Another obstacle for Haiti

Aristide’s return poses huge political risk

The pending return of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide from exile is the latest obstacle in Haiti’s path toward creating a legitimate, credible government through the ballot box. Given Mr. Aristide’s controversial background and the role he played in taking Haiti to the brink of chaos during a term cut short by rebellion seven years ago, allowing his return at this critical juncture represents a huge risk with unforeseeable consequences.

Outgoing President René Preval, once Mr. Aristide’s loyal prime minister and current Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive seem to be going out of their way to make the electoral process more uncertain. First, they allowed exiled despot Jean-Claude Duvalier to suddenly reappear, as if by magic, after 25 years of golden exile in France. No credible explanation has yet been offered for his sudden return, an ominous development for Haitians who recall the Duvalier era as a time of unrelieved misery.

Now Mr. Aristide’s reemergence just before voters pick a new president in the delayed presidential runoff scheduled for March 20 presents Haiti with a more serious threat to its fragile stability.

Mr. Aristide no doubt maintains a loyal following in the country, but he is a polarizing figure who inspires both love and fear. His populist rhetoric creates unfounded hopes for a better Haiti among the poor, but his record is one of divisiveness and undelivered promises. Given his history, it’s hard to put much stock in claims that he does not seek a political role.

Have Messrs. Préval and Bellerive forgotten that Mr. Aristide’s last term in office ended in chaos? That Haiti barely dodged a civil war only because he was removed from the scene in the nick of time? That it took months of perseverance and dangerous work by U.N. troops, generously supported by the largesse of the international community, to rid the streets of thugs and criminals after he fled the palace in February, 2004?

Thanks to those soldiers, still present today, Haiti’s streets and rural areas remain relatively free of crime and lawlessness, but protests that erupted last week offer stark evidence that security remains a problem. Mr. Aristide’s presence wouldn’t help. A U.S. State Department spokesman underlined the fears of the international community, saying Mr. Aristide’s return “would prove to be an unfortunate distraction to the people of Haiti.”

In a Feb. 10 letter to The Miami Herald, Prime Minister Bellerive said there was no legal or constitutional obstacle to the former president’s return if he would only request a passport, which has now been issued. This cavalier disregard for Mr. Aristide’s past and the trouble he caused is an insult to all those who have labored for years to create a new Haiti that can give its people the hope of genuine progress. He represents Haiti’s turbulent past, not its future.

Haitian authorities are either naïve or disingenuous, or both, if they see Mr. Aristide as just another citizen who wants to come back to his native country. Nor does the legal explanation account for the conspicuously bad timing, just weeks before an election that is supposed to create a legitimate government that allows Haiti to move forward. His return, coming on the heels of Mr. Duvalier’s unannounced arrival in the country and following a series of missteps and controversies involving the electoral commission, suggests that there is a deliberate effort under way to sabotage the elections.

Haiti’s leaders should be under no illusions: Any action that leads to a delay or postponement of the March 20 runoff could well lead to second thoughts by foreign donors about the wisdom of investing further in a country whose leaders are too preoccupied with political infighting and protecting their own self interest to look after Haiti’s wellbeing.

Haiti needs the international community, but the country’s leaders need to show a greater level of political maturity or risk losing support from abroad. The best way to offer reassurance is to put an end to the political gamesmanship and concentrate on measures to unite the country and offer a better vision of tomorrow. Jean-Bertrand Aristide is not part of that scenario.


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7 thoughts on “Another obstacle for Haiti

  1. Aristide has been posturing to come back. It has been a matter of time, and right now it seems to be that time.
    He and his pal Preval are going to steal the palace again, and our democracy will lay dead in the gutter.

