Jean-Bertrand Aristide

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Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Aristide meeting U.S. President Bill Clinton in the White House in 1994.
49th and 53rd President of Haiti
In office
7 February 1991 – 29 September 1991
Prime MinisterRené Préval
Preceded byErtha Pascal-Trouillot
Succeeded byRaoul Cédras
In office
12 October 1994 – 7 February 1996
Prime MinisterSmarck Michel
Claudette Werleigh
Preceded byÉmile Jonassaint
Succeeded byRené Préval
In office
7 February 2001 – 29 February 2004
Prime MinisterJean Marie Chérestal
Yvon Neptune
Preceded byRené Préval
Succeeded byBoniface Alexandre
Personal details
Born(1953-07-15) 15 July 1953 (age 59)
Port-Salut, Sud Department
Political partyLavalas
Spouse(s)Mildred Trouillot (m.1996)
Childrentwo daughters
Alma materCollege Notre Dame
State University of Haiti
ReligionRoman Catholic
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Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Aristide meeting U.S. President Bill Clinton in the White House in 1994.
49th and 53rd President of Haiti
In office
7 February 1991 – 29 September 1991
Prime MinisterRené Préval
Preceded byErtha Pascal-Trouillot
Succeeded byRaoul Cédras
In office
12 October 1994 – 7 February 1996
Prime MinisterSmarck Michel
Claudette Werleigh
Preceded byÉmile Jonassaint
Succeeded byRené Préval
In office
7 February 2001 – 29 February 2004
Prime MinisterJean Marie Chérestal
Yvon Neptune
Preceded byRené Préval
Succeeded byBoniface Alexandre
Personal details
Born(1953-07-15) 15 July 1953 (age 59)
Port-Salut, Sud Department
Political partyLavalas
Spouse(s)Mildred Trouillot (m.1996)
Childrentwo daughters
Alma materCollege Notre Dame
State University of Haiti
ReligionRoman Catholic

Jean-Bertrand Aristide (born 15 July 1953) is a Haitian former Catholic priest and politician who served as Haiti's first democratically elected president.[1][2] A proponent of liberation theology,[3][4] Aristide was appointed to a parish in Port-au-Prince in 1982 after completing his studies. He became a focal point for the pro-democracy movement first under Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and then under the military transition regime which followed. He won the Haitian general election, 1990-1991 with 67% of the vote and was briefly President of Haiti, until a September 1991 military coup. The coup regime collapsed in 1994 under US pressure and threat of force (Operation Uphold Democracy) after Aristide agreed to roll back several reforms. Aristide was then President again from 1994 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2004.

Aristide was unexpectedly ousted in a 29 February 2004 coup d'état, in which former soldiers participated. He accused the United States of orchestrating the coup d'état against him with support from Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson and among others.[5] Aristide was forced into exile, being flown directly to the Central African Republic[5] and South Africa. He finally returned to Haiti on 18 March 2011 after seven years in exile.[6]


Early life and church career

Aristide was born into poverty in Port-Salut, Sud Department. His father died when Aristide was only three months old,[7] and Aristide moved to Port-au-Prince with his mother, seeking a better life for him.[8] In 1958, Aristide started school with priests of the Salesian order.[9] He was educated at the College Notre Dame in Cap-Haïtien, graduating with honors in 1974. He then took a course of novitiate studies in La Vega, Dominican Republic before returning to Haiti to study philosophy at the Grand Seminaire Notre Dame and psychology at the State University of Haiti. After completing his post-graduate studies in 1979, Aristide traveled in Europe, studying in Italy, Greece, [1] and Israel. He returned to Haiti in 1982 for his ordination as a Salesian priest,[10] and was appointed curate of a small parish in Port-au-Prince.

Throughout the first three decades of Aristide's life, Haiti was ruled by the family dictatorships of François "Papa Doc" and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. The misery endured by Haiti's poor made a deep impression on Aristide,[8] and he became an outspoken critic of Duvalierism.[11] Nor did he spare the hierarchy of the country's church, since a 1966 Vatican Concordat granted Duvalier the power to appoint Haiti's bishops.[12] An exponent of liberation theology, Aristide denounced Duvalier's regime in one of his earliest sermons. This did not go unnoticed by the regime's top echelons. Under pressure, the provincial delegate of the Salesian Order sent Aristide into three years of exile in Montreal.[10] By 1985, as popular opposition to Duvalier's regime grew, Aristide was back preaching in Haiti. His Easter Week sermon, "A Call to Holiness," delivered at the cathedral of Port-au-Prince and later broadcast throughout Haiti, proclaimed, "The path of those Haitians who reject the regime is the path of righteousness and love."[13]

