[News] Interview With President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 15 14:04:14 EST 2010

Interview With President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, by Nicolas Rossier

Submitted by CHAN on November 13, 2010 - 09:02

Exiled Former President of Haiti Talks with Filmmaker Nicolas Rossier

Saturday, November 13, 2010

" When we say democracy we have to mean what we say"

Currently in forced-exile in South Africa, former 
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is still 
the national leader of Fanmi Lavalas – one of 
Haiti's most popular political parties. A former 
priest and proponent of liberation theology, he 
served as Haiti's first democratically elected 
president in 1990 before he was ousted in a CIA 
backed coup in September 1991. He returned to 
power in 1994 with the help of the Clinton 
administration and finished his term. He was 
elected again seven years later, only to be 
ousted in a coup in February 2004. The coup was 
lead by former Haitian soldiers in tandem with 
members of the opposition. Aristide has 
repeatedly claimed since, that he was forced to 
resign at gunpoint by members of the US Embassy. 
US officials have claimed that he decided to 
resign freely following the violent uprising. He 
now lives in exile in South Africa where he still 
waits to get his diplomatic passport renewed. He 
is not allowed to travel outside South Africa.

Aristide is still the subject of many 
controversies. He is reviled by the business 
elite and feared by the French and American 
governments, who deem his populism dangerous. But 
he remains loved by a large portion of the Haitian population.

In a June 10 report to the Committee on Foreign 
Relations, "Haiti: No Leadership – No Elections”, 
ranking Republican member Richard Lugar denounced 
the systemic injustice of excluding his Fanmi Lavalas party.

Last week, independent reporter and filmmaker 
Nicolas Rossier, conducted an exclusive two-hour 
interview with former Haitian President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the hills of 
Johannesburg. He spoke with the former President 
about his life in forced exile, Haiti’s current 
political situation, and his possible return to 
Haiti. This is an excerpt of the interview. The 
interview is re-posted here, to the website of 
the Canada Haiti Action Network, with permission of Nicolas Rossier.


Mr. President Aristide, thank you for having me 
today. My first question is about the earthquake 
that took place in Haiti in January of 2010. Can 
you tell me how and when you learned about the tragedy?

It was morning here. I was at Witwatersrand 
University here in Johannesburg to work in the 
lab of the Faculty of Medicine for Linguistics 
and Neuroanatomy. I realized that it was a 
disaster in Haiti. It was not easy to believe 
what I was watching. We lost about 300,000 
people, and in terms of the buildings, they said 
that about 39% of the buildings in Port-au-Prince 
were destroyed, including fifty hospitals and about 1,350 schools.

Up until today they have cleared only about 2% of 
these 25 million cubic meters of rubble and 
debris. So this was a real disaster. We could not 
imagine that Haiti, already facing so many 
problems, would now face such a disaster. 
Unfortunately this is the reality. I was ready to 
go back to help my people, just as I am ready to 
leave right now if they allow me to be there to 
help. Close to 1.8 million victims are living in 
the street homeless. So this is a tragedy.

Your former colleague, the current President René 
Préval, was highly criticized after the 
earthquake for being absent. Overall, he was 
judged as not having shown enough leadership. Do 
you think that’s a fair criticism?

I believe that January 12, 2010 was a very bad 
time for the government and for the Haitian 
people. To have leadership, yes it was necessary, 
overall, to be present in a time of disaster like 
this one. But to criticize when you aren’t doing 
any better is cynical. Most of those who were 
criticizing him sent soldiers to protect their 
own geopolitical interests, not to protect the 
people. They seized the airport for their own 
interests, instead of protecting the victims – so 
for me there should be some balance.

Can you give us your thoughts on the recent cholera epidemic?

As for this recent incident of cholera, whether 
or not it was imported – as the evidence strongly 
suggests – it’s critical. First, those who 
organized the coup d’état/kidnapping of 2004, 
paving the way for the invaders now accused as 
having caused the recent outbreak of cholera, 
must also share the blame. Second, the root 
causes, and what facilitated the deadly spread of 
the disease are structural, embedded in Haiti’s 
historical impoverishment, marginalization and 
economic exploitation. The country’s once 
thriving rice industry – destroyed by the 
subsidized US rice industry in the 1980s – was in 
the Artibonite, the epicenter of the cholera 
outbreak. The near destruction of our rice 
industry coupled with the systematic and cruel 
elimination of the Haitian pigs rendered the 
region and the country poorer. Third, in 2003 our 
government had already paid the fees on an 
approved loan from the InterAmerican Development 
Bank to implement a water sanitization project in 
the Artibonite. As you can remember, that loan 
and four others were blocked as part of a 
calculated strategy by the so-called friends of 
Haiti to weaken our government and justify the coup d’état.

