Military Wiki
2004 Haitian coup d'état
Date5–29 February 2004
Result Aristide ousted; interim government installed
Haiti Republic of Haiti Haiti National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haïti United States United States
Chile Chile
Canada Canada
United Nations MINUSTAH
France France
Commanders and leaders
Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide Haiti Guy Philippe United States George W. Bush
United Nations Chile Juan Gabriel Valdés
United Nations Brazil Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira
5,000 (approximation) 5,000 (estimated) 8,000 (approximation)
Casualties and losses
50 (estimated) Unknown Unknown

The 2004 Haitian coup d'état was a coup d'état that occurred after conflicts lasting for several weeks in Haiti during February 2004. It resulted in the removal from office of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide preventing him from finishing his second term, and he left Haiti on a United States (U.S.) plane accompanied by U.S. military/security personnel.

Aristide claims that his departure was a kidnapping, accusing the U.S. of orchestrating a coup d'état against him.[1][2] Aristide was forced into exile, being flown directly out of Haiti to the Central African Republic,[1] eventually settling in South Africa.

An interim government led by Prime Minister Gérard Latortue (brought back from the U.S.) and President Boniface Alexandre was installed in Haiti.

Events prior to the coup d'état

Controversy over Aristide's election in 2000

The opposition in Haiti accused the government party of election fraud in the Haitian general election, 2000[3] as did the United States.[4]

U.S. Congressman 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 Haïti. Without doubt there were irregularities that occurred in the election which have been conceded by the CEP.[5]

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) says that there were delays in the distribution of voter identification cards.[6]

Aristide's supporters claim that an opposition boycott of the election was used as a ploy in order to discredit it and that they did not have anywhere near majority support.[7]

European nations suspended government-to-government assistance to Haiti. Haiti had received no help from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for years. The U.S. Congress banned any U.S. assistance from being channeled through the Haitian government, codifying an existing situation.[4]

Aristide's request for reparations from France

In 2003, Aristide requested that France pay Haiti over US$21 billion, which he said was the equivalent in today's money of the 90 million gold francs Haiti was forced to pay Paris after winning its freedom from France as the hemisphere's first independent black nation 200 years ago.[8][9]

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.

"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."[8][9][10]

Ottawa Initiative hosted by Canada

The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti was a conference hosted by Canada that took place in Montreal, Quebec on 31 January and 1 February 2003, to decide the future of Haiti's government, though no Haitian government officials were invited.[11][12][13] The conference was attended by Canadian, French, and U.S. and Latin American officials.

Journalist Michel Vastel leaked information about the conference that he says was told to him by his friend 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-Andre Wiltzer."[12] Paradis later denied this, but neither Vastel nor L'Actualite retracted the story.[14]

Other events

A student protest against Aristide on 7 January led to a clash with police and Aristide supporters that left two dead.[15]

Coup d'état

Despite enjoying support by the majority of Haitians, the Washington Post informed their readers that regime change was looming on 21 November 2003: "Aristide has pushed with mixed success a populist agenda of higher minimum wages, school construction, literacy programs, higher taxes on the rich and other policies that have angered an opposition movement run largely by a mulatto elite that has traditionally controlled Haiti's economy."[16] In the three years leading up to the coup, the nation's already moribund economy further deteriorated and the government ground to a halt as the opposition refused to participate in elections.[17]

The International Republican Institute, a nonprofit political group backed by powerful Republicans close to the Bush administration funded opposition to Aristide. For six years leading up to the coup, the I.R.I. conducted a $3 million party-building program in Haiti, training Aristide's political opponents, uniting them into a single bloc and, according to a former U.S. ambassador there, encouraging them to reject internationally sanctioned power-sharing agreements in order to heighten Haiti's political crisis.[18] "[Aristide] was espousing change in Haiti, fundamental populist change," said Robert Maguire, a Haiti scholar. "Right away, he was viewed as a threat by very powerful forces in Haiti." President Aristide promised not only to give voice to the poor in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but also to raise the minimum wage and force businesses to pay taxes. He rallied supporters with heated attacks on the United States, a tacit supporter of past dictatorships and a major influence in Haitian affairs. The anti-Aristide message had currency around Washington. Mr. Einaudi, the veteran diplomat, recalled attending the I.R.I.'s 2001 fund-raising dinner and being surrounded by a half-dozen Haitian businessmen sounding a common cry: "We were foolish to think that we could do anything with Aristide. That it was impossible to negotiate with him. That it was necessary to get rid of him." [19]

In September 2003, Amiot Metayer 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 Metayer 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.[citation needed] 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.[20] Haitians fled their country on boats, seeking to get to the United States.[21] After a three-week rebellion, Aristide involuntarily[22][23] left Haiti on a US plane accompanied by US security personnel[22][23] as the rebels took over the capital[24] and was flown without[22] knowledge of his route and destination, via Antigua to Bangui, Central African Republic.[25]

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 by 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."[1] 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."[1] 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".[1] 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."[1]


Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre succeeded Aristide as interim president and petitioned the United Nations 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.[26] 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.

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.[27] Brazilian forces led the United Nations peacekeeping troops in Haiti composed of American, French, Canadian and Chilean deployments. These peacekeeping troops were part of the ongoing MINUSTAH operation.

