news magazine L'actualité. In the article, he claims that the officials at the conference wanted to see regime change in Haiti in less than a year. "Michel Vastel wrote that the possibility of Aristide's departure, the need for a potential trusteeship over Haiti, and the return of Haiti's dreaded military were discussed by Paradis and the French Minister for La Francophonie, Pierre-André Wiltzer."[19] Paradis later denied this, but neither Vastel nor L'actualite retracted the story.[22]

Student protests[edit]

Multiple protests by Haitian students were organized in 2002, 2003 and 2004 against the Aristide government. On 5 December 2003, some of Aristide's supporters, backed by the police according to witnesses,[23] entered the social studies department of the Université d'État d'Haïti to attack students who were rallying for an anti-government protest later that day. Dozens of students were injured and the University dean had his legs broken.[24] This tragic event led to more protests by students, eventually joined by other groups. A student protest against Aristide on 7 January 2004 led to a clash with police and Aristide supporters that left two dead.[25]

Coup d'état[edit]

In September 2003, Amiot Métayer was found dead, his eyes shot out and his heart cut out, most likely the result of machete-inflicted wounds. He was, prior to his death, the leader of the Gonaives gang known as "The Cannibal Army." After his death, his brother Buteur Métayer swore vengeance against those he felt responsible for Amiot's death—namely, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Buteur took charge of the Cannibal Army and promptly renamed it the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti.[26] In October 2003, France tasked philosopher Régis Debray with leading a commission in Haiti to improve bilateral relations, though strictly instructed him to not discuss potential reparations.[7] In December 2003, Debray said that he had visited the presidential palace to warn Aristide not to have a fate like President of Chile Salvador Allende, who died during the 1973 Chilean coup, with the philosopher telling the president that the United States was planning his overthrow.[7]

On 5 February 2004, this rebel group seized control of Haiti's fourth-largest city, Gonaïves, marking the beginning of a minor revolt against Aristide. During their sack of the city, they burned the police station and looted it for weapons and vehicles, which they used to continue their campaign down the coast. By 22 February, the rebels had captured Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haïtien. As the end of February approached, rebels threatened to take the capital, Port-au-Prince, fueling increasing political unrest and the building of barricades throughout the capital.[27] Haitians fled their country on boats, seeking to get to the United States.[28]

On the morning of 29 February, Deputy Chief of Mission Luis G. Moreno arrive at the presidential palace with Diplomatic Security Service officers and asked President Aristide for a resignation letter.[7] The resignation letter was written in Haitian Creole and its wording was unclear.[7] That same day, Canadian special forces secured Haiti's main airport[29] after which Aristide was flown out of the country on a U.S. plane accompanied by US security personnel[1][2] as the rebels took over the capital[3] and was flown without[1] knowledge of his route and destination.[4][7] At the time of the flight, France contacted three African nations in attempts to accept Aristide, though they refused, with the Central African Republic ultimately accepting the ousted president who arrived in Bangui via Antigua.[4][7]

Many international politicians, including members of the U.S. congress and the Jamaican Prime Minister, expressed concern that the United States had interfered with Haiti's democratic process, accusing them of removing Aristide with excessive force. According to Rep. Maxine Waters D-California, Mildred Aristide called her at her home at 6:30 am to inform her "the coup d'etat has been completed", and Jean-Bertrand Aristide said the U.S. Embassy in Haiti's chief of staff came to his house to say he would be killed "and a lot of Haitians would be killed" if he refused to resign immediately and said he "has to go now."[5] Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York expressed similar words, saying Aristide had told him he was "disappointed that the international community had let him down" and "that he resigned under pressure" – "As a matter of fact, he was very apprehensive for his life. They made it clear that he had to go now or he would be killed."[5] When asked for his response to these statements Colin Powell said that "it might have been better for members of Congress who have heard these stories to ask us about the stories before going public with them so we don't make a difficult situation that much more difficult" and he alleged that Aristide "did not democratically govern or govern well".[5] Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson released a statement saying "we are bound to question whether his resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to provide the requisite support. The removal of President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces."[5]


Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre succeeded Aristide as interim president and petitioned the UN Security Council for the intervention of an international peacekeeping force. The Security Council passed a resolution the same day, "[t]aking note of the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President of Haiti and the swearing-in of President Boniface Alexandre as the acting President of Haiti in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti" and authorized such a mission.[30]