Many observers in Haiti and elsewhere keep asking 
me the same question, which is this: what are you 
doing here and what prevents you from coming back 
to your own country? The Haitian constitution 
does not allow political exile. You have not been 
convicted of anything, so what prevents you from 
going back? You are a Haitian citizen and should be allowed to move freely.

When I look at it from the South African 
perspective, I don’t find the real reasons. But 
if I try to understand it from the Haitian 
perspective, I think that I see the picture. The 
picture is that in Haiti, we have the same people 
who organized the invasion of 2004 after 
kidnapping me to put me in Africa. They are still 
there. That means there is a kind of neo-colonial 
occupation of 8,900 UN soldiers with 4,400 
policemen spending, more or less, fifty-one 
million US dollars a month in a country where 70% 
of the population lives with less than a dollar a 
day. In other words it’s a paradise for the 
occupiers. First we had the colonization of Haiti 
and now we have a kind of neo-colonial occupation 
of Haiti. In my view, they don’t want me back 
because they still want to occupy Haiti.

So you see the elite in Haiti basically 
influencing those currently in power and 
pressuring them to prevent you from coming back? 
There is certainly a more friendly administration 
now in Washington. Are they still sending the 
same messages to South Africa regarding you?

JBA: No 

I heard that you tried to go to Cuba for an 
urgent eye surgery and you were not allowed to go. Is this true?

Allow me to smile
(laughs) because when you look 
at this, you smile based on the contradiction 
that you observe in the picture. They pretend 
that they fear me when I am part of the solution, 
based on what the majority of the people in Haiti 
still continue to say. If they continue to ask 
for my return by demonstrating peacefully, that 
means you still have the problem. So if you want 
to solve the problem, open the door for my return.

Before the coup, I was calling for dialogue in 
such a way to have inclusion, not exclusion - to 
have cohesion, not an explosion of the social 
structure. The opposition, with foreign backers, 
decided to opt for a coup and the result is what 
I would say in a Hebrew saying: ?? ??? ?? ???? , 
in English meaning, “things went from bad to 
worse.” So if you they are wise, they should be 
the first to do their best for the return because 
the return is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

You have said that you do not intend to become 
involved in politics, but rather return as a citizen. Is that your vision?

Yes, and I said it because this is what I was 
doing before being elected in 1990. I was 
teaching and now I have more to offer based on my 
research in linguistics and neurolinguistics, 
which is research on how the brain processes 
language. I have made a humble contribution in a 
country where once we had only 34 secondary 
schools when I was elected 1990, and before the 
coup of 2004 we had 138 public secondary schools. 
Unfortunately the earthquake destroyed most of 
them. Why are they so afraid? It’s irrational. 
Sometimes people who want to understand Haiti 
from a political perspective may be missing part 
of the picture. They also need to look at Haiti 
from a psychological perspective. Most of the 
elite suffer from psychogenic amnesia. That means 
it’s not organic amnesia, such as damage caused 
by brain injury. It’s just a matter of 
psychology. So this pathology, this fear, has to 
do with psychology, and as long as we don’t have 
that national dialogue where fear would 
disappear, they may continue to show fear where 
there is no reason to be afraid.

What has to be done for you to be able to return 
to Haiti? What do you intend to do to make that 
happen? It’s been six years now. It must be very 
tough for you not to be able to return with your 
family. You must feel very homesick.

There is a Swahili proverb which says: “Mapenzi 
ni kikohozi, hayawezi kufichika” - or “love is 
like cough that you cannot hide.”

I love my people and my country, and I cannot 
hide it, and because of that love, I am ready to 
leave right now. I cannot hide it. What is 
preventing me from leaving, as I said earlier, if 
I look from South Africa, I don’t know.

But when you ask the question to the people 
responsible here, they say they don’t know.

Well (pause) I am grateful to South Africa, and I 
will always be grateful to South Africa and 
Africa as our mother continent. But I think 
something could be done in addition to what has 
been done in order to move faster towards the 
return, and that is why, as far as I am 
concerned, I say, and continue to say that I am 
ready. I am not even asking for any kind of 
logistical help because friends could come here 
and help me reach my country in two days. So I did all that I could.

Do you think that the Haitian government is 
sending signals to the South African government 
that they are not ready? For instance, maybe they 
do not want you to return because they are 
concerned about security issues for you. The 
Haitian government may not be able to ensure your 
security. There are some individuals who, for 
ideological reasons, don’t support you and could 
go as far as to try to assassinate you. Is that part of the problem?