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."[28] 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."[28]

On 15 October 2005, Brazil called for more troops to be sent due to the worsening situation in the country.[29]

A number of figures from Haiti's past re-appeared in government after the rebellion, including Herard Abraham at the Ministry of the Interior, Williams Regala (a former aide to Henri Namphy) and Colonel Henri-Robert Marc-Charles, a member of the post-1991 military junta.[30]

In the Haitian general election, 2006, René Préval was elected president.


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."[31]

As reported by the BBC, on 3 March 2004, CARICOM called for an independent inquiry into the departure of former Haïtian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and says it will not send peacekeepers at this time. 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.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34]

Controversy regarding U.S. involvement

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

On 1 March 2004, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), 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 claimed to be held hostage by an armed military guard.[22]

Aristide later repeated similar claims, 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.'"[23][35]

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 publicly elected president. A new book on the subject, Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward, scrupulously documents the events leading up to 29 February 2004, and concludes that what occurred during the "rebellion" was in fact a modern coup d'état, financed and orchestrated by forces allied with the US government. Hallward provides extensive documentation for his claims in interviews he has given on the subject.[36]

In a report published on 28 October 2005, Granma, the official Cuban news service, alleged that United States politician Caleb McCarry engineered Aristide's overthrow.[37]

Some have come forward to support his claim saying they witnessed him being escorted out by American soldiers at gunpoint.[38][39][40]

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.[41]

According to a Washington Times, article of April 2004[42]

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 has 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.[43]

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. 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.[23]

The Associated Press reported that the Central African Republic tried to get Aristide to stop repeating his charges to the press.[44]

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."[45]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "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. 
  2. US Sponsored Coup d’Etat: The Destabilization of Haiti
  3. "Haiti poll fraud allegations". BBC News. 22 May 2000. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gedda, George (25 November 2000). "U.S. distances itself from Haiti's election process". The Dispatch. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  5. Congressmen John Conyers, Jr.. "Major Issues – Haiti". Major Issues. Archived from the original on 29 November 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  6. "As Haiti Stumbles Toward Elections, NCHR Urges Extension of Voter Registration Period". National Coalition for Haitian Rights. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  7. Mary Turck (24 February 2004). "Background on Haiti: Some Questions and Answers". Archived from the original on 10 January 2006. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 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 14 May 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2009. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Frank E. Smitha. "Haiti, 1789 to 1806". Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2009. 
  10. "A Country Study: Haiti – Boyer: Expansion and Decline". * Library of Congress. 200a. Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2007. 
  11. Smith, Mike (21–27 July 2005). "Canada's quiet war Why are our forces helping to raid Aristide strongholds?". magazine. Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2009. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 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
  13. 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 14 May 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  14. 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
  16. "Armed attacks increase pressure on Haitian leader / Civilian opposition movement targets popular Aristide" The Washington Post, 21 November 2003
  17. "Cold War returns to US backyard – Reed Lindsay finds growing disquiet in Latin America over America's role in the fall of Haiti's leader" The Observer, 6 March 2004
  18. "Uncovering A US-Planned Coup In Haiti: The Original Version" By Max Blumenthal, Senior Writer for The Daily Beast, 30 January 2006 04:08 pm
  19. "Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos" The New York Times, 29 January 2006
  20. Marx, Gary (12 February 2004). "Haitian `Cannibal Army' leader orchestrates chaos to force Aristide's ouster". Highbeam. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  21. Zarrella, John; Arena, Kelli & Phillip, Rich (27 February 2004). "Haitians flee to U.S. in boats". CNN International. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 "Aristide related articles". Democracy Now. Archived from the original on 21 July 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Steve Miller and Joseph Curl (2004). "Aristide accuses U.S. of forcing his ouster". Washington Times. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  24. "Embattled Aristide quits Haiti". BBC News. 29 February 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  25. "Aristide arrives in Central African Republic after fleeing Haiti". USA Today. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  26. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1529.- | / | S-RES-1529(2004) }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S-RES-1529(2004) }} page 1. 29 February 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  27. "Militaires". Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2008. (Spanish)
  28. 28.0 28.1 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.
  29. "Brazil seeks more Haiti UN troops". BBC News. 15 October 2004. Archived from the original on 3 December 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  30. Jessica Leight, 23 September 2004, COHA, Haiti: Smoldering on the Edge of Chaos
  31. "After Aristide, what?". The Economist. 4 May 2004. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  32. "Caricom delivers Haiti verdict". BBC Caribbean. 3 March 2004. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  33. U.S., France Block UN Probe of Aristide Ouster
  34. Haiti returns to CARICOM’s fold
  35. Democracy Now! | President Aristide in His Own Words: DN!'s Exclusive Interview, Pt. 1
  36. Peter Hallward interview with Kim Ives on WBAI,
  37. "CALEB MCCARRY, Bush’s man for Cuba author of the Haitian disaster". Granma. Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  38. 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. 
  39. "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. 
  40. Eisner, Peter (16 March 2004). "Aristide Back in Caribbean Heat". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  41. 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. 
  42. "Powell rejects Aristide probe". Washington Times. Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  43. "Aristide says U.S. deposed him in 'coup d'etat'". CNN. 2 March 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  44. "Aristide's claims that he was forced from power in Haiti cause problems with his African host". Sign On San Associated Press. Retrieved 21 July 2006. 
  45. Nicholas Kralev (2004). "Aristide denies 'formal resignation,' plans return". Washington Times. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 


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