What Will Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Return Mean for Haiti?

Former president's planned visit could add to political turmoil.

Posted: 02/10/2011 05:15 PM EST
Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who's now living abroad in exile, has been issued a passport, and it looks like he’ll probably fly to Haiti from Miami in the coming days.

Aristide served three separate terms—the first interrupted by a military coup in 1991, the last by an armed revolt in 2004 that sent him into exile in South Africa. It is widely believed that the United States government supported the 2004 revolt.

Some people are worried that his presence will disrupt the March 20 run-off between presidential candidates Mirlande Manigot and Michel Martelly, necessitated by last year’s disputed election. (Aristide's political party, Lavalas, was barred from participating in that election.) Aristide has many passionate followers in Haiti, but critics say he rigged elections and employed strongarm thugs when he was in power.

Al-Jazeera has an interesting discussion of the matter—featuring Jose Miguel Insulza, the director general of the Organization of American States; Harry Fouche, an economist and the former consul general of Haiti; and Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.—that starts to cut along the same democracy-vs.-stability lines as the current debate over the situation in Egypt. But at least in word, what Aristide wrote in British newspaper The Guardian last week sounds good and right about Haiti’s future as it rebuilds after last year's horrible earthquake:

“What we have learned in one long year of mourning after Haiti's earthquake is that an exogenous plan of reconstruction—one that is profit-driven, exclusionary, conceived of and implemented by non-Haitians—cannot reconstruct Haiti. It is the solemn obligation of all Haitians to join in the reconstruction and to have a voice in the direction of the nation.”


Image:  Siphiwe Sibeko / REUTERS

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