In Latin they say: “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” or 
"after this, therefore because of this." It’s a 
logical fallacy. In 1994, when I returned home, 
they said the same: if he comes back the sky will 
fall. I was back during a very difficult time 
where I included members of the opposition in my 
government, moving our way through dialogue in 
order to heal the country. But unfortunately we 
did not have a justice system, which could 
provide justice to all the victims at once. 
However slowly, through the Commission of Truth 
and Justice, we were paving the way to have 
justice. Now I will not come back as a head of 
state, but as a citizen. If I am not afraid to be 
back in my country, how could those who wanted to 
kill me, who plotted to have the coup in 2004, be 
the first to care about my security? It’s a 
logical fallacy. (laughs) They are hiding, or try 
to hide themselves behind something that is too small
no no no no.

Are they afraid of your political influence – 
afraid that you can affect change?

Yes, and I will encourage those who want to be 
logical (laughs), not to fear the people, because 
when they say they fear me, basically it’s not 
me. It’s the people, in a sense that they fear 
the votes of the people. They fear the voice of 
the people and that fear is psychologically 
linked to a kind of social pathology. It’s an 
apartheid society, unfortunately, because racism 
can be behind these motivations.

I can fear you, not for good reasons, but because 
I hate you and I cannot say that I hate you. You 
see? So we need a society rooted in equality. We 
are all equal, rich and poor and we need a 
society where the people enjoy their rights. But 
once you speak this way, it becomes a good reason 
for you to be pushed out of the country or to be 
kidnapped as I was (laughs). But there is no way 
out without that dialogue and mutual respect. This is the way out.

In your view, what is the last element missing 
for you to go back? You said there was one more 
thing they could do for you do go back. Can you tell us that?

They just need to be reasonable. The minute they 
decide to be reasonable, the return will happen right away.

And that means one phone call into the US State 
Department ? One green light from one person? 
Technically, what does that mean?

Technically I would say that the Haitian 
government, by being reasonable, would stop 
violating the constitution and say clearly that 
the people voted for the return as well. The 
constitution wants us to respect the right of 
citizens, so we don’t accept exile. That would be the first step.

Now if other forces would oppose my return, they 
would come clear and oppose it but as long as we 
don’t start with a decision from the Haitian 
government, it makes things more difficult.

So the first gesture has to come from the Haitian government?


And they could make this happen by telling the US 
State Department you should be allowed to come back, and should come back.

They would not have to tell the State Department.

So it’s not a political decision in Washington? 
It’s between the Haitian government and the South African government?

As a matter of fact, I don’t have a passport 
because it is expired. I have the right to a 
diplomatic passport. By sending me a normal 
diplomatic passport there would be a clear signal 
of their will to respect the constitution.

But it’s the Haitian government that has to do that?


Or they could just renew your Haitian passport?


Ask you for a new photo of yourself and issue a new passport?

(laughs) You see why when I said earlier that we 
should not continue to play as a puppet 
government in the hands of those who pretend to 
be friends of Haiti. I am right because as long 
as we continue to play like that we are not 
moving from good to better or good to good, but from bad to worse.

There was a lot of noise lately in the US media 
about the candidacy of singer Wyclef Jean, who 
eventually was denied running by the CEP (Haiti's 
Interim Electoral Commission). Any comment about 
the whole commotion around his candidature?

When we say democracy we have to mean what we 
say. Unfortunately, this is not the case for 
Haiti. They talk about democracy but they refuse 
to organize free and fair democratic elections. 
Is it because of a kind of neocolonial 
occupation? Is it because they still want 
exclusion and not inclusion that they refused to 
organize free and fair democratic elections?

Last year, we observed that they said they wanted 
to have elections, but in fact they had a 
selection and not an election. Today they are 
moving from the same to the same. They are not 
planning to have free and fair democratic 
elections. They are planning to have a selection. 
They excluded the Lavalas* party, which is the 
party of the majority. It is as if in the US they 
could organize an election without the Democrats. 
So from my point of view, Wyclef Jean came as an 
artist to be a candidate and it was good for 
those who refuse elections because they could 
have a “media circus” in order to hide the real 
issue, which is the inclusion of the majority. So 
this is my view of the reality.

Looking back at the dramatic events that lead to 
your overthrow in 2004, is there anything in 
hindsight that you wished you had not done? 
Anything tactically or strategically that you 
wish you had done differently and that could have prevented the coup?

If I could describe the reality from that day in 
2004 to today, you would allow me to use the 
Hebrew phrase again (speaks in Hebrew), which 
means “from bad to worse”. That is how it has 
been from 2004 to today. When we look at that 
coup d’état, which was a kidnapping, I was 
calling for dialogue and they manipulated a small 
minority of Haitians to play the game of moving 
from coup d’état to coup d’état, instead of 
moving to free and fair democratic elections. The 
first time Haiti had free and fair democratic 
elections was 1990, when I was elected. Then we 
wanted to move from elections to elections. So in 
2004, we were moving towards a real democracy and 
they said no. The minority in Haiti – the 
political and economic elite – is afraid of free 
and fair elections, and their foreign allies 
don’t want an election in Haiti. That is why they 
excluded Famni Lavalas. As long as they refuse to 
respect the right of every citizen to participate 
in free and fair democratic elections, they will not fix the problem.