As a vanguard of the official UN force and Operation Secure Tomorrow, a force of about 1,000 United States Marines arrived in Haïti within the day, and Canadian, French and Chilean troops arrived the next morning; the United Nations indicated it would send a team to assess the situation within days.[citation needed]

On 1 June 2004, the peacekeeping mission was passed to MINUSTAH and comprised a 7000-person force led by Brazil and backed up by Argentina, Chile, Jordan, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Spain, Sri Lanka and Uruguay.[31]

In November 2004, the University of Miami School of Law carried out a Human Rights Investigation in Haiti and documented serious human rights abuses. It stated that "Summary executions are a police tactic."[32] It also stated the following:

U.S. officials blame the crisis on armed gangs in the poor neighborhoods, not the official abuses and atrocities, nor the unconstitutional ouster of the elected president. Their support for the interim government is not surprising, as top officials, including the Minister of Justice, worked for U.S. government projects that undermined their elected predecessors. Coupled with the U.S. government's development assistance embargo from 2000–2004, the projects suggest a disturbing pattern.[32]

On 15 October 2005, Brazil called for more troops to be sent due to the worsening situation in the country.[33]

A number of figures from Haiti's past re-appeared in government after the rebellion, including Hérard Abraham at the Ministry of the Interior, Williams Régala (a former aide to Henri Namphy) and Colonel Henri-Robert Marc-Charles, a member of the post-1991 military junta.[34]


CARICOM (The Caribbean Community) governments denounced the removal of Aristide from government. They also questioned the legality of the new government. The Prime Minister of Jamaica, P. J. Patterson, said that the episode set "a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces."[6]

As reported by the BBC, on 3 March 2004, CARICOM called for an independent inquiry into the departure of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and says it would not be sending peacekeepers. Patterson said there had been no indication during discussions with the U.S. and France that the plan which CARICOM had put forward prior to Aristide's departure was not acceptable. "In respect of our partners we can only say this, at no time in our discussions did they convey to us that the plan was unacceptable so long as president Aristide remained in office. Nor did they suggest to us anything of a nature pertaining to the conduct of President Aristide in office that would cause us to come to the judgment ourselves that he was unsuited to be the President of Haïti," Mr. Patterson said.[35] The U.S. and France have been accused of using pressure on CARICOM to not make a formal UN request for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Aristide's removal.[36]

The CARICOM initially refused to recognize the interim government, but in 2006 the newly elected René Préval resumed his country's membership in the organization.[37]

French and U.S. involvement[edit]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers inspecting U.S. troops deployed as part of peacekeeping operations in Haiti on March 13, 2004.

In 2022, the French ambassador to Haiti at the time, Thierry Burkard, told The New York Times, that France and the United States had "effectively orchestrated "a coup" against Aristide by pressuring him to step down and taking him into exile". He stated French involvement was likely partly motivated by Aristide's call for reparations from France. Another French ambassador, Philippe Selz, told the paper that the decision "to extradite" President Aristide had been made in advance.[7] In response to The New York Times reporting, James Brendan Foley, United States Ambassador to Haiti at the time of the coup, criticized the report's allegation that the U.S. had collaborated with France to overthrow Aristide, stating that "no evidence was presented in support of such a historically consequential claim". He called the claims by the French officials untrue, stating that it was never U.S. policy to remove Aristide. He said that Aristide had requested a U.S. rescue and that the decision to "dispatch a plane to carry him to safety" had been agreed upon following night-time discussions at the behest of Aristide.[8]

On 1 March 2004, US congresswoman Maxine Waters, along with Aristide family friend Randall Robinson, reported that Aristide had told them (using a smuggled cellular phone), that he had been forced to resign and abducted from the country by the United States. He said he had been held hostage by an armed military guard.[1]

Aristide later repeated the same thing, in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on 16 March. Goodman asked Aristide if he resigned, and President Aristide replied: "No, I didn't resign. What some people call 'resignation' is a 'new coup d'état,' or 'modern kidnapping.'"[2][38]

Many supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party and Aristide, as well as some foreign supporters, denounced the rebellion as a foreign controlled coup d'état orchestrated by Canada, France and the United States (Goodman, et al., 2004) to remove a democratically elected president.[citation needed]