Aristide became a leading figure in the ""ti legliz movement"" – Kreyòl for "little church."[14] In September 1985, he was appointed to St. Jean Bosco church, in a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. Struck by the absence of young people in the church, Aristide began to organize youth, sponsoring weekly youth masses.[15] He founded an orphanage for urban street children in 1986 called Lafanmi Selavi [Family is Life].[16]:214 Its program sought to be a model of participatory democracy for the children it served.[17] As Aristide became a leading voice for the aspirations of Haiti's dispossessed, he inevitably became a target for attack.[18] He survived at least four assassination attempts.[9][19] The most widely publicized attempt, the St Jean Bosco massacre, occurred on 11 September 1988,[20] when over one hundred armed Tonton Macoute wearing red armbands forced their way into St. Jean Bosco as Aristide began Sunday mass.[21] As Army troops and police stood by, the men fired machine guns at the congregation and attacked fleeing parishioners with machetes. Aristide's church was burned to the ground. Thirteen people are reported to have been killed, and 77 wounded. Aristide survived and went into hiding.[16]

Subsequently, Salesian officials ordered Aristide to leave Haiti, but tens of thousands of Haitians protested, blocking his access to the airport.[22] In December 1988, Aristide was expelled from his Salesian order.[23] A statement prepared in Rome called the priest's political activities an "incitement to hatred and violence," out of line with his role as a clergyman.[24] Aristide appealed the decision, saying: "The crime of which I stand accused is the crime of preaching food for all men and women."[25] In a January 1988 interview, he said "The solution is revolution, first in the spirit of the gospel; Jesus could not accept people going hungry. It is a conflict between classes, rich and poor. My role is to preach and organize...."[7] In 1994, Aristide left priesthood, ending years of tension with the church over his criticism of its hierarchy and his espousal of liberation theology.[26] The following year, Aristide married Mildred Trouillot, with whom he had two daughters.[27]

First presidency (1991–1996)

Following the violence at the aborted national elections of 1987, the 1990 elections were approached with caution. Aristide announced his candidacy for the presidency and following a six-week campaign, during which he dubbed his followers the "Front National pour le Changement et la Démocratie" (National Front for Change and Democracy, or FNCD), the "little priest" was elected President in 1990 with 67% of the vote. He was Haiti's first democratically elected president. However, just eight months into his Presidency he was overthrown by a bloody military coup. He broke from FNCD and created the Struggling People's Organization (OPL,Organisation Politique "Lavalas") – "the flood" or "torrent" in Kréyòl.

A coup attempt against Aristide had taken place on January 6, even before his inauguration, when Roger Lafontant, a Tonton Macoute leader under Duvalier, seized the provisional President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot and declared himself President. After large numbers of Aristide supporters filled the streets in protest and Lafontant attempted to declare martial law, the Army crushed the incipient coup.[28]

During Aristide's short-lived first period in office, he attempted to carry out substantial reforms, which brought passionate opposition from Haiti's business and military elite.[29] He sought to bring the military under civilian control, retiring the Commander in Chief of the Army Hérard Abraham, initiated investigations of human rights violations, and brought to trial several Tontons Macoute who had not fled the country.[29] He also banned the emigration of many well known Haitians until their bank accounts had been examined.[29] His relationship with the National Assembly soon deteriorated, and he attempted repeatedly to bypass it on judicial, Cabinet and ambassadorial appointments.[29] His nomination of his close friend and political ally, René Préval, as Prime Minister, provoked severe criticism from political opponents overlooked, and the National Assembly threatened a no-confidence vote against Préval in August 1991. This led to a crowd of at least 2000 at the National Palace, which threatened violence; together with Aristide's failure to explicitly reject mob violence this permitted the junta which would topple him to accuse him of human rights violations.[29]