  2. Your article is fullnof errors and misstatements. Like it or not, Mr Aristide represents the majority of thevHaitian people which is borne out in every election he has been in. This wrbsite has extolled the virtues of Duvalier whose regime killed many thousands. The socaled rebellion led by thugs like Guy Phillippe were CIA supported. The chaos brought to Haiti during Aristide’s administrations was due to intense opposition from the. callous Haitian elite and the State Dept. The US government also blocked funds to the Haitian government yet that government had to pay interest on the money that was forthcoming yet blocked.
    Haiti needs help but not US interference.
    The Haitian elections are fatally flawed. Let there be new ones with Fanmi Lavalas and the Duvalierist parties competing in open and free elections. Aristide might be divisive but are the current candidates less so? Is Baby Doc less so? Only when truly free elections are allowed followed by no interference by the US will there be hope inHaiti. The Haitian elite must renounce their absolute power and restrai. Their disdain for the Haitian majority. That includes offering something better than a possible sweatshop job, elevation of Creole to equal status or priority over the minority French language. French has veen used to keep th people down. It means allowing for the poor people to have a means of making a living though agriculture without US dumping of rice or oreeer to kill off the local breed of pigs. The poor have to see that I’d the Haitian elites changes, they should be allowed to generate jobs and wealth for the rest.

  3. Be patient Haitian people!by 2012, the presidential victory into the US will be yours. So, things will be changed around the world. The ticket Mitt Romney – John Ellis Bush is the answer.
    Haiti was the key point for us and we got it.

    We will arrest all the criminals operating in Haiti to set the country free.From 1986 to now, we accumulated so many files to grad them at the time fixed. They will be out of politics in Haiti for real.

    Kidnapping,assassination will be over in Haiti. M R and J B will fix the Clock.I will be in Haiti to make sure that the job is done.I will be part of the solution.

  4. If it wasn’t for the danger posed by Haiti to the continued success of the Dominican Republic and the entire region I’d suggest that the International Community stop waisting their taxpayers’ money there and leave.

    The international community offered the best of the best by selecting former president Clinton to help with the rebuilding process. That was of a proof of the interest and the respect with which the country has always been treated based on its glorious history. Those who follow Haiti, however, know to what extent that is completely overlooked both by the political and intectual elites. Former president Clinton is routinely insulted and even discredited despite the tremendous advantages his very presence could bring to the country.

    The international community should stop all assistance immediately and completely reassess its action in Haiti. A good starting point would be to revert to Mr. Seitenfus’s report on what can be called : the Haitian case. Centuries of intelectual anihilation by the Church and other elites have made of this people what they are today, complete zombies incapable even of understanding the gravity of their own situation. As suggested by Mr. Seitenfus: sociologists, historians, anthropologists, philosophers must first evaluate this case before any plan of action can be designed. Contrary to him I would exclude theologians since they are at the very basis of the zombification of this people.

  5. pour moi il n y a rien a craindre politiquement de jean-claude duvalier,tous ces partisans ,presque sont morts et vieux aprs 25 ans,,les les jeunes ne le connaissaient pas,,aristide fait plus peur que lui,car il est attendu par une grosse majorite de fanatique .

  6. although i begged and questioned your intel source about Aristide returning to Haiti on the 14th, where is he? you claimed your had intelligence, I said you did notand although you are the administrator, you are entitle to delete those who questioned or better yet tell you that you need to stop pretending that you have good intelligence that’s happening. Please follow some basic journalism or at least admit you were wrong

    1. @rud c
      The fact of the matter is quite simple. We have associates involved with the return of President Aristide and he planned to travel on the 18th, at the latest. Those inside his camp believed he would say the 18th, and then fly on an earlier date.

      God only knows why he didn’t follow through, as planned. Guy Philippe suggests Aristide is a wimp.

      Many have been working to prepare his residence, at Tabarre, including President Preval who was there the other day.

      Aristide is not keen about the Tabarre location, since it has bad memories.

      He will be staying at a private residence for the first week, when he returns.

      His plans now see him flying in “before the elections” which is not a very specific answer.

      When it happens, a retrospective view, will show that we were near the center of planning through our contacts.

      Our journalism is just fine as we report on the realities, and the 18th, or earlier, was a reality as Aristide will report, after his arrival.

      We are not Aristide supporters.

      We just pass on the facts.


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