That is an interesting answer, but I was more 
thinking of strategic mistakes you made such as 
asking France to pay reparation in 2003. In doing 
that, you lost a natural ally that could have 
stood with you before the coup and within the 
United Nations Security Council to protect your 
government. In fact, France stood with the US and 
did not come to your rescue this time, probably 
because they were very upset by your demand for restitution.

I don’t think this is the case. The first time I 
met with French President Jacques Chirac, I was 
in Mexico. At that time he was with Prime 
Minister Dominique de Villepin. I invited them to 
join us to celebrate freedom as a universal 
value. So that was an opportunity for France to 
realize that yes, Haiti and France can stand up 
together to celebrate freedom as a universal value.

In 1789, when France had their revolution, they 
declared “liberty, equality, fraternity” for all 
people, but in the back of their minds slaves 
were not human beings. To them neither Haitian 
nor African slaves were human. We fought hard and 
we got our independence; it was not a gift. It 
was the blood of our forefathers that was shed to 
gain our freedom. Despite that, we did not want 
to celebrate our 200 years of independence with 
any kind of spirit of vengeance, nor a spirit of 
glory to remind France of what they had done. It 
wasn’t that. It was an invitation to celebrate 
freedom as a universal value. So that would give 
a wonderful opportunity for France if they wanted 
to do it together. That would not exclude the 
truth because the truth is they obliged Haiti to 
pay 90 million francs, which for us today, is 
more than 21 billion USD. This is restitution, not reparation.

In 2001, here in Durban South Africa, the UN gave 
the Haitians and French an opportunity to address 
this issue of reparation. The French refused, but 
we respectfully asked them to let us have an 
opportunity to address this issue in a mutually 
respectful way. In one word – if today I were the 
President of Haiti, as I was in 2004, I would ask 
France to join Haiti to celebrate freedom, but 
also to address this issue of 21 billion USD. As 
a matter of fact, a head of state elected by his 
people must respect the will of the people. When 
President Sarkozy went to Haiti after the 
earthquake, Haitians were not begging for cents, 
they were asking for the 21 billion USD because 
it is a question of dignity. Either we have 
dignity or we don’t, and Haitians have dignity. 
That means we respect your dignity, so you should 
also respect our dignity. We will not beg for 
cents. Cents will never solve the problems of 
Haiti. After 200 years of independence, we are 
still living in abject poverty. We still have 
what we had 200 years ago in terms of misery. It 
is not fair. So if we want to move from misery to 
poverty with dignity, France must address this 
issue with Haitians and see what kind of 
agreement will come out from this important issue.

But don’t you think now, with hindsight, that 
this may have cost you your presidency?

It could be part of the picture but I don’t think it was the main reason.

If France had asked the UN Security Council to 
send UN peacekeepers to maintain your government, 
do you think you would not have been pushed out of power?

Sometimes you know there are diplomatic words to 
cover something else. I think at the time, the burning issue was Iraq.

France opposed the US on this issue and that was 
a golden opportunity for them to sacrifice Haiti 
in terms of leading and participating in a coup 
or in the kidnapping of a president.

But the real reason underneath was that France 
did not want you to annoy them anymore with this 
request. 2003 was the first time, at least 
publicly and officially, that a Haitian President made such a request.

I smile because former colonists defend their 
interests, not their friends. Even if they call 
themselves friends of Haiti, they will always 
continue to defend their own interests.

We could compare what is going on right now 
today, post-earthquake, to what was going on in 
2004, in order to find out if France is really 
helping Haiti and if they would change their 
policy or not. From my point of view, they would 
not change their policy because they have enough 
in front of them, in terms of the disaster, to 
address the issue of 21 billion USD now. But they 
still don’t want to, meaning that if they don’t 
want to address it today after what happened in 
Haiti in January 2010. I don’t think they would 
have changed their policy in 2004.

That is my way to read it. But maybe one day the 
French government will take up the issue because 
men can change if they want to change. I wish 
they would change their policy to respectfully 
address the issue with Haiti, because it’s a must.

As a matter of fact, as soon as Gérard Latortue 
was placed as Prime Minister after your removal, 
the Haitian government dropped the issue right away.

But that did not kill the issue (laughs). If we 
look at the history of Haiti before 2004, no one 
dared to address the issue, but we were moving 
from misery to poverty with dignity. Then when we 
addressed the issue they did not want to answer – 
but that does not kill the issue. It means that 
it will remain a reality as long as they refuse to address it.

