Back in Haiti, is Aristide eyeing presidency?
Thousands welcomed former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's arrival today in Haiti, less than 48 hours before a presidential election. The timing of his return potentially qualifies him to run in the next election.
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Aristide was twice elected president and twice deposed and forced into exile. His second ouster, in 2004, came under pressure from the US, which arranged for his flight out of the country, he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Aristide’s command of Creole and oration were a stark contrast from the Duvalierist culture of privilege and excess. He won a huge following among Haiti’s majority poor by opposing the dictatorial regime of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who fled in 1986. In January, Mr. Duvalier also returned from exile, in France.
A once-overwhelmingly popular force, Aristide is today a polarizing figure.
Supporters say he stood for the poor and that his return will only help a country struggling to recover from last January’s devastating earthquake and a cholera epidemic. “Aristide’s return will be good for all Haitians,” says Haitian journalist Wisley Desalan, who flew to South Africa recently to interview the former president. “He will work with all Haitians in Health and education.”
Detractors say Aristide’s last term was marred by corruption and human rights abuses.
“Officials in Aristide’s government used their public office as personal fiefdoms, engaged in rampant corruption and drug-trafficking; they even used gangs, some of whom were armed, against their opponents,” Alex Dupuy, author on the book “The Prophet and Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the International Community and Haiti,” wrote in a column for The Guardian on Friday.
“I don’t expect him to endorse either candidate … or play a role in the election. It doesn’t make sense for him,” Professor Carey says. “He has other things to worry about. There are still people who probably want to kill him.”
But in the long-term, Carey believes Aristide will move back to politics. While the Constitution forbids presidents from serving more than two terms, some argue that Aristide never finished his second term and so could run again for office.
If his intentions are political, Aristide will need to rebuild his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, which was barred from running a candidate in this election.
Patrick Elie, a former minister under Aristide, says the party crumbled in Aristide’s absence.
"Aristide was a crutch for someone who broke their leg, one should always be grateful for a crutch, but one should start walking again without a crutch,” he says.
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