In the News: Jean Bertrand Aristide’s Triumphant Return to Haiti

“Wall of humanity” greets former president and family upon their return

by Kim Ives
Published in Socialist Worker, March 23, 2011

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has returned to the country he was kidnapped from in a U.S.-backed coup just over seven years ago. Despite massive pressure brought to bear by the U.S. government, Aristide boarded a small plane with his family in South Africa on March 17 and arrived in Haiti the next day.

The country he returned to has been ravaged by last year’s massive earthquake and the terrible aftermath, during which the U.S. and its allies broke their promises to provide desperately needed aid. Two months before, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the notorious former dictator who was driven into exile by a mass rebellion in 1986, also returned to Haiti.

Aristide arrived just ahead of a run-off election on March 20 for Haiti’s president that the U.S. hoped would ratify its plans for a country subjugated to Washington’s neoliberal agenda. Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the election. Results of the run-off were still being calculated on March 22.

Kim Ives, a journalist and editor with Haiti Liberté, returned to Haiti ahead of Aristide’s arrival. He provided this live report from Port-au-Prince via phone to a panel discussion on March 19–the day before the election–at the Left Forum in New York City.

I am standing near a tent camp here in Port-au-Prince. About 1,500 internally displaced people have been living here since just after the earthquake.

This place is a poster child for Haitian poverty and misery. The people here find minimal shelter under scattered tarps and tents, beneath a blazing sun and near a cesspool which floods anytime it rains, sending waste and foul water into people’s tents. It’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It’s filled with garbage and stinks to high heaven. It is truly a miserable place.

The tent camp is sandwiched between an assembly factory where many of the residents of this camp work and a food relief operation. That relief operation doesn’t provide enough food for these people. The camp’s residents are practically starving. You see children with swollen bellies mixed with the miserable adults.
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