[HCCN] fw: Aristide set to return to Haiti

Judith Robbins JUDY at ROBBINSandROBBINS.com
Fri Mar 18 06:56:18 EDT 2011

[Aristide to be accompanied by Danny Glover and Amy Goodman. In  
AlJazeera article below, emphasis added... JR]


Haiti's former president is set to return home, ending seven years in  
exile in South Africa, South African officials have said.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide's diplomatic passport was delivered last  
month, and South Africa's cabinet minister, Collins Chabane, said on  
Thursday "we can't hold him hostage if he wants to go".

The announcement came as Barack Obama, the US president, made last- 
ditch efforts to prevent his return over concerns that Aristide's  
presence in Haiti could disrupt elections to be held on March 20.

A White House spokesman said Obama recently called Jacob Zuma, his  
South African counterpart, to discuss the matter but the South  
Africans apparently could not delay Aristide's return.

"The United States, along with others in the international community,  
has deep concerns that president Aristide's return to Haiti in the  
closing days of the election could be destabilising," Tommy Vietor,  
the National Security Council spokesman, said in Washington.

"President Obama reiterated ... his belief that the Haitian people  
deserve the chance to choose their government through peaceful, free,  
and fair elections March 20."

South African officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because  
they were not authorised to make the official announcement, said  
Aristide would leave immediately after addressing reporters at a  
Johannesburg airport.

According to the South African Press Association, Chabane said the  
government cannot be held responsible for whether Aristide stays or  

"What I should stress is that we are not sending former president  
Aristide to Haiti. He was given the passport by the government of  
Haiti and we can't hold him hostage if he wants to go," Chabane was  
quoted as telling a news conference.

Actor to escort Aristide

Chabane's comments came as Danny Glover, an actor, arrived in South  
Africa to try to escort the ousted leader home.

Glover, the chair of TransAfrica social justice forum, asked why  
Haiti's former president, Jean-Claude Duvalier, could return home  
unhindered and not the twice democratically elected Aristide.

"People of good conscience cannot be idle while a former dictator is  
able to return unhindered while a democratic leader who peacefully  
handed over power to another elected president is restricted from  
returning to his country by external forces," Glover wrote on the  
TransAfrica Forum website.

On Monday, US state department spokesman Mark Toner acknowledged  
Aristide's right to go back to Haiti, but said returning this week  
"can only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti's elections".

Aristide, who emerged as a leading voice for Haiti's poor in a  
popular revolt that forced an end to the Duvalier family's 29-year  
dictatorship, remains Haiti's most popular politician though he has  
been in exile since 2004.

He has said he will not be involved in politics in Haiti and wants to  
lead his foundation's efforts to improve education in the  
impoverished Caribbean nation devastated by last year's catastrophic  

It would be the second return from exile for Aristide, who was first  
ousted by a military coup in 1991. Bill Clinton, the former US  
president, returned him to power in 1994 following a US military  
intervention that forced out the military regime.

Haiti held elections last November but they were marred by fraud and  
ended with no clear winner. One of the three main contenders, who  
finished third, said he was rigged out of a second run-off place.

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