1991 coup d'état

In September 1991 the army performed a coup against him (1991 Haitian coup d'état), led by Army General Raoul Cédras, who had been promoted by Aristide in June to Commander in Chief of the Army. Aristide was deposed on 29 September 1991, and after several days sent into exile, his life only saved by the intervention of US, French and Venezuelan diplomats.[30] In accordance with the requirements of Article 149 of the Haitian Constitution, Superior Court Justice Joseph Nérette was installed as Président Provisoire to serve until elections were held within 90 days of Aristide's resignation. However, real power was held by army commander Raoul Cédras.[31] The elections were scheduled, but were canceled under pressure from the United States Government. Aristide and other sources claim that both the coup and the election cancellation were the result of pressure from the American government.[32][33][34] High-ranking members of the Haitian National Intelligence Service (SIN), which had been set up and financed in the 1980s by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of the war on drugs, were involved in the coup, and were reportedly still receiving funding and training from the CIA for intelligence-gathering activities at the time of the coup, but this funding reportedly ended after the coup.[35] The New York Times said that "No evidence suggests that the C.I.A backed the coup or intentionally undermined President Aristide."[35] However, press reports about possible CIA involvement in Haitian politics before the coup sparked Congressional hearings in the United States.[36]

A campaign of terror against Aristide supporters was started by Emmanuel Constant after Aristide was forced out. In 1993, Constant, who had been on the CIA's payroll as an informant since 1992, organized the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haïti (FRAPH), which targeted and killed Aristide supporters.[37][38][39]

Aristide spent his exile first in Venezuela and then in the United States, working to develop international support. A United Nations trade embargo during Aristide's exile, intended to force the coup leaders to step down, was a strong blow to Haiti's already weak economy.[40] President George H.W. Bush granted an exemption from the embargo to many US companies doing business in Haiti, and President Bill Clinton extended this exemption.[41][42]

In addition to this trade with the US, the coup regime was supported by massive profits from the drug trade thanks to the Haitian military's affiliation with the Cali Cartel and the drug-affiliated government in the neighboring Dominican Republic; Aristide publicly stated that his own pursuit of arresting drug dealers was one event that prompted the coup by drug-affiliated military officials Raul Cedras and Michel Francois (a claim echoed by his former Secretary of State Patrick Elie). Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) expressed concern that the only US government agency to publicly recognize the Haitian junta's role in drug trafficking was the DEA, and that despite a wealth of evidence provided by the DEA proving the junta's drug connections, the Clinton administration downplayed this factor rather than use it as a hedge against the junta (as the US government had done against Manuel Noriega). Conyers expressed concern that this silence was due to the CIA's connections to these military officers dating back to the creation of the Haitian Intelligence service known as SIN, as Alan Nairn's research has shown: "We have turned a very deaf ear to what is obviously a moving force... it leads you to wonder if our silence is because we knew this was going on and [because of] our complicity in drug activity..."[43] Nairn in particular alleged that the CIA's connections to these drug traffickers in the junta not only dated to the creation of SIN, but were ongoing during and after the coup. Nairn's claims are confirmed in part by revelations of Emmanuel Constant regarding the ties of his FRAPH organization to the CIA before and during the coup government.

1994 return

Under US and international pressure (including United Nations Security Council Resolution 940 on 31 July 1994), the military regime backed down and US troops were deployed in the country by President Bill Clinton. On 15 October 1994, the Clinton administration permitted Aristide to return to Haiti to complete his term in office on the condition that he adopt the economic program of the defeated US backed candidate in the 1990 elections, a former World Bank official who had received 14% of the vote. As "democracy" was thereby restored, the World Bank announced that: "The renovated state must focus on an economic strategy centered on the energy and initiative of Civil Society, especially the private sector, both national and foreign."[44][45]

A 1995 USAID report explained that: "An export-driven trade and investment policy [in Haiti] has the potential to relentlessly squeeze the domestic rice farmer. This farmer will be forced to adapt, or (s)he will disappear."[46] In "Free Market Left Haiti's Rice Growers Behind", the Washington Post reports: "From a grass-roots perspective in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it seems undeniable that millions of people have been left behind in the rush to globalization. That much is evident from the distended stomachs of children in villages like Pont-Sonde, the throngs of women seeking jobs at 30 cents an hour in sweatshops owned by U.S. clothing manufacturers and the daily street demonstrations through the slums of Port-au-Prince by laid-off government employees."[47]

Moreover, immediately after the Clinton administration allowed Aristide to return to office, in a series of private meetings, Administration officials admonished Aristide to put aside the rhetoric of class warfare and seek instead to reconcile Haiti’s tiny elite sector and poor majority. The Administration also urged Aristide to stick closely to neoliberal economics and to abide by the Caribbean nation’s constitution — which gives substantial political power to the Parliament while imposing tight limits on the Executive. Administration officials demanded that Aristide reach out to some of his political opponents in setting up his new government to set up a broad-based coalition regime. The Administration made it clear to Aristide that if he failed to reach a consensus with Parliament, the United States would withdraw support for his government.[48]

