[News] Defying US, Former Haitian President Aristide Returns Home

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 18 12:56:48 EDT 2011

Two Articles follow

Defying U.S., Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Returns Home


In defiance of the Obama administration, former 
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is 
headed back to Haiti today for the first time 
since being ousted in a 2004 U.S.-backed coup. 
Hours ago, Aristide, his family, and a delegation 
of supporters boarded a plane in South Africa 
bound for Port-au-Prince. Democracy Now! host Amy 
Goodman is with the Aristides to document their 
journey home. She filed this report.

JUAN GONZALEZ: In defiance of the Obama 
administration, former Haitian President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide is headed back to Haiti 
today for the first time since being ousted in a 
2004 U.S.-backed coup. On Thursday, Aristide 
boarded a plane in South Africa bound for 
Port-au-Prince. Joining him on the flight is his 
wife, Mildred Aristide, attorney Ira Kurzban and 
actor Danny Glover. Democracy Now! host Amy 
Goodman is also on board. Before leaving, she 
filed this report from Johannesburg.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s been a long day in 
Johannesburg, South Africa, touch and go at the 
beginning. Would the Aristides be returning home 
to Haiti, ending their seven-year exile here in 
South Africa? President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, 
the former First Lady Mildred Aristide and their 
two daughters are making their way back to 
Port-au-Prince, back to their home, back to where 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was president 
twice, and in both cases he was thrown out in a 
U.S.-backed coup, the first time in 1991, for 
three years, and then again in 2004.

As the word came down that it looked like this 
would be the day, everyone scrambled to get their 
equipment and their suitcases from the hotel, the 
delegation. And as we walked outside, I asked Danny Glover about his thoughts.

DANNY GLOVER: I always feel that everything we do 
in life prepares us for the moment that we’re in. 
And certainly, if I think back to all of us who 
had positioned their selves in the struggle 
against apartheid and all those who have 
positioned themselves to working on behalf of 
Haitian refugees, to working on behalf of the 
restoration of democracy in Haiti and the return 
of Aristide the first time, and all of those who 
wish so much for the Haitian people, his return 
means so much to them. And I think that’s what I’m feeling.

I remember sitting in my car on February 29th, 
2004, and hearing about the news of what had 
happened with his­the coup that took him from his 
country, and crying at the moment, sitting in my 
car outside of my office and crying. And I’ll 
never forget that moment, as I will never forget 
the moment that he is also returned to his beloved country.

AMY GOODMAN: The delegation then piled into a car 
and made their way across Johannesburg to an 
undisclosed location, where we were told there 
would be a private meeting with the Aristides. 
When we got there, President and Mildred Aristide 
and then their two children­Michaelle, 12, and 
Christine, 14­came into the room and greeted everyone.




AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide was not making 
any formal statements at the time. He didn’t want 
us to have our video camera running, except when 
he sat down with Danny Glover and remembered the 
last time he was on a plane with the actor.

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: One day I was in a plane, 
a long time ago. It was in the U.S. And suddenly, 
someone emerged: a tall man, a great actor. And 
when I realized it was Danny, you can imagine the 
joy, the happiness. So, we embraced each other. 
And then he changed his plane. Together, we went 
to a meeting with the Haitian community.

AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide has been in exile 
for seven years. They clearly were extremely 
excited, somewhat nervous. President Aristide was 
reserved, quiet, thinking about what he is going 
to say, when he lands tomorrow in Haiti, to the Haitian people.

We pulled into Lanseria Airport on Thursday 
evening around 7:00, 8:00. A scrum of reporters 
were waiting. Once inside, I asked Ira Kurzban, 
the attorney for the Aristides, about the 
pressure that’s been brought to bear on the South 
African government not to return the Aristides back to Haiti.

We’ve heard a lot about the pressure brought to 
bear on South African President Zuma. What do you know?

IRA KURZBAN: Well, we know that the State 
Department has issued several statements, of 
course, asking the South African government not 
to allow President Aristide to come back before 
the election. We know that President Obama 
directly called President Zuma, asking him again 
not to allow President Aristide out of the 
country. And we know that there’s been a 
sustained campaign over seven years to keep 
President Aristide here. Through documents that 
were leaked through WikiLeaks, we know that the 
United States government has really, in a very 
systematic way, tried to keep Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide, as they originally said, halfway around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: after a few hours of waiting at the 
airport, the press statements were read from the 
South African government and from the former 
president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

SOUTH AFRICAN SPOKESPERSON: We’ve just had a very 
brief­a goodbye interaction between President 
Aristide, his family and President Zuma, who, on 
behalf of the government, with people of South 
Africa, had wished President Aristide a bon voyage and safe landing.

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: [translated] One part 
feels very sad to leave our beloved friends, but 
on the other hand, our soul is resting because we 
are going back home after a period of seven 
years. Also, there in Haiti, they are very happy, 
and they are waiting for us. They wanted us to 
return home much faster. This has been their 
dream and wish, and this will soon come true.

