[News] Aristide - Today may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coup d’état

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 21 12:08:16 EDT 2011


Published on The Nation (<http://www.thenation.com>http://www.thenation.com)


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Aristide Returns

Dan Coughlin | March 20, 2011

Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s 
triumphant return to Haiti after seven years of 
forced exile in South Africa signals a new stage 
in the Caribbean country’s popular and democratic 
struggle just as a resurgent right wing prepares 
to lay electoral claim­for the first time ever­to 
the country’s presidency in a controversial 
US-backed presidential poll on Sunday.

“Today may the Haitian people mark the end of 
exile and coup d’état, while peacefully we must 
move from social exclusion to social inclusion,” 
said Aristide, referring to the bloody 2004 
US-backed coup, the second time he was driven 
from power after being elected with huge popular majorities.

Aristide’s return comes at a key turning point in 
the country’s history. Bolstered by a 
14,000-strong UN military occupation known as 
MINUSTAH, and massive international aid following 
the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s tiny 
right-wing elite have become stronger, 
economically and politically, than at any time in the last twenty-five years.

This has been dramatically underscored by the 
return of former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” 
Duvalier from France earlier this year and an 
openly fraudulent electoral process that has 
barred Haiti’s most popular political party 
­Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas­from participation and 
put forth two right-wing candidates.

Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, 50, a popular 
konpa musician, faces off against Mirlande 
Manigat, 70, the wife, and some say surrogate, of 
a former right-wing president. Both candidates 
backed the 1991 and the 2004 coups against 
Aristide and support the return of the Haitian 
army, which Aristide disbanded in 1995.

“The international community is imposing their 
will, using the guns of the UN troops, to impose 
two very right-wing candidates with Duvalierist 
elements on the Haitian people,” noted Pierre 
Labossière of the San Francisco-based Haiti Action Committee.

Aristide’s return, which threatens the resurgent 
neo-Duvalierist movement and represents a victory 
for the popular movement, changes the political 
equation, according to many grassroots activists.

The extent of Aristide’s influence is clear from 
recently released Wikileaks cables.

A June 2005 State Department cable describes the 
US and Brazilian governments agreeing “that all 
efforts must be made to keep Aristide from 
returning to Haiti or influencing the political 
process.” In another just released 2005 cable, US 
and French diplomats threatened to block South 
Africa’s seating on the UN Security Council 
unless South African President Thabo Mbeki 
managed to keep Aristide in exile there.

The French said Aristide’s return would be 
“catastrophic” and even plotted to hinder 
Aristide in the logistics of reaching Haiti by air from South Africa.

“There has been a political vacuum at all levels 
since the absence of Aristide and especially 
since January 12 [2010 earthquake],” said Yves 
Pierre Louis, the Port-au-Prince bureau chief of 
Haiti Liberté, a left-wing weekly newspaper. 
“Aristide’s presence alone will be like a serum. 
It will revitalize the popular movement and the 
struggle against occupation and neo-liberalism.”

“Aristide can’t physically lead the fight against 
the MINUSTAH. But at least we’ll have somebody 
who can talk for us,” said 38-year-old Basil 
Gilène, standing in front of eight heavily armed 
Brazilian soldiers in Bel Air, one of the popular 
neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. “The money they 
spend for the mess they call elections would have 
been better spent for housing for the people 
living in tents on the Champ Mars [in downtown 
Port-au-Prince] or to rebuild homes in [the 
hard-hit neighborhood of] Fort National. But 
instead we see it spent on worthless elections.”

While many grassroots activists welcome 
Aristide’s return, others caution that electoral 
politics and a focus on individual leadership has serious limits.

Outside her teeming neighborhood health clinic in 
Carrefour Feuille, amid earthquake rubble, young 
teenagers putting on “Welcome Home” Aristide 
T-shirts, and market women selling US AID food 
aid, community health activist Rosy Auguste notes 
the difficulties and mistakes that the popular 
and democratic movement has made over the last twenty-five years.

Leaders of popular organizations have been forced 
to move abroad, grassroots groups failed to 
educate younger generations on the horrors of 
Duvalierism and the dominant role of 
international actors in Haitian society continues unabated, says Auguste.

“It is for sure that the big countries have had a 
big weight in the country and that didn’t begin 
on January 12 with the huge increase in volume of 
NGOs in the country,” observes Auguste. “What 
will change this reality of Haiti, and the 
international role, is the mobilizations in the 
neighborhoods and the popular organizations to 
construct a stronger and more accountable Haitian state.”

One outcome seems certain, though: Aristide’s 
return will inject new energy into many parts of 
the popular and democratic movements, whose 
partisans had begun to despair that their 
inspirational symbol would never return.

“We in the popular masses, since [the] January 12 
[earthquake], we have never found anybody who can 
get us out of the tents we are under,” said 
29-year-old Guillaume Joseph, standing on a 
street corner with an unexcavated quake-collapsed 
building next to him. “When you see the misery 
the people are living in, the problem we have is 
we need a leader and that leader is Aristide. The 
elections are nonsense, whether it’s Martelly or 
Manigat, they are both putschists.”

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Source URL: 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/159347/aristide-returns>http://www.thenation.com/article/159347/aristide-returns




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