Aristide disbanded the Haitian army, and established a civilian police force. Aristide's first term ended in February 1996, and the constitution did not allow him to serve consecutive terms. There was some dispute over whether Aristide, prior to new elections, should serve the three years he had lost in exile, or whether his term in office should instead be counted strictly according to the date of his inauguration; it was decided that the latter should be the case. René Préval, a prominent ally of Aristide and Prime Minister in 1991 under Aristide, ran during the 1995 presidential election and took 88% of the vote. There was about 25% participation in these elections.[unreliable source?][49]

Knight-Ridder reports that "The United States [during both the Clinton and Bush administrations] failed to take many steps that it had promised to choke the flow of money and goods to the Haitian dictators and their wealthy supporters. According to documents and interviews with federal officials, investigators and targets of the sanctions, the U.S. government:

-- Never seized U.S. homes owned by coup supporters, despite a vow to the contrary. -- Eroded its own embargo by buying baseballs and black-market gasoline from alleged backers of the regime and training military men who worked for it. -- Subverted its own goals by granting embargo exemptions to U.S. companies and wealthy Haitians. -- Delayed freezing Haitian leaders' assets for almost 15 months after the coup. By that time, the Bank of Boston found only 50.71 Haitian gourdes, worth about $5.07, in the accounts of Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, the Haitian army's chief of staff.

But more serious complaints - such as charges that Texaco distributed tankers of fuel - were allegedly left on the back burner. Now the U.S. attorney's office and the General Accounting Office are examining the Texaco case and the handling of the embargo by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the little-known agency that enforces sanctions. Investigators want to know if OFAC - or some other agency - bowed to political or business pressures and deliberately avoided taking action against sanction violators. OFAC says it administered the Haiti embargo "consistent" with instructions from the White House, the State Department and the National Security Council. It didn't run an airtight embargo, because it wasn't told to run an airtight embargo."[50]

Opposition (1996–2001)

In late 1996, Aristide broke from the OPL over what he called its "distance from the people"[32] and created a new political party, the Fanmi Lavalas. The OPL, holding the majority in the Sénat and the Chambre des Députés, renamed itself the Organisation du Peuple en Lutte, maintaining the OPL acronym.

The Fanmi Lavalas won the 2000 legislative election in May, but a number of Senate seats which should have had second-round runoffs were allocated to Lavalas candidates which, while leading, had not achieved a first-round majority of all votes cast. Fanmi Lavalas controlled the Provisional Election Commission which made the decision.[51] Aristide then was elected later that year in the 2000 presidential election, an election boycotted by most opposition political parties, now organised into the Convergence Démocratique. Although the US government claimed that the election turnout was hardly over 10%, international observers saw turnout of around 50%, and at the time, CNN reported a turnout of 60% with over 92% voting for Aristide.[52] Only later did allegations surface mentioning the above figure of a 10% voter turnout.[53]

Second presidency (2001–2004)

Aristide called for France, the former colonizer of the country, to pay $21 billion[54] in restitution to Haiti for the 90 million gold francs supplied to France by Haiti in restitution for French property that was misappropriated in the Haitian rebellion, over the period from 1825 to 1947. Later it was revealed that this claim of repayment from France might have been one of the main reasons behind the coup d'état of 2004.[55]

2004 destabilization and coup

Despite enjoying widespread support by the majority of Haitians, the Washington Post informed their readers that regime change was looming on November 21, 2003: "Aristide has pushed with mixed success a populist agenda of higher minimum wages, school construction, literacy programs, higher taxes on the rich and other policies that have angered an opposition movement run largely by a mulatto elite that has traditionally controlled Haiti's economy."[56]

After Aristide took office in February 2001, the US played a leading role in forcing hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid to be cut off, while bolstering a minority opposition led by Haiti's tiny elite. In the three years leading up to the coup, the nation's already moribund economy further deteriorated and the government ground to a halt as the opposition refused to participate in elections. The US ignored pleas from the Aristide government for an international peacekeeping force as a motley band of armed thugs led by a suspected drug trafficker and fugitive death squad leaders overran more than half the country. US marines in Haiti made no effort to disarm these rebels. US policy toward Haiti appeared to be a war of attrition, driven by animosity towards Aristide, a former priest who rankled Washington with his anti-capitalist sermons and his adherence to liberation theology, a Catholic doctrine that advocates spiritual and economic help for the poor and oppressed.[57]