Some have come forward to support his claim saying they witnessed him being escorted out by American soldiers at gunpoint.[39][40][41]

Sources close to Aristide also claim the Bush administration blocked attempts to reinforce his bodyguards. The Steele Foundation, the San Francisco-based organization which supplied Aristide's bodyguards, declined to comment.[42]

According to a Washington Times article of April 2004[43]

Mr. Aristide, who accuses the United States and France of conspiring to force him out of power, filed a lawsuit in Paris last week accusing unnamed French officials of 'death threats, kidnapping and sequestration' in connection with his flight to Africa. The Bush administration insists that Mr. Aristide had personally asked for help and voluntarily boarded a U.S. plane. 'He drafted and signed his letter of resignation all by himself and then voluntarily departed with his wife and his own security team,' Mr. Powell said.

The US denied the accusations. "He was not kidnapped," Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "We did not force him onto the airplane. He went on the airplane willingly and that's the truth." The kidnapping claim is "absolutely false," concurred Parfait Mbaye, the communications minister for the Central African Republic, where Aristide's party was taken. The minister told CNN that Aristide had been granted permission to land in the country after Aristide himself – as well as the U.S. and French governments – requested it.[44]

According to the US, as the rebels approached the capital, James B. Foley, U.S. ambassador to Haiti, got a phone call from a high-level aide to Aristide, asking if the U.S. could protect Aristide and help facilitate his departure if he resigned. The call prompted a series of events that included a middle-of-the-night phone call to President Bush and a scramble to find a plane to carry Aristide into exile. Foley said that he traveled voluntarily via motorcade to the airport with his own retinue of security guards, including some contracted Americans. Before takeoff, Aristide gave a copy of his resignation letter to Foley's aide.[2]

The Associated Press reported that the Central African Republic tried to get Aristide to stop repeating his charges to the press.[45]