My wish is that, one day, they will realize that 
they have to do it. What happened with Italy and 
Libya? Italy addressed the issue of reparation 
and that was good for both countries. The same 
way that we must address with France the issue of restitution.
I remember a recent article from Jacqueline 
Charles in the Miami Herald where an historian 
was quoted as saying: “Lavalas was never a party. 
It was a movement, which is now in deep crisis 
and divided among distinct factions led by some 
of its old barons'' 
They all want the Lavalas 
vote without appealing to Aristide. So, yes, 
Lavalas as we knew it is dying a slow death.'' He 
was commenting on the current debate around the 
future elections in Haiti. What do you think of what he said?

Some people pretend they are experts on Haiti but 
they often act like people suffering from social 
amnesia. When you take a group of mice and you 
put them in a lab, if these mice don’t have the 
capacity of producing oxytocin in the brain, they 
are not able to recognize other mice. That is how 
it is, it is a fact. These people suffer from 
social amnesia. They are unable to recognize 
Haitians as human beings because of our color, 
our poverty and misery. The majority of the 
Haitian people declared “Lavalas is our political 
party.” That is what the majority said and they 
have their constitution, so how can someone 
pretend that it’s not? These people, from my 
humble point of view, act as if they were mental 
slaves, meaning they have their masters giving 
them financial resources to say this, and they 
can cover themselves under a “scientific” 
umbrella, when in fact they are mental slaves.

So there is this amnesia because most 
commentators admit that Préval won in 2006 thanks 
to the Lavalas base. Many in Haiti want to use 
Lavalas as well to win, but nobody wants the 
Lavalas party to win or mention your name in the 
process. How do you feel about this contradiction?

Unfortunately, what South Africa had before 1994 
is what Haiti still has as a reality today. The 
structure of apartheid is still rooted in the 
Haitian society. When you have apartheid, you 
don’t see those behind the walls. That is the 
reality of Haiti. The people exist, but they 
don’t see the people and they don’t want to see 
them. That is why they don’t count them. They 
want to use them, but they don’t want to respect their will.

When they talk about Lavalas and the Haitian 
people, they fear them because if there is a fair 
election the people will defeat them. So they 
have to exclude the Lavalas party or the 
majority, in order to make sure that they will 
select what they want to select. So this is the 
kind of apartheid that they have in Haiti. If you 
say that, they will hate you and they may try to 
kill you. It is because they don’t want you to 
see the reality. Why do I say this? It’s because 
I love my country. If you have a cancer and 
refuse to call it a cancer, it will kill you. You 
better accept it and find a way to prevent death. 
That is what I want for my country.

But there has been some opportunism lately. We 
saw people like your former friend and later foe 
Evans Paul asking for your return. They are using 
you to get support from the Lavalas base. Or many 
want to appeal to Lavalas but are scared to 
mention you. What is your thought on this current reality in Haiti?

The day I would think that I can use the Haitian 
people, the Haitian people would start to 
distance themselves from me and deny me. They 
would be right to do that, because no one, as a 
politician, should pretend the people are dumb 
enough to be used for votes, for instance. I did 
my best to respect the Haitian people and I will 
continue to do my best to show respect for them 
and for their wishes. In 1990, when I was elected 
president, people were working in sweatshops for 
nine cents an hour. When I managed to raise the 
minimum wage it was enough to have a coup. And it 
happened in Honduras last year because part of 
the game was this: don’t raise the minimum wage, so people must work as slaves.

Today, the Haitian people remember what together 
we were trying to do. We were not just using them 
for votes. They are not dumb: we were moving 
together through democratic principles for a 
better life. If now they continue to ask for my 
return six years after my kidnapping that means 
they are very bright. They may be illiterate, but 
they are not dumb. They remember what together we 
were trying to do. So I wish that the politicians 
would not focus on me, but rather on the people 
and not the people for elections but for their 
rights – the right to eat, the right to go to 
school, the right for healthcare, and the right 
to participate in a government. Unfortunately, in 
2006 they elected someone who betrayed them, so 
they realize that now. Wow. They say: Who else 
will come? Will that person betray us after 
getting our votes? They are hesitating, and I 
understand them because they are not dumb.

Now here is a practical question. How do you want 
to deal with the Lavalas party in Haiti? You are 
still the national leader of Lavalas. Don’t you 
think that it would be a better idea to transfer 
the leadership to someone in Haiti? Would that 
not be a better long-term strategy, rather than 
hanging on to the title of party leader? After 
all, that's one of the pretexts used to not allow 
Lavalas to participate in the past elections and the future of Haiti as well?