On Feb. 8, 2001, the federally funded International Republican Institute's (IRI) senior program officer for Haiti, Stanley Lucas, appeared on the Haitian station Radio Tropicale to suggest three strategies for vanquishing Haiti's president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. First, Lucas proposed forcing Aristide to accept early elections and be voted out; second, he could be charged with corruption and arrested; and finally, Lucas raised dealing with Aristide the way the Congolese people had dealt with President Laurent Kabila the month before. "You did see what happened to Kabila?" Lucas asked his audience. Kabila had been assassinated. Lucas and IRI, a nonprofit political group backed by powerful Republicans close to the Bush administration, did more than talk. For six years leading up to the coup, the I.R.I. conducted a $3 million party-building program in Haiti, training Aristide's political opponents, uniting them into a single bloc and, according to a former U.S. ambassador there, encouraging them to reject internationally sanctioned power-sharing agreements in order to heighten Haiti's political crisis.[58]

"[Aristide] was espousing change in Haiti, fundamental populist change," said Robert Maguire, a Haiti scholar who has criticized American policy as insufficiently concerned with Haiti's poor. "Right away, he was viewed as a threat by very powerful forces in Haiti." President Aristide promised not only to give voice to the poor in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but also to raise the minimum wage and force businesses to pay taxes. He rallied supporters with heated attacks on the United States, a tacit supporter of past dictatorships and a major influence in Haitian affairs since the Marines occupied the country from 1915 to 1934. "He wasn't going to be beholden to the United States, and so he was going to be trouble," said Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut. "We had interests and ties with some of the very strong financial interests in the country, and Aristide was threatening them." Those interests, mostly in the textile and electronic assembly businesses, sold many of their products cheap to the United States. The anti-Aristide message had currency around Washington. Mr. Einaudi, the veteran diplomat, recalled attending the I.R.I.'s 2001 fund-raising dinner and being surrounded by a half-dozen Haitian businessmen sounding a common cry: "We were foolish to think that we could do anything with Aristide. That it was impossible to negotiate with him. That it was necessary to get rid of him." A year later, the I.R.I. created a stir when it issued a press release praising the attempted overthrow of Hugo Chávez, the elected president of Venezuela and a confrontational populist, who, like Mr. Aristide, was seen as a threat by some in Washington.[59]

In February 2004, the assassination of gang leader Amiot Metayer sparked a violent rebellion that culminated in Aristide's removal from office. Amiot's brother, Buteur Metayer, blamed Aristide for the assassination, and used this as an argument given in order to form the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti.[60] Joined by other groups[61] the rebels quickly took control of the North, and eventually laid siege to, and then invaded, the capital. Under disputed circumstances, Aristide was flown out of the country by the U.S. on 28 February 2004.[62]

Earlier in February, Aristide's lawyer had claimed that the U.S. was arming anti-Aristide troops.[63] Aristide later stated that France and the US had a role in what he termed "a kidnapping" that took him from Haiti to South Africa via the Central African Republic.[64] However, authorities said his temporary asylum there had been negotiated by the United States, France and Gabon.[65] On 1 March 2004, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), along with Aristide family friend Randall Robinson, reported Aristide had told them that he had been forced to resign and had been abducted from the country by the United States and that he had been held hostage by an armed military guard.[66]

After Aristide was removed from Haiti, looters raided his villa.[67] Most barricades were lifted the day after Aristide left as the shooting had stopped; order was maintained by Haitian police, along with armed rebels and local vigilante groups.[68] Almost immediately after the Aristides were transported from Haiti, Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson, dispatched a Member of Parliament, Sharon Hay-Webster, to the Central African Republic. The leadership of that country agreed that Aristide and his family could go to Jamaica. The Aristides were in the island for several months until the Jamaican government gained acceptance by the Republic of South Africa for the family to relocate there.

