There’s been a long pause of bated breath as Haitians await his return. There is tension about his request for return. CNN, in its usual bland style, gently reminds readers that:
Aristide was Haiti’s first democratically-elected president. He was toppled in 2004 after a bloody revolt by street gangs and soldiers and has since been living in exile in South Africa.
…Aristide, who was whisked out of the country in a U.S. jet, has claimed his ouster was orchestrated by Western powers. The former Roman Catholic priest, considered by many to be a champion for the poor, remains both a beloved and polarizing figure.
A fascinatingly truncated report of the historical events of his departure.
There has been an ongoing debate about whether or not he will or should return – when he should return, what his aims are. The US has repeatedly stated that he should not return until after the round two election run-off, that his return any sooner would cause disrupt. But he has stated that his only interest in returning is to be among his fellow Haitians.
Hatilibre.com has an internal take:
While the Candidate Mirlande Manigat, had declared last March 3, during a press briefing at the airport of Miami, Florida “Personally, as a citizen, I would prefer that he comes back after the elections [...] I think what we need now is more peace [...] if he decides to return, I am not the head of state, I did not have the authority to block his return”.
Monday noon at a press conference, Mirlande Manigat “adjusted” her speech concerning the return of the Former President Jean Bertrand Aristide declaring “Far from being opposed to the return of Aristide in Haiti, I would welcome, since the former President has promised to help, once back in the country, in the field of the education” adding “everyone knows the importance of the education in my program if Aristide wants to help in this area, he may help me to implement my program”.
A necessary adjustment, because as Michel Martelly, she seeks to attract a portion of the Lavalas vote.
Aristide has publicly declared his concern that he will be blocked by the new administration after the elections. Curiously, The Independent has a very different view from afar, stating that:
Both candidates have been Aristide opponents in the past. Now, both stress his right to return as a Haitian citizen under the constitution.
So who is telling the truth? I think the greater question is the involvement of the US government – not just since the earthquake (and the sudden materialization of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission which wrote itself into law and managed to garner 18 months of economic and policy control by April 2010), but since Aristide’s first election. Kim Ives takes a nose dive into the history in much less quaint or pleasant terms:
During the 29 February 2004 coup d’état, in the middle of the night, a US Navy Seal team, under the direction of American deputy ambassador Luis Moreno, kidnapped President Aristide and his wife Mildred from their home in Tabarre and flew them, under guard in an unmarked US jet, into a first stint of exile in the Central African Republic. Since then, tens of thousands from all over Haiti have taken to the streets several times each year to demand his return.During the US-appointed post-coup de facto government of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue (2004-2006), Haitian police and United Nations occupation troops regularly gunned down the demonstrators and carried out murderous assaults on Aristide strongholds in popular neighborhoods like Cité Soleil and Belair, killing dozens of residents, including women and children. When in late March 2004, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters and a team of other VIPs rescued the Aristides from virtual house arrest in CAR and flew them in a private jet to Jamaica, the Bush administration was livid.
The Obama administration is not doing much better. At a special briefing on US humanitarian assistance for people affected by the crisis in Libya, US State Department’s Mark Toner began his talk:
The decision to allow Mr. Aristide to return is up to the Government of Haiti. Under the Haitian constitution, he has the right to return to his country. However, former President Aristide has chosen to remain outside of Haiti for seven years. To return this week could only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s elections. We would urge former President Aristide to delay his return until after the electoral process has concluded to permit the Haitian people to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere. A return prior to the election may potentially be destabilizing to the political process. The Government of South Africa has generously hosted former President Aristide and his family since he voluntarily departed Haiti in 2004. We encourage the South African Government as a committed partner to Haiti’s stability to urge former President Aristide to delay his return until after the elections.
I have visions of former President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Donald Rumsefeld, and a host of other actors, seven years ago, emphatically insisting that Aristide and his family had left Haiti voluntarily. It’s a tired and worn refrain echoing through time, bouncing off the hopes and dreams of some (many? / most?) Haitian people.
But today, an AFP article announced Aristide’s plans to return to Haiti on Thursday.
I leave off today with a quote from Aimé Césaire:
A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization.
A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.
A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.
…Colonization and civilization?
…To admit once and for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors here are the adventurer and the pirate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of antagonistic economies.