AMY GOODMAN: The Aristides are about to get on 
the plane, but I’m supposed to go first. This 
promises to be a long night’s journey into a new day.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That was Amy Goodman reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa.

The International Community Should Recognize Reality in Haiti

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/markweisbrot>Mark Weisbrot

Guardian Unlimited
Friday, March 18, 2011


Haiti’s first democratically elected president, 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is scheduled to return to 
his homeland this week after seven years in exile 
in South Africa. He was overthrown – for the 
second time -- in a 2004 coup 
by the United States and its allies. Washington 
has gone to great lengths to prevent his return 
over the last seven years, and this week the 
State Department once again warned that Aristide 
should not return until “after the [March 20] electoral process is concluded.”

The State Department is pretending that Aristide 
can simply come home after the election, and that 
he must have some sinister political motive for 
returning before the vote. But this is completely 
dishonest. It is obvious that the next elected 
president will likely defer to the U.S. and keep 
Aristide out. Furthermore, there is electoral 
pressure right now to allow Aristide back in the 
country. TheMiami Herald reports that both of the 
contenders in the Sunday election have now said 
they welcome Aristide’s return, after previously 
opposing it. This about-face is obviously an 
attempt to court Fanmi Lavalas (Aristide’s party) 
voters. But we Americans know what happens to 
candidates’ political stances after the election is over.

Clearly Aristide is taking advantage of his 
first, and possibly only, opportunity to return 
home. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reports that 
phone calls from President Obama and UN Secretary 
General Ban Ki-moon failed to convince South 
African president Jacob Zuma to keep Aristide from leaving South Africa.

How disgraceful that President Obama, a former 
law professor himself, would conspire to violate 
international law by attempting to deprive 
President Aristide of his human rights. And that 
the Secretary General of the United Nations would 
bend to Obama’s will and collaborate with him. As 
noted in 
letter to the State Department by prominent 
lawyers and law professors, this is a violation 
of International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights (ICCPR), a treaty that the United States 
has ratified. It states that “[n]o one shall be 
arbi­trar­ily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Washington and its allies would do better to take 
advantage of this opportunity to change course in 
Haiti, and accept the concept of 
self-determination for the Haitian people. They 
have denied this for decades, and especially 
since Aristide first was elected president in 
1990. Within seven months, he was overthrown by 
the military and others who were later 
to be paid by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The United States has denied self-government to 
Haiti ever since. After Aristide was 
democratically elected for the second time in 
2000, with more than 90 percent of the vote, the 
United States “sought . . . to block bilateral 
and multilateral aid to Haiti, having an 
objection to the policies and views of the 
administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. . . 
Choking off assistance for development and for 
the provision of basic services also choked off 
oxygen to the government, which was the intention 
all along: to dislodge the Aristide 
administration." That was Paul Farmer of 
Harvard’s Medical School, Bill Clinton’s Deputy 
Special Envoy from the UN to Haiti, testifying to 
the U.S. Congress last summer.

While many complain about the non-functional 
Haitian state as the country struggles to 
rebuild, they forget how large a role the 
“international community” has had in destroying 
the Haitian government even before the earthquake 
demolished most of what was left of it.

The reconstruction of Haiti will need a 
legitimate, functioning state. This will require 
a process of consensus-building among the 
country’s most important political 
constituencies. This process will therefore have 
to include Aristide and his political party, 
Fanmi Lavalas, which remains the most popular party in the country.

Washington and its allies – including Brazil, 
which heads up the UN occupation force – will 
have to accept this reality. Haiti cannot be 
ruled through violence, as it has been for most 
of the past century. Aristide, as the country’s 
first legitimate president, was able to 
98 percent of Haiti’s political violence – mostly 
by abolishing Haiti’s murderous army. By 
contrast, after each coup (1991 and 2004) that 
overthrew his government, thousands of Haitians 
were murdered. That is the choice going forward: 
a legitimate government or a violent government.

So far, the international community does not 
appear to be much concerned about establishing a 
legitimate government. Fanmi Lavalas was 
arbitrarily excluded from the first round (Nov. 
28) of Haiti’s presidential election, in which a 
record three-quarters of the electorate did not 
vote. Then Washington and its allies 
the government to change the results of the first 
round of the election, eliminating the government 
candidate and leaving only two right-wing candidates in the race.

Haiti today is an occupied country, with almost 
no legitimate authority. United Nations troops 
police the country, and international 
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provide 
most basic services, which are severely 
inadequate. More than a year after the 
earthquake, there has been little progress in 
removing rubble, or providing adequate shelter or 
sanitation for more than one million people 
displaced. And Haiti faces another rainy season 
beginning next month. Humanitarian needs are dire.

The situation in Haiti is potentially explosive, 
and it is not because, as the U.S. State 
Department argues, that Aristide might return 
before the election. Rather it is because they 
have denied Haitians their right to 
self-government, and continue to do so. Aristide 
has been Haiti’s only national political leader 
for the past two decades, and his party the 
country’s largest political party. It is long 
past time that the international community 
recognizes that reality, rather than trying to 
exclude them from the political process through intimidation and violence.

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