Rebels have taken over about a dozen towns — the most recent is the key central city of Hinche, about 70 miles northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince — and now control most roads leading into the Artibonite, the main food-producing region and home to almost 1 million people.
At least 56 people have died since the rebellion aimed at ousting Aristide began Feb. 5 in the port city of Gonaives.
Witnesses said about 50 rebels descended on the police station in Hinche Monday, killing three officers and forcing the remaining police to flea the city, according to the Associated Press.
Reportedly leading the rebels was Louis Jodel Chamblain, a former soldier who also headed the paramilitary group FRAPH, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, which killed and maimed hundreds of Aristide supporters under military dictatorship between 1991-94.
“Blood has flowed in Hinche,” Aristide told reporters late Monday, saying he has asked for assistance from the Organization of American States, a coalition of Western Hemisphere countries that works to advance human rights, security and trade.
“It may be that the police cannot cope with this kind of attack,” he said.
Aristide refused to discuss strategies for halting the revolt or say whether he was asking for military assistance, the AP reported.
Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday warned Haiti’s opposition against ousting Aristide, who was restored to power a decade ago by a U.S. invasion.
“We will accept no outcome that in any way illegally attempts to remove the elected president of Haiti,” Powell told reporters after hosting a crisis meeting with mediators.
He also said the United States, Canada and Caribbean nations were discussing whether foreigners could be sent to bolster Haiti’s 5,000-member police force. But Powell said there was no plan at this point for military intervention to quell the violence.
Powell reiterated that message on Tuesday.
“There is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence that we are seeing,” he told reporters. “What we want to do right now is find a political solution and then there are willing nations that would come forward with a police presence to implement the political agreement that the sides come to.”
The secretary said Washington is working with France, the OAS and other groups to get a dialogue underway between Aristide and his rivals.
Powell also rejected the assertion of some in Haiti that no solution is possible so long as Aristide remains in office.
“We cannot buy into the proposition that the elected president must be forced out of office by thugs and those who do not respect the law,” he said.
Aristide has said he will not leave office before his term ends in February 2006.
Discontent has grown in Haiti since Aristide’s Lavalas Party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000 and international donors froze millions of dollars.