Haiti's de facto president declared a national state of siege Monday and dramatically announced that "the battle of Haiti is under way."
The pre-dawn declaration by Emile Jonassaint came 14 hours after the U.N. Security Council cleared the way for a possible U.S.-led invasion to oust Haiti's military leaders and restore deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to office.Under the 1987 constitution, a state of siege allows for the suspension of certain civil liberties, but it was not known what steps would follow.
Jonassaint, the chief justice of the Haitian Supreme Court, was installed as president in May by a minority group of army-backed lawmakers. He assumed the prime minister's post and named a clique of extreme rightists and nationalists to the Cabinet.
"The battle of Haiti is under way," he said on national radio and television at 2 a.m. local time, although probably few Haitians were awake to hear him. "We will fight it with all our might and means. It will be hard and implacable."
He accused the international community of racism and of openly declaring war on "a nation that threatens no one."
His speech was followed by the reading of the decree and then morale-boosting pieces such as: "Today Haiti, tomorrow who?"
Jonassaint was accompanied by Cabinet ministers and senators who had been meeting since the Security Council acted Sunday afternoon.
The council voted 12-0, with China and Brazil abstaining, to authorize the use of force to restore democracy in Haiti.
The resolution set no deadline and gave no timetable for the possible invasion but said member states could "use all necessary means" to push the military leadership from power.
The U.S. military "is prepared to organize and lead" an invasion force, Ambassador Madeleine Al-bright said after Sunday's Security Council vote. "We seek - and anticipate - that others will join."
The message to the Haitian military, she said, was: "You can depart voluntarily and soon, or you can depart involuntarily and soon. The sun is setting on your ruthless ambition."
U.S. forces finished four days of war exercises near Puerto Rico on Saturday and steamed toward Haiti to resume patrols off the coast.
Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, was Haiti's first popularly elected president, but he was overthrown by the military in September 1991 after only seven months in office. He has since lived in exile.
The military regime of army chief Lt. Gen. Raul Cedras has defied a worldwide economic trade embargo and a U.S. ban on most financial transactions.