Port-au-Prince is on edge with flaming barricades up across the city and armed masked men patrolling the streets as the Haitian capital braces for an assault by armed gangs opposed to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We go to Haiti to hear a report from the streets of Port-au-Prince.
The Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince is on edge. Armed masked men patrol the streets and flaming barricades are up across the city. Fearing an imminent attack, Haitians loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have built ramparts around the presidential palace. The number of Haitians fleeing the country has escalated. The Coast Guard says it has intercepted 546 people at sea over the past three to four days.
In a live interview on CNN yesterday, democratically-elected Haitian President Aristide said he would not step down saying "I will leave the palace on Feb. 7, 2006, which is good for democracy." Aristide called for a small international force to be deployed to the country saying as little as "a couple of dozen" soldiers could prompt the opposition to stand down.
Opposition leaders say they are preparing an assault on the capital and former Haitian police chief Guy Philippe says he hopes to complete a takeover by Sunday.
When asked if President Jean Bertrand Aristide would be allowed to stay in office, Philippe told the Washington Post "No way, Jose."
At a U.N. Security Council meeting yesterday, Caribbean nations called for a multinational force to end the violence but the United States and France said they want a political settlement before sending in any troops.
Meanwhile in Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell openly questioned whether Aristide can continue to serve effectively as Haiti’s leader. Powell said,"He is the democratically elected president, but he has had difficulties in his presidency." Powell’s comments came a day after French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called on Aristide to resign.
- Kevin Pina, independent journalist and filmmaker. He joins us on the phone from Port-au-Prince in Haiti.
- Democratic Presidential candidates discuss Haiti in nationally televised debate University of Southern California on February 26, 2004.