Aristide has also denied that a letter he left behind constitutes an official resignation. "There is a document that was signed to avoid a bloodbath, but there was no formal resignation," he said. "This political kidnapping was the price to pay to avoid a bloodbath." According to the US embassy translation it reads "Tonight I am resigning in order to avoid a bloodbath. I accept to leave, with the hope that there will be life and not death." A slightly different translation was given by Albert Valdman, a linguistics professor and specialist in Haitian Creole at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. "If tonight it is my resignation that will avoid a bloodbath, I accept to leave with the hope that there will be life and not death."[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Aristide related articles". Democracy Now!. Archived from the original on 21 July 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d Steve Miller; Joseph Curl (2004). "Aristide accuses U.S. of forcing his ouster". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  3. ^ a b "Embattled Aristide quits Haiti". BBC News. 29 February 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "Aristide arrives in Central African Republic after fleeing Haiti". USA Today. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Aristide says U.S. deposed him in 'coup d'etat'". CNN. 2 March 2004. Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  6. ^ a b "After Aristide, what?". The Economist. 4 May 2004. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Méheut, Constant; Porter, Catherine; Gebrekidan, Selam; Apuzzo, Matt (20 May 2022). "Demanding Reparations, and Ending Up in Exile". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  8. ^ a b Foley, James (24 May 2022). "No, the U.S. did not try to overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti". Miami Herald.
  9. ^ "Haiti poll fraud allegations". BBC News. 22 May 2000. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  10. ^ a b Gedda, George (25 November 2000). "U.S. distances itself from Haiti's election process". The Dispatch. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  11. ^ "As Haiti Stumbles Toward Elections, NCHR Urges Extension of Voter Registration Period". National Coalition for Haitian Rights. Archived from the original on 1 November 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  12. ^ Congressmen John Conyers Jr. "Major Issues Haiti". Major Issues. House.gov. Archived from the original on 29 November 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  13. ^ Mary Turck (24 February 2004). "Background on Haiti: Some Questions and Answers". Americas.org. Archived from the original on 10 January 2006. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  14. ^ a b Jackson Miller, Dionne (12 March 2004). "HAITI: Aristide's Call for Reparations From France Unlikely to Die". Inter Press Service news. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  15. ^ a b Frank E. Smitha. "Haiti, 1789 to 1806". Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  16. ^ "A Country Study: Haiti – Boyer: Expansion and Decline". * Library of Congress. 200a. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2007.
  17. ^ Jeb Sprague Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, Monthly Review Press, 2012
  18. ^ Smith, Mike (21–27 July 2005). "Canada's quiet war Why are our forces helping to raid Aristide strongholds?". Now. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  19. ^ a b Engler, Yves; Fenton, Anthony (August 2005). Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority. Co-published: RED Publishing, Fernwood Publishing. ISBN 1-55266-168-7. , pages 41–44
  20. ^ Fenton, Anthony; Dru Oja Jay (7 April 2006). "Declassifying Canada in Haiti, Part I, Canadian Officials Planned Military Intervention Weeks Before Haitian Coup". Global Policy Forum. Archived from the original on 9 May 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  21. ^ Elaine Brière (September 2019). Haiti Betrayed. Haiti, Canada. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  22. ^ Engler, Yves; Fenton, Anthony (August 2005). Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority. Co-published: RED Publishing, Fernwood Publishing. ISBN 1-55266-168-7. , page 43
  23. ^ "Soros Foundation in Haiti Denounces Attacks on Students by Pro-Government Forces". Open Society Foundation. 11 December 2013. On several occasions, the police opened the way for the chimè's attacks and also covered their backs.
  24. ^ "Haiti protests marred by violence". BBC News. 12 December 2003.
  25. ^ "The Month in Review: January 2004". Current History. 103 (671). Philadelphia: 142. March 2004. ISSN 0011-3530. ProQuest 200732119. Jan. 7—Haitian students clash with police and supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide during a protest march in the capital. Two protesters die and 13 are wounded.
  26. ^ Hallward, Peter (2007). Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment. London: Verso Books. p. 210. ISBN 978-1-84467-106-9.
  27. ^ Marx, Gary (12 February 2004). "Haitian 'Cannibal Army' leader orchestrates chaos to force Aristide's ouster". Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  28. ^ Zarrella, John; Arena, Kelli; Phillip, Rich (27 February 2004). "Haitians flee to U.S. in boats". CNN. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  29. ^ Jay, Dru (15 July 2021). "New documents detail how Canada helped plan 2004 coup d'état in Haiti ⋆ The Breach". The Breach. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  30. ^ United Nations Security Council Resolution 1529. S/RES/1529(2004) page 1. 29 February 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  31. ^ "Militaires" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2008.
  32. ^ a b Griffin Report – Haiti Human Rights Investigation, 11–21 November 2004 – By Thomas M. Griffin, ESQ. – Center for the Study of Human Rights, University of Miami School of Law – (Professor Irwin P. Stotzky, Director) – [1]. Retrieved 20 April 2009. Archived 14 May 2009.
  33. ^ "Brazil seeks more Haiti UN troops". BBC News. 15 October 2004. Archived from the original on 3 December 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  34. ^ Jessica Leight, 23 September 2004, COHA, Haiti: Smoldering on the Edge of Chaos
  35. ^ "Caricom delivers Haiti verdict". BBC Caribbean. 3 March 2004. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  36. ^ "U.S., France Block UN Probe of Aristide Ouster". commondreams.org. Archived from the original on 9 January 2006. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  37. ^ "Haiti returns to CARICOM's fold". bilaterals.org. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  38. ^ "President Aristide in His Own Words: DN!'s Exclusive Interview, Pt. 1". democracynow.org. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  39. ^ Andrew Buncombe (3 March 2004). "Aristide's moment of decision: 'Live or die'". Independent Media TV. Archived from the original on 20 November 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  40. ^ "Aristide and His Bodyguard Describe the U.S. Role in His Ouster". Democracy Now!. 16 March 2004. Archived from the original on 23 December 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  41. ^ Eisner, Peter (16 March 2004). "Aristide Back in Caribbean Heat". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 July 2006. Note: first page of this article is missing from The Washington Post website, but can be found here Archived 19 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ Juan O. Tamayo (1 March 2004). "U.S. allegedly blocked extra bodyguards". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 8 February 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005.
  43. ^ "Powell rejects Aristide probe". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  44. ^ "Aristide says U.S. deposed him in 'coup d'etat'". CNN. 2 March 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  45. ^ "Aristide's claims that he was forced from power in Haiti cause problems with his African host". Sign On San Diego.com/ Associated Press. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  46. ^ Nicholas Kralev (2004). "Aristide denies 'formal resignation,' plans return". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on 31 October 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2005.


External links[edit]