Haiti: In defense of Aristide

In defense of Aristide

By IRA KURZBAN ( ira@kkwt.law.com) Feb. 14, 2011 | Source- Miami Herald

The Haitian government has issued a diplomatic passport to former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This is long overdue; Aristide has wanted to return ever since he was forced into exile in 2004.

There is no justification for him not to; he is a Haitian citizen, charged with no crime; and the Haitian constitution explicitly prohibits compulsory political exile. Aristide, The N ew York Times noted during his first exile (1991-1994), “won Haiti’s first and only democratic election overwhelmingly,” followed by a “seven-month tenure [that] was marked by fewer human-rights violations and fewer boat people than any comparable period in modern Haitian history.”

He wants to return home, as a private citizen, and assist in Haiti’s relief effort. He has repeatedly said since 2004 that he wishes to return home to work in the field of education. His two Ph.D.s – one in psychology and the other in African languages – and his history, including seven years teaching in South Africa and the establishment of a medical school and university at the Aristide Foundation are testament to his long involvement in education.

The ball is now in South Africa’s court. Even though Aristide has every right to return under Haitian and international law, documents recently revealed by Wikileaks show that the U.S. and the Brazilian governments have pressured the South African government to keep Aristide there. The United States imposes its will, as the most powerful nation on Earth, to keep in distant exile the deposed president of one of the weakest. Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, meanwhile, walks free, gives press conferences and makes ceremonial visits around Haiti.

The return of Duvalier – accompanied by former death squad leader Louis Jodel Chamblain as his security chief – to Haiti last month revealed the stark double standard in U.S.-Haitian relations, one that harkens back to a shameful era, when the U.S. government propped up the brutal Duvalier regimes for decades. The danger is not only from his impunity, but from the threat of a re-legitimization of Duvalierism. Haiti now stands on the verge of a precipice; an extreme right-wing political turn – one that openly favors the rich and despises the poor – lies below.

The U.S. government is not a neutral spectator to this situation – this is clear from Obama-administration statements more opposed to the idea of Aristide’s return than to Duvalier’s ongoing presence. Even worse, the United States has been pressuring the Haitian authorities into arbitrarily allowing kompa singer Michel Martelly (who is known to have supported Duvalier in the past, and who got the support of just 4.5 percent of registered voters) to proceed to an elections run-off against former first lady Mirlande Manigat (who received 6.4 percent support from registered voters).

Considering what is known of the right-wing proclivities of each, this could be akin to Haiti’s equivalent of a presidential race between an unpopular Republican and an unpopular tea party candidate, with no Democrat allowed to compete. Contrary to last week’s media reports, however, the electoral authorities have not yet made a final decision on the elections runoff. It has now emerged that only half of the Electoral Council members actually signed onto the statement announcing Martelly’s advancement; a majority is required.

Ultimately, it is the right of the Haitian people – a right enshrined in Haiti’s constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to decide their own political destiny. New first-round elections, including Fanmi Lavalas and all eligible parties this time, are the only democratic way forward. Aristide should also be allowed to return to Haiti. No foreign power – whether the U.S., South Africa, or others – has the right to impede his return. Contrary to what the State Department appears to suggest, by reversing a grave violation of constitutional order when Aristide was ousted, democracy will be strengthened when he comes back, not weakened.

Ira Kurzban was the former general counsel for the government of the Republic of Haiti from 1991 to 2004. He is currently representing former President Aristide.


5 thoughts on “Haiti: In defense of Aristide

  1. This article is right on! It is simply too bad that there is no political party of any consequence that supports justice in Haiti. But American foreign policy generally doesn’t support justice in the third world. They held Eighty million Egyptians hostage to Mubarek, only to protect Israeli goverments, regardless of their disregard for indigenous Palestineans.


  2. He should be returning, after all Aristide was kidnapped by U.S trained forces at gun point and dumped in the Central African Republic.

    WikiLeaks points to US meddling in Haiti
    Kim Ives

    US embassy cables reveal how anxious the US was to enlist Brazil to keep the deposed Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti

    Minustah’s commander, Brazilian Army General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2005. In January 2006, Bacellar was found shot dead on his balcony, after what his government described first as a ‘firearm accident’ and then as ‘suicide’. Bacellar had earlier resisted calls to use his UN peacekeeping force to crack down on pro-Aristide rebels. Photograph: AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

    Confidential US diplomatic cables from 2005 and 2006 released this week by WikiLeaks reveal Washington’s well-known obsession to keep exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti and Haitian affairs. (On Thursday, Aristide issued a public letter in which he reiterated “my readiness to leave today, tomorrow, at any time” from South Africa for Haiti, because the Haitian people “have never stopped calling for my return” and “for medical reasons”, concerning his eyes.)

    In a 8 June 2005 meeting of US Ambassador to Brazil John Danilovich, joined by his political counsellor (usually, the local CIA station chief), with then President Lula da Silva’s international affairs adviser Marco Aurelio Garcia, we learn that:

    “Ambassador and PolCouns … stressed continued US G insistence that all efforts must be made to keep Aristide from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process … increasingly concerned about a major deterioration in security, especially in Port au Prince.”


  3. I have been appalled at learning about Haiti’s history and the involvement of the so-called democracies to keep the common people down just so they can keep Haiti in the “pro-American” camp, without regard to the welfare of the people.
    I am equally appalled at attempts by Duvalierist types to whitewash the Duvalierist past. The strangely named “www.haitian-truth.org” website. While it vehemently opposes Préval and the sham elections, it seems to do it from “let’s-get-back-Baby-Doc” point of view. Indeed, in commentaries on the very same article, they claim that Aristide was 100 per cent nasty and one idiot even claimed that Aristide killed more than Duvalier!!! They claim that the common people want Baby Doc back in power because under him, there was prosperity and security! A recent visit by Baby Doc to Léogâne is their proof. Many of those who post on that sight threaten Aristide with death, prison, or at least a plethora of law suits.
    Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it as George Santayana said. The neo-Duvalierist efforts are proof of that as it seems that many young people are unaware of the Duvalierist murders.
    In any case, let us hope that Aristide is back soon to save Haiti, albeit with just his presence, from those who wish to continue its enslavement.


  4. We know, they’ve always treated us with the double standard, at lease since 1804. Look, we need to bring Aristide back home, protect and build the society we need and want to see with him. If their bloody puppet can return without restriction, so can our beloved brother. Whatever his mistakes, the US has no right, historically or ethically to have a say in his returning.

    “throw away the god of the whites….” “Never again shall a white set foot on this land as”…Boukmann and Papa Dessalines reminded us in 1791 and in 1804, do we remember??


  5. please i beg you think these two have been in the custody of the america and france have you ever heard of the manchurian candicate mico-chip program? notice when Bill Clinton was ask on tv were is all the money collected for haiti he could not answer two days later baby doc pop up after 25yr.and then Aristide to get your mind off the money those two are design to divide the county into civil war in which the bankers win.may you wake up soon we are all in danger.


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