Aristide has accused the U.S. of deposing him.[5][69] According to Rep. Maxine Waters D-California, Mildred Aristide called her at her home at 6:30 am to inform her "the coup d'etat has been completed", and Jean-Bertrand Aristide said the US Embassy in Haiti's chief of staff came to his house to say he would be killed "and a lot of Haitians would be killed" if he refused to resign immediately and said he "has to go now."[5] Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York expressed similar words, saying Aristide had told him he was "disappointed that the international community had let him down" and "that he resigned under pressure" – "As a matter of fact, he was very apprehensive for his life. They made it clear that he had to go now or he would be killed."[5] When asked for his response to these statements Colin Powell said that "it might have been better for members of Congress who have heard these stories to ask us about the stories before going public with them so we don't make a difficult situation that much more difficult" and he alleged that Aristide "did not democratically govern or govern well".[5] CARICOM, an organization of Caribbean countries that included Haiti, called for a United Nations investigation into Aristide's removal, but were reportedly pressured by the US and France to drop their request. Some observers suggest the rebellion and removal of Aristide were covertly orchestrated by these two countries.[70][71] Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson released a statement saying "we are bound to question whether his resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to provide the requisite support. The removal of President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces."[5] In a 2006 interview, Aristide said the US went back on their word regarding compromises he made with them over privatization of enterprises to ensure that part of the profits would go to the Haitian people and then "relied on a disinformation campaign" to discredit him.[72]

Exile (2004–2011)

After being cast into exile, in mid-2004 Aristide, his family, and bodyguards were welcomed to South Africa by several cabinet ministers, 20 senior diplomats, and a guard of honour.[73][74] Receiving a salary from and provided staff by the South African government,[75] Aristide lived with his family in a government villa in Pretoria.[76] In South Africa, Aristide became an honorary research fellow at the University of South Africa, learned Zulu, and on 25 April 2007, received a doctorate in African Languages.[77]

On 21 December 2007, a speech by Aristide marking the new year and Haiti's Independence Day was broadcast, the fourth such speech since his exile; in the speech he criticized the 2006 presidential election in which Préval was elected, describing it as a "selection," in which "the knife of treason was planted" in the back of the Haitian people.[78]

Since the election, some high-ranking members of Lavalas have been targets for violence.[79][80] Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a leading human rights organizer in Haiti and a member of Lavalas, disappeared in August 2007.[81] His whereabouts remain unknown and a news article states,"Like many protesters, Wilson Mesilien, coordinator of the pro-Aristide 30 September Foundation wore a T-shirt demanding the return of foundation leader Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a human rights activist and critic of both UN and US involvement in Haiti."[82]

Return to Haiti

In a 2008 United States Embassy cable, former US Ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson emphasizes that: "A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government...vulnerable to...resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years. MINUSTAH is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [US government] policy interests in Haiti."[83]

At a high-level meeting on August 2, 2006, top US and UN officials declared: "Aristide Movement Must Be Stopped."

The cable describes how former Guatemalan diplomat Edmond Mulet, then chief of MINUSTAH "urged US legal action against Aristide to prevent the former president from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti."

At Mulet’s request, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki "to ensure that Aristide remained in South Africa."[84]

US Ambassador James Foley admitted in a confidential March 22, 2005, cable that an August 2004 poll "showed that Aristide was still the only figure in Haiti with a favorability rating above 50%."[85]

After René Préval, a former ally of Aristide, was elected president of Haiti in 2006, he said it would be possible for Aristide to return to Haiti.[86][87]

On 16 December 2009, several thousand protesters marched through Port-au-Prince calling for Aristide's return to Haiti, and protesting the exclusion of Aristide's populist Fanmi Lavalas party from upcoming elections.[88]

On 12 January 2010, Aristide sent his condolences to victims of the earthquake in Haiti just a few hours after it occurred, and stated that he wishes to return to help rebuild the country.[89][90]

On 7 November 2010, in an exclusive interview ( the last given before his return to Haiti) with independent reporter Nicolas Rossier in Eurasia Review and the Huffington Post, Aristide declared that the 2010 elections were not inclusive of his party Fanmi Lavalas and therefore not fair and free. He also confirmed his wishes to go back to Haiti but that he was not allowed to travel out of South Africa.[91]

In February 2011, Aristide announced "I will return to Haiti" within days of the ruling Haitian government removing impediments to him receiving his Haitian passport.[92] Since he was ousted by the US government in 2004, Aristide has said that he would return to the field of education.[93] This would mark the 2nd return of former political leaders, as former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011[94] An anonymous government official told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the Haitian government had issued a passport for Aristide on 7 February, but his lawyer stated that they had not received the document, nor been informed of its issue by the government.[95]

On March 15, 2011, Aristide's Lavalas party stated in an interview that his return is due to both health reasons for needing warmer climate as well as to aid earthquake victims.[96]

