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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Amnesty Likely for Haiti Junta

WASHINGTON -- In a new, more narrow interpretation of the agreement that averted an American invasion of Haiti, the Clinton administration said Thursday it is very unlikely that Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras and other Haitian military leaders will get the amnesty from prosecution they are counting on in order for them to stay in the Caribbean nation.


According to administration officials, only exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has the authority to call the Haitian Parliament into session to consider legislation giving blanket pardons to the military for crimes committed in the bloody Sept. 30, 1991 coup or in the three years of dictatorial rule that followed.


Aristide, who says he is willing to extend an amnesty for "political" crimes such as treason and insurrection, but not for "common" crimes such as murder and rape, is not expected to summon the parliament in time to save his political enemies from jail or exile.


Cedras believed that before Aristide returned he would be granted amnesty by the existing parliament, which includes members whose credentials are questionable because they were elected after the 1991 coup.


Without amnesty, Cedras and his lieutenants would face arrest, if Aristide regains power as he is scheduled to by Oct. 15.


The reinterpretation of the amnesty provision by the U.S. administration was part of a concerted effort by the administration to snatch away some of the concessions former President Carter made to Cedras and his deputy, Brigadier General Phillippe Biamby, during arduous negotiations last weekend.


Meanwhile, U.S. troops took further steps in their crackdown on Haiti police violence.


On Thursday, U.S. troops positioned armored personnel carriers in front of several police stations, and warned authorities that such acts of violence would be tolerated no longer.


"There should be no misunderstanding by now that the Marines will intervene if necessary to prevent violence," said Major Steve Little, a Marine spokesman.


On the fourth day of the U.S. military occupation, Haitians were beginning to feel they could say and do things that have been violently repressed since the September 1991 coup toppled elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.


Hundreds of Haitians gathered around Marines near the port Thursday evening, waving branches as a sign of peace even as they filled the air with cries of "Kill Cedras."


The Marines' get-tough stance came after police violently broke up a demonstration by Aristide supporters Wednesday night. The crowd ran toward a Marine unit, which pulled back into a defensive position with rifles at the ready, but with no orders on how to act under such circumstances, did nothing.


On Thursday, word went out to Marine units that they could step in to stop police violence against civilians. At dusk, more Marine foot patrols were out on the streets, and armored units were stationed outside police stations.


Clinton's tougher policy is a reversion of the stance he took before the Carter-led negotiations.


When Clinton dispatched Carter, retired General Colin Powell and Senator Sam Nunn, to make one final diplomatic attempt to head off an imminent invasion, the president said the delegation could only discuss the "modalities" by which Cedras, Biamby and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph-Michel Francois, the Port-au-Prince police chief, would surrender power and leave Haiti.


The president said the three must leave -- the only question was whether their departure would be peaceful or a result of the use of military force.


Instead of sticking to his narrow mandate, Carter negotiated a deal that called for the three officers to retire from the military by Oct. 15. But it let them remain in their posts during the interim and it did not require them to leave the country.