A bizarre political week for Haiti that started with the return of one exiled former president is ending with another exiled leader maneuvering for repatriation.
As woes mounted for former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier – who received more criminal charges on Wednesday – ousted ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide released a statement saying he’s prepared to return to Haiti.
“As far as I am concerned, I am ready,” Mr. Aristide wrote in a statement Wednesday that his spokesperson confirmed to the Monitor was authentic. “Once again I express my readiness to leave today, tomorrow, at any time. The purpose is very clear: To contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education.”
Aristide has been living in exile in South Africa since 2004, when he was flown out of Haiti in what supporters described as a US-orchestrated coup d’état. Brian Concannon, a lawyer who has worked with Aristide, told the Monitor that Aristide applied for a passport but the Haitian government has not issued one.
"He has said on several occasions that he wants to return," says Mr. Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). "He needs a new passport and he's applied for it through the Haitian government. So far, they have not issued it."
Rumors are swirling that Aristide is already en route to Haiti, perhaps on a flight via Panama and Cuba. P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the State Department, reacted to Aristide’s desire to return with a series of Twitter posts, including one that read: “We do not doubt President Aristide’s desire to help the people of Haiti. But today Haiti needs to focus on its future, not its past.”
Meanwhile, Duvalier, who surprised many with his dramatic return Sunday, received fresh criminal charges Wednesday evening on top of charges filed Tuesday of embezzlement and corruption.
On Wednesday, Michele Montas, formerly a spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, joined three other Haitians in filing a criminal complaint with a Haiti prosecutor for crimes against humanity and torture, reported Reuters. They said they’d been jailed during Duvalier’s rule, which began in 1971 and lasted until 1986, when he fled to France.
Theories are swirling about why Duvalier returned now, amid a protracted election standoff between government-endorsed candidate Jude Célestin and the popular musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly. The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday that observers speculate that his sudden return could be due to ailing finances, health problems, or possibly because he is being used as a pawn to divert attention from the political situation.
Duvalier’s motives have only become cloudier. While one spokesman said Duvalier is repairing his home in Haiti with plans to stay, another spokesman said the ex-dictator applied to renew his expired Haitian passport and is planning to return to France, despite the case pending against him.
Little is known about Duvalier’s plans because he has not addressed reporters. He released a hastily-written statement Wednesday, according to The Miami Herald, but all that did was deny that he planned to run for president as some of his spokesmen have hinted.
“I formally deny all political statements, vague or otherwise that are attributed to me,” read the statement, signed by Duvalier.