If we respect the will of the people, then we 
must pay attention to what they are saying. I am 
here, but they are making the decisions. If today 
they decide they have to go that way, then you 
have to respect their will. That means I am not 
the one preventing them from moving on with a 
congress and having another leader and so on. As 
a matter of fact I am not acting as national 
leader outside of Haiti, not at all. I don’t 
pretend to be able to do that and I don’t want to 
do that. I know it would not be good for the people to do something like that.

They have said that it is a question of 
principle. First, they want my return, and then 
they can organize a congress to elect a new 
leader and move ahead. I respect that. If today 
they want to change it, I will their will. That is democracy.

What is behind the national picture is a logical 
fallacy. It’s a logical fallacy when, for 
instance, they pretend they have to exclude 
Lavalas to solve the problem. To not have Lavalas 
in an election, because it's a selection, it’s a logical fallacy.

Before I said ”Post hoc ergo propter hoc” or 
“after this, therefore because of this” and now I 
can say “Cum hoc, ergo propter hoc,” - “With this 
therefore because of this.” It’s a logical 
fallacy as well. They would not solve the problem 
without the majority of the people. They have to 
include them in a free and fair democratic 
election with my return or before my return or 
after my return. The inclusion of the people is 
indispensable to be logical and to move towards a 
better Haiti. That’s the solution.

So practically, if you were to say today that you 
would endorse Maryse Narcisse as the national 
leader they would accept Lavalas candidates?

Last year I received a letter from the 
Provisional Electoral Council, by the way, a 
council that was selected by the president, which 
is why they do what he wants. Excluding Lavalas 
was the implementation of the will of the government of Haiti.

I received a letter from them inviting me to a 
meeting and I said to myself, “Oh that is good. I 
am ready. I will go.” Then they said in the 
letter, “If you cannot come, will you send 
someone on your behalf?” So I said okay and I 
replied in a letter (1), which became public, 
asking Dr. Maryse Narcisse to represent Lavalas 
and to present the candidates of Lavalas based on 
the letter I received from the CEP. But they 
denied it because the game was to send the letter 
to me and assume that I would not answer. Then 
they could tell the Haitian people, “Look he does 
not want to participate in the election.” So they 
were using a pretext to pretend that they are 
intelligent, but in reality to hide the truth.

Did they not claim it was false at some point, or 
that it was not your signature?

They claimed that the mandate from me should have 
been validated by the Haitian consulate in South 
Africa, when they know that there is no 
representative of the Haitian government in South Africa, you see.

No embassy at all.

No. When I was President, I had named an 
Ambassador to South Africa, but that ended with 
the coup. After our independence, we had to wait 
until 1990 to have free democratic elections. We 
cannot change the economic reality in one day, in 
one year, but at least we should continue to 
respect the right of Haitians to vote. So today, 
why play with the right to vote? It’s cynical. 
You cannot improve their economic life and you 
deny them their right to vote. It’s cynical. 
South Africa did something which could be good 
for many countries, including Haiti. In 1994, 
when South Africans could vote, they voted. They 
are trying to move from free and fair elections 
while trying to improve their economic life. This 
is the right way to go. Not denying the right for 
poor people to vote while you cannot even improve their life.

The night of the coup. You spoke about it already 
and at the time you said to me that you were 
writing a book about it. Is that still in the works?

The book has been finished since 2004.

Ready to be published?

It was ready to be published and it would be 
published if I were allowed to do that.

Do you still remember the night of the coup - and 
I am sure you do because nobody is used to being 
awakened in the middle of the night and sent on a 
plane surrounded by armed people. Do you wish you 
had said no to Mr. Moreno, “I am not signing this 
letter of resignation” or “I won’t get on that 
plane. I will deal with the security issues in Haiti with my government”?

As I just said, if I were allowed to publish the 
book, the book would have been published in 2004. 
So in the book, you have the answers to your 
important questions and that is why now I will 
not elaborate on it, based on what I just said. 
In one word, I would do exactly what I did and I 
would say exactly why I said because it was right 
what I said and what I did. They were wrong, and they are still wrong.

What is known is the letter (2) in Kreyol that 
you signed and was according to you mistranslated.

Of course it was mistranslated.

Right, but you also you clearly stated that you 
were forced at gunpoint and that’s public knowledge.

It is, but if I don’t elaborate, it’s not because 
I want to give an evasive answer. It’s just based on what I said to you before.

What if the book never gets published?

Maybe it’s the same reason why I am still here 
(laughs). I wish they let me leave as well as let 
the book get published (laughs).

There have been these accusations (3) of 
corruption against you starting with filmmaker 
Raoul Peck and then taken over by Ms. Lucy 
Komisar and Ms. Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the 
Wall Street Journal about your personal 
involvement in a Teleco/IDT deal back in 2003. 
Can you put these accusations to rest?

