[News] Defying US, Former Haitian President Aristide Returns Home
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Fri Mar 18 12:56:48 EDT 2011
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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: Its 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 were 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 thats what Im 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 Ill
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.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Hello, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Hello.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: How are you?
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide was not making
any formal statements at the time. He didnt 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 thats been brought to bear on the South
African government not to return the Aristides back to Haiti.
Weve 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 theres 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: Weve 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 Im supposed to go first. This
promises to be a long nights 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
Friday, March 18, 2011
Haitis 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 Aristides return, after previously
opposing it. This about-face is obviously an
attempt to court Fanmi Lavalas (Aristides 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 Obamas will and collaborate with him. As
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
Harvards Medical School, Bill Clintons 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
countrys 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 countrys
first legitimate president, was able to
98 percent of Haitis political violence mostly
by abolishing Haitis 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 Haitis 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 Haitis only national political leader
for the past two decades, and his party the
countrys 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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