A nearly unnoticed event occurred over the weekend that most of the American corporate news media missed or simply choose not to notice. There was a moment here or there where they talked about the election held in Haiti but there was virtually no coverage about the return of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. I somehow wonder if it was because the Bush administration is said to have kidnapped him sending the president into exile. Now, we know the past administration was guilty of many things but it has been reported that the current administration put much pressure on the hospitable nation of South Africa to deny Aristide and his family the right to return.
In defiance of the Obama administration, the former Haitian President did return home for the first time since being ousted in a 2004 U.S. backed coup. Accompanied by his family and a delegation of supporters they gleefully boarded a plane in South Africa bound for Port-au-Prince with the only one reporter onboard, Amy Goodman host Democracy Now. Ms. Goodman provided the only document coverage of their journey home after seven years of exile. Aristide returned two days before a delayed presidential runoff election that was held on Sunday between pop star Michel Martelly and former First Lady Mirlande Manigat.
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned home, on Friday, with friend Danny Glover who remarked “this is amazing… It’s already quite exciting” as Aristide’s wife and children exited the plane with him crying. This was a historic occasion because he was taken in what he called "a modern-day kidnapping in the service of a coup d’état backed by the United States". He is now back, again in defiance of the United States.
There was a mass crowd accompanied by flowers waiting for them and what was reported as mass chaos. President Aristide was being jostled by a crush of cameras in the diplomatic area awaiting his arrival. Ms. Goodman reports the former president addressing the crowd where he said, “In 1804, the Haitian revolution marked the end of slavery. Today, may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coup d’état, while peacefully we must move from social exclusion to social inclusion. Once again, thanks from the bottom of our hearts.”
Aristide continued, “If we don’t salvage our dignity, our dignity will be gone. Yes, you are right, because the problem is exclusion, and the solution is inclusion. The exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas is the exclusion of the majority. The exclusion of the majority means that you are cutting off exactly the branch that we are all sitting on. The problem is exclusion; the solution is inclusion of all Haitians without discrimination, because everybody is a person. Haiti, Haiti, the further I am from you, the less I breathe. Haiti, I love you, and I will love you always. Always.”
The Aristides returned from exile after twice being ousted in a U.S.-backed coup. In 1991, ousted for three years, then came back as president; in 2004, ousted again in a U.S. backed coup. The U.S. flew him to the Central African Republic. But then, a delegation led by Congress member Maxine Waters and the TransAfrica founder, Randall Robinson flew to C.A.R., the Central African Republic, where they got the Aristides and brought them back to this hemisphere, to Jamaica, but they couldn’t come back into Haiti, and ended up in exile in South Africa for seven years. Now, the President returns, not as president of Haiti, but as resident.
It has been reported that President Obama called South African President Zuma last week, urging him not to fly the Aristides back to Haiti, but the South African government said they would not cave to pressure. The State Department, the White House, Obama talked to President Zuma of South Africa asking him not to bring them back to Haiti. But President Zuma defied that request and said that they would not bow to pressure. A South African government representative accompanied the Aristides on their trip from Johannesburg to Port-au-Prince.
The official response from the White House and State Department has said that President Aristide left willingly on February 29th, 2004. However, a witness to the event, Frantz Gabriel, told Ms. Goodman;
“No. I’m a witness of that, and it was not willingly that the President left, because all the people that came in to accompany the President were all military. Having been in the U.S. military myself, I know what a GI looks like, and I know what a special force looks like also. So, I was here, and I knew that, you know, these guys were part of a force, Special Ops, they call them. You have the Delta Force, you know, which is Special Operations. They have the Green Berets, Special Operations. Those guys, you know, they could be assimilated to either one, either the Delta or the Green Berets. And what attracted my attention was the fact that when we boarded the aircraft, everybody changed their uniform into civilian clothes. And that’s when I knew that it was a special operation. Oh, absolutely not. Someone who leaves willingly leaves with suitcases, you know, and prepare for the trips. President Aristide left with his—with just the clothes on his back.”
For all that the people of Haiti has endured as a result of being the first nation in this hemisphere to revolt and remove the bonds of their slave masters, which some say they have been cursed every since. I say, let’s pray that this slither of hope will up lift this nation living in dire despair and let the world view its people as human beings. Let us not forget that there are nearly a million people still homeless after the devastating earthquake a year ago.