On March 17, 2011, Aristide departed for Haiti from his exile in South Africa. U.S. President Barack Obama had asked South African President Jacob Zuma to delay Aristide's departure to prevent him from returning to Haiti before a presidential run-off election scheduled for Sunday. Aristide's party was barred from participating in the elections, and the U.S. fears his return could be "destabilizing".[97] On Friday, March 18, 2011, he arrived at Port-au-Prince airport, and was greeted by thousands of supporters.[98] He told the crowd waiting at the airport, "The exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas is the exclusion of the Haitian people. In 1804, the Haitian revolution marked the end of slavery. Today, may the Haitian people end exiles and coup d’états, while peacefully moving from social exclusion to inclusion."[6]

Former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is once again in the cross-hairs of the US government, this time being accused of pocketing millions of dollars in bribes from Miami businesses. Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, declined to comment about the Justice Department’s investigation because the ex-president hasn’t been charged with any crime. But, Kurzban said: "I view this as part of the same smear campaign that the United States has orchestrated against Aristide since he was first elected in 1990." The revelation that federal officials are still pursuing Aristide, years after a U.S. grand jury investigation failed to nab him on drug-trafficking and money-laundering allegations, comes at a politically charged time in Haiti. Haitian media reported that President Michel Martelly’s government had indicted Aristide for corruption and drug trafficking during his rule, immediately triggering anger among his supporters. Haiti’s justice minister told The Miami Herald the reports were false.

Thousands marched through the streets of Haiti’s capital, singing pro-Aristide slogans while denouncing Martelly, to mark the eighth anniversary of Aristide’s ouster from power on Feb. 29, 2004. The demonstration — the biggest anti-Martelly protest since he came to power in May — showed that Aristide still enjoys a measure of popularity. He returned to Haiti from South Africa on March 18, 2011 over the strong objections of the Obama administration.

The trial of Duperval, Haiti Teleco’s former director of international relations, highlights the U.S. Justice Department’s persistence in pursuing the bribery case and Aristide. Some question the zeal. The U.S. government may be sending a signal to Aristide, called Titid by his admirers, to think twice about trying to re-enter the political scene, observers said. "The display of popular support for Aristide is very worrisome to the U.S., so indicting Titid before a potential comeback makes perfect sense," said Robert Fatton, a Haiti expert at the University of Virginia. Unless the Justice Department has an air-tight case, arresting Aristide could have volatile consequences, observers said.[99]


Under Aristide's leadership, his party implemented many major reforms. These included greatly increasing access to health care and education for the general population; increasing adult literacy and protections for those accused of crimes; improving training for judges, prohibiting human trafficking, disbanding the Haitian military (which primarily had been used against the Haitian people), establishing improved human rights and political freedom; doubling the minimum wage, instituting land reform and assistance to small farmers, providing boat construction training to fishermen, establishing a food distribution network to provide low cost food to the poor at below market prices, building low-cost housing, and attempting to reduce the level of government corruption.[100]

Achievements in education

During successive Lavalas administrations, Jean Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval built 195 new primary schools and 104 secondary schools. Prior to Aristide's election in 1990, there were just 34 secondary schools nationwide. Lavalas also provided thousands of scholarships so that children could afford to attend church/private schools. Between 2001 and 2004, the percentage of children enrolled in primary school education rose to 72%, and an estimated 300,000 adults took part in Lavalas sponsored adult literacy campaigns. This helped the adult literacy rate raise from 35% to 55%.[101]

Achievements in health care

In addition to numerous educational advances, Aristide and Lavalas embarked on an ambitious plan to develop the public primary health care system with Cuban assistance. Since the devastation unleashed by Hurriance George in 1998, Cuba entered a humanitarian agreement with Haiti whereby Haitian doctors would be trained in Cuba, and Cuban doctors would work in rural areas. At the time of the January 12th earthquake, 573 doctors had been trained in Cuba.[102]

Prior to the election of Aristide, health care services had been primarily concentrated in the capital of Port-au-Prince. The Aristide government renovated and built new health care clinics, hospitals and dispensaries throughout the country, spending more on health care than any previous government.[103] Despite operating under an aid embargo, the Lavalas administration succeeded in reducing the infant mortality rate as well as reducing the percentage of underweight newborns.[104] A successful AIDS prevention and treatment program was also established, leading the Catholic Institute for International Relations to state, the "incredible feat of slowing the rate of new infections in Haiti has been achieved despite the lack of international aid to the Haitian government, and despite the notable lack of resources faced by those working in the health field."[105]

Wikileaks and Aristide

The release of many documents through Wikileaks has provided a great deal of insight into how the international community (United States, Canada, France and Brazil) has regarded Aristide, his lasting influence, the coup, and his exile.