First, they are lying. Second, what can we expect 
from a mental slave? (laughs) He will lie for his 
masters. He is paid to lie for his masters, so I 
am not surprised by these nonsensical allegations. As I said, they are lying.

They are lying. But it’s possible that maybe 
under you at some level in your government there 
was some corruption involving Teleco and IDT?

I never heard about things like that when I was 
there and I never knew about it. If I had known, 
of course we would have done our best to stop it 
or to prevent it or to legally punish those who 
could have been involved in such a thing.

Why have you not declared this publicly? Because 
these things happen all the time. I am sure there 
is corruption at every level in the South African 
government as there is under the Obama 
Administration. Things happen and we don’t need 
to examine Haiti only to find it. You could say 
that you were the head of state but not the head of Teleco. Things happen.

As I said, there are more people receiving money 
to lie than people receiving money to tell the 
truth. I don’t know how many times I have 
answered this question, but sometimes the 
journalist may have the answer but is not allowed to make it public. (laughs).

Would you be in favor of creating a Haitian Truth 
and Reconciliation Commission, similar to what 
South Africa did, that would allow some of the 
people who have been exiled under Duvalier and 
Cedras and your two presidencies to come back and 
be called to appear in that commission - and ask 
for forgiveness and amnesty if needed?

What I will say now, is not because I am now 
outside Haiti wanting to go back that I will say 
it. No, I already said it and I will just repeat 
it: There is no way to move forward in Haiti 
without dialogue. Dialogue among Haitians. Once 
we had an army of 7,000 soldiers controlling 40% 
of the national budget, but moving from coup 
d’état to coup d’état. I said no. Let’s disband 
the army, let’s have a police force to protect 
the right of every citizen, let’s have dialogue 
to address our differences. There is no democracy without opposition.

We have to understand one another when we oppose 
each other. We are not enemies, so we have to 
address our differences in a democratic way and 
only then can we move ahead. I have said it so 
many times already. We still have people calling 
themselves friends of Haiti coming to exploit the 
resources. They don’t want national dialogue. 
They don’t want Haitians to live peacefully with Haitians.

South Africa did it when they had The Commission 
of Truth and Reconciliation. People came and 
realized that they had made mistakes. Everybody 
can make mistakes. You must acknowledge that you 
made mistakes, and the society will welcome you. 
If you cannot do that through tribunals because 
of the numbers, then find a way to address it. We 
cannot pretend that Haiti will have a better 
future without that dialogue. We must have it.

In 1994, when I went back to Haiti from exile, we 
established a Commission for Truth and Justice 
and Reconciliation. I passed the documents to the 
next government, and I never heard about it 
again. Haitians never heard about it because the 
government wanted to move fast towards 
privatization of state enterprises instead of that path which was recommended.

Would that mean allowing all the political exiles 
to come back no matter how bad they were, 
including people like Raoul Cedras and Jean-Claude Duvalier.

I will not move forward with conclusions outside 
of that framework of justice. The Commission 
addressed the case of these criminals and paved 
the way for justice and dialogue. You see, so I 
said it and will continue to say it: We need to 
continue to address this issue of dialogue, truth 
and justice. Otherwise, we will continue to play 
either like a puppet government or be mental 
slaves in the hands of those who still want to 
exploit our resources and they will not decide to 
change it for Haitians. Haitians must start to 
say no. Let’s change it – not against foreigners, 
not against true friends, with them if they want, 
but they will not do it for us unless we start to do it.

Do you hold a grudge today against president René 
Préval for not being more forceful in trying to 
facilitate your return to Haiti? He owes his 
election thanks to the Lavalas base.

If I pay attention to what the people are saying, 
they describe President Préval as someone who 
betrayed me and it's true. They voted for him. I 
did not vote, I was here, but those who elected 
him now realize he has failed them. He betrayed them.

He is playing in the hands of those who are 
against the interests of the people – that is what they said.

Do you feel personally betrayed? I am sure you 
realize the difficulties of the situation he was in.

Personally, I say let’s put the interests of the 
people first. Not my interests. If I can do 
something for him, or if I have to, I will do it. 
It’s a matter of principle an in his case he did 
not have to do anything for me. He just had to 
respect the constitution. The constitution does 
not allow exile. He should not violate the 
constitution. That is it. But as he did, history 
takes note and history will recognize that he failed, unfortunately.

I remember a famous progressive journalist in 
Geneva reviewing my film (4) and one of the 
critics he had was that I did not speak about 
voodoo and how it affects Haiti’s politics. What 
do you think of this tendency among many western 
journalists who try to explain Voodoo as one main reason for Haiti’s problems?

