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U.S. Gave Cedras $1 Million in Exchange for Resignation

By Kenneth Freed
Los Angeles Times

The United States gave former Haitian military strongman Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras a million dollar-plus "golden parachute" to resign and go into exile, including the rental of three of his houses, according to U.S. and Haitian sources.

Cedras, who fled to Panama early Thursday and whom President Clinton and other U.S. officials have described variously as a "thug," "stooge" and "killer," was forced to resign as commander in chief of the Haitian army or face a hostile American invasion.

As part of a deal to avoid arrest, Cedras had promised early this week to leave the country and permit the return Saturday of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was driven into exile by a military coup on Sept. 30, 1991.

But Cedras delayed his departure while he wrested final financial concessions from the United States - a promise that the Americans would rent his own home in the suburb of Peguyville, his mother-in-law's Port-au-Prince home and a beachfront house about 40 miles to the north.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager denied reports that senior American military officials would live in any of the three homes but confirmed that the United States would rent the properties.

He declined to give the price beyond saying they would be leased "at fair market value," possibly to U.S. personnel.

Sources close to the Haitian military, however, said the Peguyville home, which has been stripped bare, would be rented for $4,000 a month for a year, to be paid in advance.

The leases for the beach house and the mother-in-law's home, also for a year, are for "several thousand dollars" a month each, the sources said.

The payments to Cedras, which include the cost of exile for his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, are not the first to be made to Haitians held responsible for ousting Aristide since the U.S. troops began arriving Sept. 19.

American military officers and civilian officials have provided lucrative contracts to several wealthy Haitian families implicated in the coup or known to back the three-year military regime.

Arguing that these families were the only sources of needed services and properties, the United States has leased large tracts of land for housing and storage facilities, even building a gasoline pipeline and storage tanks.

As with any improvements to the Cedras properties, all enhancements to these tracts will be given to the owners, free of charge.

"Our intent (in financing Cedras' exit) was to smooth the transition to President Aristide," Schrager said, "to make that come about as smoothly as possible." He also said there "were no cash inducements" involved.