November 2004 Dominican President Leonel Fernandez gave a speech in front of other regional leaders in which he said Aristide commanded "great popular support" within Haiti and called for his inclusion in the country’s democratic future.[106]

January 2005 USA pressuring South Africa to hold Aristide, or face the loss of potential UN Security Council seat

"Bienvenu later offered to express our shared concerns in Pretoria, perhaps under the pretext that as a country desiring to secure a seat on the UN Security Council, South Africa could not afford to be involved in any way with the destabilization of another country....2 (S) Bienvenu speculated on exactly how Aristide might return, seeing a possible opportunity to hinder him in the logistics of reaching Haiti. If Aristide traveled commercially, Bienvenu reasoned, he would likely need to transit certain countries in order to reach Haiti. Bienvenu suggested a demarche to CARICOM countries by the U.S. and EU to warn them against facilitating any travel or other plans Aristide might have.... Both Bienvenu and Barbier confided that South African mercenaries could be heading towards Haiti, with Bienvenu revealing the GOF had documented evidence that 10 South African citizens had come to Paris and requested Dominican visas between February and the present."[107]

A June 2005 cable states: "the GOB (Government of Brazil) officials made clear continued Brazilian resolve to keep Aristide from returning to the country or exerting political influence"[108] "the GOB had been encouraged by recent South African Government commitments to Brazil that the GSA (Government of South Africa) would not allow Aristide to use his exile there to undertake political efforts"[108]

Fall of 2008: On Preval's fear Aristide would return to Haiti via Venezuela

President Rene Preval made reference to these rumors, telling the Ambassador that he did not want Aristide "anywhere in the hemisphere." Subsequent to that, he remarked that he is concerned that Aristide will accept the Chavez offer but deflected any discussion of whether Preval himself was prepared to raise the matter with Chavez.[109]


Accusations of human rights abuses

Human Rights Watch accused the Haitian police force under President Aristide and his political supporters of attacks on opposition rallies. They also said that the emergence of armed rebel groups seeking to overthrow Aristide reflected "the failure of the country's democratic institutions and procedures".[110] However evidence indicates that the rebel groups against the Aristide were armed abroad by US intelligence operations.[111]

Videos surfaced showing a portion of a speech by Aristide on 27 August 1991 where he says "Don't hesitate to give him what he deserves. What a beautiful tool! What a beautiful instrument! What a beautiful piece of equipment! It's beautiful, yes it's beautiful, it's cute, it's pretty, it has a good smell, wherever you go you want to inhale it."[112] Critics allege that he was endorsing the practice of "necklacing" opposition activists – placing a gasoline-soaked tire around a person's neck and setting the tire ablaze[113] – However, just earlier in the speech, and edited from the videos, he is quoted as saying "Your tool in hand, your instrument in hand, your constitution in hand! Don't hesitate to give him what he deserves. Your equipment in hand, your trowel in hand, your pencil in hand, your Constitution in hand, don't hesitate to give him what he deserves."[112] There is some suspicion that Aristide's speech was edited to make it sound as if he were advocating "necklacing" when he was actually urging his supporters not to use violence but to use the constitution and voting instead.[114]

Although there were accusations of human rights abuses, the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission in Haiti, known by the French acronym MICIVIH, found that the human rights situation in Haiti improved dramatically following Aristide's return to power in 1994.[115] Amnesty International reported that, after Aristide's departure in 2004, Haiti was "descending into a severe humanitarian and human rights crisis."[116]

Accusations of corruption

Some officials have been indicted by a US court.[117] Companies that allegedly made deals with Aristide included IDT, Fusion Telecommunications, and Skytel; critics claim the two first companies had political links. AT&T reportedly declined to wire money to "Mont Salem".[118][119][120][121]


Aristide has published a number of books including an autobiography in 1993 and Nevrose vetero-testamentaire (1994) with excerpts of his masters and doctoral theses.

In 2000 Aristide published the book Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization that accused the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund of working on behalf of the world's wealthiest nations rather than in the interest of genuine international development. Aristide called for "a culture of global solidarity" to eliminate poverty as an alternative to the globalization represented by neocolonialism and neoliberalism.[122]

In 2005 the documentary Aristide and the Endless Revolution appeared. In the film Nicolas Rossier investigates the events leading up to the 2004 coup against Aristide.[123]



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