[News] Aristide - Today may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coup détat
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 21 12:08:16 EDT 2011
Published on The Nation (<http://www.thenation.com>http://www.thenation.com)
Dan Coughlin | March 20, 2011
Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristides
triumphant return to Haiti after seven years of
forced exile in South Africa signals a new stage
in the Caribbean countrys popular and democratic
struggle just as a resurgent right wing prepares
to lay electoral claimfor the first time everto
the countrys presidency in a controversial
US-backed presidential poll on Sunday.
Today may the Haitian people mark the end of
exile and coup détat, 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.
Aristides return comes at a key turning point in
the countrys history. Bolstered by a
14,000-strong UN military occupation known as
MINUSTAH, and massive international aid following
the January 2010 earthquake, Haitis 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 Haitis most popular political party
Aristides 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.
Aristides 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 Aristides 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
Africas seating on the UN Security Council
unless South African President Thabo Mbeki
managed to keep Aristide in exile there.
The French said Aristides 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.
Aristides presence alone will be like a serum.
It will revitalize the popular movement and the
struggle against occupation and neo-liberalism.
Aristide cant physically lead the fight against
the MINUSTAH. But at least well 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
Aristides 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 didnt 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: Aristides
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 its Martelly or
Manigat, they are both putschists.
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