On this day in Caribbean history, September 29, 1991, The Haitian coup d’état took place. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected 8 months earlier in the Haitian general election, 1990–1991, was deposed by the Haitian army. The coup was led by Army General Raoul Cédras, Army Chief of Staff Phillipe Biamby and Chief of the National Police, Michel François. Aristide was sent into exile, his life only saved by the intervention of United States, French and Venezuelan diplomats.
Emmanuel Constant later reported that US Central Intelligence Agency agents were present with Cedras at the army headquarters during the coup, although the CIA denied prior knowledge. The CIA “paid key members of the coup regime forces, identified as drug traffickers, for information from the mid-1980s at least until the coup.” Cédras and François had received military training in the United States.
After the coup (led by Raoul Cédras), members of the new coup regime, notably Chief of National Police Michel François, were accused of drug smuggling at a much greater rate. A 1992 US State Department report noted that Aristide was “planning new policies and institutions to combat narcotics trafficking, [and] his ouster…crippled narcotics control efforts in Haiti.” An internal 1993 US Congress memo stated that “all those jailed for drug-trafficking have been released and…Michel François has personally supervised the landing of planes carrying drugs and weapons.” The US later indicted François but could not secure his extradition from Honduras.
A coup attempt against Aristide had taken place on 6 January, even before his inauguration, when Roger Lafontant, a Tonton Macoute leader under Duvalier, seized the provisional President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot and declared himself President. After large numbers of Aristide supporters filled the streets in protest and Lafontant attempted to declare martial law, the Army crushed the incipient coup.
The coup was condemned by both the United Nations General Assembly and the Organization of American States in October 1991, and throughout the coup regime’s existence the only state to recognise the regime was Vatican City. The 31 July 1994 United Nations Security Council Resolution 940 authorised a United States-led multinational force under unified command and control to restore Aristide to office, under Operation Uphold Democracy.