I enjoy drawing parallels between voodoo and 
politics. Why? Because in the west when they want 
to address political issues, they may, as you 
suggested or indicated, mix it with voodoo as a 
way to avoid going straight to the truth. The 
truth could be, for instance, historical.

Fourteen years after Christopher Columbus arrived 
in Haiti, in 1492, they had already killed three 
million indigenous people. Do they speak about it 
today? Do they know about it? I don’t know. At 
that time, one could be 14 years old and would 
have to pay a quarter of gold to Christopher 
Columbus or they would cut your arm or feet or 
ears. Do they talk about it? If you do, it’s like 
“oh really or maybe.” They have problems exposing 
the truth, acknowledging what was going on at 
that time. And if you look at the reality of 
today, it is almost the same thing.

Last week there was some trouble because of 
storms and earthquakes and Haiti lost about ten 
people, some say five some say more than ten. In 
any case, even if it were one person, it would 
already mean a lot for us because a human being 
is human being. Instead of focusing on what is 
the reality of misery, abject poverty, 
occupation, colonization, some prefer to find a 
scapegoat through voodoo. The UN itself had to 
expel 114 soldiers for rape and child abuse. So 
we see people invading a country, pretending to 
help, while they are actually involved in rape, 
child abuse and so on. And it is not an issue for 
people who like to talk about voodoo as if voodoo 
by itself could cover this reality. The same way 
they don’t want to face our historical drama linked to colonization.

Is it a racist distraction?

It is, it is. I respect religion and will respect 
any religion. Africans had their religion here. 
They went to Haiti and continued their practice 
and I have to respect that. In addition, the 
Haitian constitution, respects freedom of 
religion. So let’s address the drama, misery, 
poverty, exploitation, occupation, and people 
without the right to vote or eat. People want to 
be free. They don’t have self-determination. 
Let’s focus on people who have no resources and 
are dying. We had such a wonderful solidarity 
after January 12 in the world, where citizens 
worldwide were building solidarity with Haitians. 
That was great to see Whites and Blacks crossing 
barriers of color to express their solidarity 
with the victims of the deadly earthquake.

And on behalf of the Haitian people, if I may, I 
will say thank you to all those true friends who 
did it while others who call themselves true 
friends of Haiti preferred to send soldiers with 
weapons to protect their own interests instead of 
protecting human beings who were really 
suffering. Amputations – we had them by the 
thousands without anesthesia. They were cutting 
hands and feet of victims and it’s not an issue 
for some people who prefer to talk about voodoo 
as if voodoo could be the cause of what is going 
on in Haiti. No, what is going on in Haiti is 
rooted in colonialism, neo-colonialism in that 
neoliberal policy applied and imposed upon Haiti, 
not in religious issues like voodoo. For me, as 
long as they don’t try to face the reality as it 
is, they may continue to use issues like voodoo 
to hide facts, any attempt to replace truth by racist distractions will fail.

Anything that you would like to add that you have 
at heart and have not been able to tell?

 if you ask a Zulu* person the way to reach 
somewhere while you are on the right path, that 
person will tell you (in Zulu): “Ugonde ngqo 
ngalo mgwago” which means go straight on your way.

That is why the Haitian people who are moving 
from misery to poverty with dignity should 
continue to move straight towards that goal. If 
we lose our dignity we lose everything. We are 
poor – worse than poor because we are living in 
abject poverty and misery. But based on that 
collective dignity rooted in our forefathers, I 
do believe we have to continue fighting in a 
peaceful way for our self-determination, and if 
we do that, history will pay tribute to our 
generation, because we are on the right path.

Mr. President, thank you for your time.

[*] Lavalas is a Creole word meaning ‘flood’, 
‘avalanche’, a ‘mass of people’ or ‘everyone 
together’. Fanmi means ‘family’. [*] Zulu is the 
name of the largest ethnic group in South Africa 
and the most widely spoken home language as well.
(1) Letter of President Aristide - November 2009 
- authorizing Dr. Maryse Narcisse to register 
Lavalas candidates. 
(2) Letters of resignation of Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide - The Kreyol translation by professor 
Bryant Freeman, 
- The official translation provided by the US 
embassy and used most widely in mainstream 
(3) “Aristide’s American Profiteers”, an article 
by Mary Anastasia O’Grady, 
(4) “Aristide and the Endless Revolution”, a 
documentary by Nicolas Rossier, 

Nicolas Rossier is an award winning independent 
filmmaker and reporter who lives in Brooklyn New 
York. In 2005, he directed and produced the 
outstanding 85-minute documentart, "Aristide and 
the Endless Revolution." For copyright 
information and publishing rights, please contact 
the author at <mailto:Nicrossier at gmail.com>Nicrossier at gmail.com.

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