Black People : A Recent Interview with Aristede

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Aristide Speaks from South Africa
Aristide Interview [1] Haiti disasters [2] Haiti occupation [3]


Nicolas Rossier interviews deposed Haitian president

In this frank and wide-ranging discussion, the deposed president of Haiti addresses French racism and those forces in the U.S. and Haiti that oppose his return from South African exile, the devastations his countrymen have endured since his ouster, and the Haitian people’s desire for freedom and self-determination. The upcoming elections, which will once again exclude Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas political party, are a farce. “They are not planning to have free and fair democratic elections. They are planning to have a selection.”


Aristide Speaks from South Africa

Nicolas Rossier interviews deposed Haitian president

This article previously appeared in Canada Haiti Action [4].

"When we say democracy we have to mean what we say."

Currently in forced-exile in South Africa, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is still the national leader of Fanmi Lavalas – one of Haiti's most popular political parties. A former priest and proponent of liberation theology, he served as Haiti's first democratically elected president in 1990 before he was ousted in a CIA backed coup in September 1991. He returned to power in 1994 with the help of the Clinton administration and finished his term. He was elected again seven years later, only to be ousted in a coup in February 2004. The coup was lead by former Haitian soldiers in tandem with members of the opposition. Aristide has repeatedly claimed since, that he was forced to resign at gunpoint by members of the US Embassy. US officials have claimed that he decided to resign freely following the violent uprising. He now lives in exile in South Africa where he still waits to get his diplomatic passport renewed. He is not allowed to travel outside South Africa.

Aristide is still the subject of many controversies. He is reviled by the business elite and feared by the French and American governments, who deem his populism dangerous. But he remains loved by a large portion of the Haitian population.

In a June 10 report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, "Haiti: No Leadership – No Elections”, ranking Republican member Richard Lugar denounced the systemic injustice of excluding his Fanmi Lavalas party.

Independent reporter and filmmaker Nicolas Rossier, conducted an exclusive two-hour interview with former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the hills of Johannesburg. He spoke with the former President about his life in forced exile, Haiti’s current political situation, and his possible return to Haiti. This is an excerpt of the interview. The interview was re-posted to the website of the Canada Haiti Action Network, with permission of Nicolas Rossier.

NR: Mr. President Aristide, thank you for having me today. My first question is about the earthquake that took place in Haiti in January of 2010. Can you tell me how and when you learned about the tragedy?

JBA: It was morning here. I was at Witwatersrand University here in Johannesburg to work in the lab of the Faculty of Medicine for Linguistics and Neuroanatomy. I realized that it was a disaster in Haiti. It was not easy to believe what I was watching. We lost about 300,000 people, and in terms of the buildings, they said that about 39% of the buildings in Port-au-Prince were destroyed, including fifty hospitals and about 1,350 schools.

Up until today they have cleared only about 2% of these 25 million cubic meters of rubble and debris. So this was a real disaster. We could not imagine that Haiti, already facing so many problems, would now face such a disaster. Unfortunately this is the reality. I was ready to go back to help my people, just as I am ready to leave right now if they allow me to be there to help. Close to 1.8 million victims are living in the street homeless. So this is a tragedy.

NR: Your former colleague, the current President René Préval, was highly criticized after the earthquake for being absent. Overall, he was judged as not having shown enough leadership. Do you think that’s a fair criticism?

JBA: I believe that January 12, 2010 was a very bad time for the government and for the Haitian people. To have leadership, yes it was necessary, overall, to be present in a time of disaster like this one. But to criticize when you aren’t doing any better is cynical. Most of those who were criticizing him sent soldiers to protect their own geopolitical interests, not to protect the people. They seized the airport for their own interests, instead of protecting the victims – so for me there should be some balance.

NR: Can you give us your thoughts on the recent cholera epidemic?

JBA: As for this recent incident of cholera, whether or not it was imported – as the evidence strongly suggests – it’s critical. First, those who organized the coup d’état/kidnapping of 2004, paving the way for the invaders now accused as having caused the recent outbreak of cholera, must also share the blame. Second, the root causes, and what facilitated the deadly spread of the disease are structural, embedded in Haiti’s historical impoverishment, marginalization and economic exploitation. The country’s once thriving rice industry – destroyed by the subsidized US rice industry in the 1980s – was in the Artibonite, the epicenter of the cholera outbreak. The near destruction of our rice industry coupled with the systematic and cruel elimination of the Haitian pigs rendered the region and the country poorer. Third, in 2003 our government had already paid the fees on an approved loan from the InterAmerican Development Bank to implement a water sanitization project in the Artibonite. As you can remember, that loan and four others were blocked as part of a calculated strategy by the so-called friends of Haiti to weaken our government and justify the coup d’état.

“The country’s once thriving rice industry – destroyed by the subsidized US rice industry in the 1980s – was in the Artibonite, the epicenter of the cholera outbreak.”

NR: Many observers in Haiti and elsewhere keep asking me the same question, which is this: what are you doing here and what prevents you from coming back to your own country? The Haitian constitution does not allow political exile. You have not been convicted of anything, so what prevents you from going back? You are a Haitian citizen and should be allowed to move freely.

JBA: When I look at it from the South African perspective, I don’t find the real reasons. But if I try to understand it from the Haitian perspective, I think that I see the picture. The picture is that in Haiti, we have the same people who organized the invasion of 2004 after kidnapping me to put me in Africa. They are still there. That means there is a kind of neo-colonial occupation of 8,900 UN soldiers with 4,400 policemen spending, more or less, fifty-one million US dollars a month in a country where 70% of the population lives with less than a dollar a day. In other words it’s a paradise for the occupiers. First we had the colonization of Haiti and now we have a kind of neo-colonial occupation of Haiti. In my view, they don’t want me back because they still want to occupy Haiti.

NR: So you see the elite in Haiti basically influencing those currently in power and pressuring them to prevent you from coming back? There is certainly a more friendly administration now in Washington. Are they still sending the same


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