Exclusive Interview with Jean-Bertrand Aristide

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Democracy Now! Exclusive Interview with Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Plane Returning to Haiti. 1 of 3

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Democracy Now! Special Report -

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family were flown on Friday by the South African government back to their home in Haiti after seven years in exile. This is part one of a three-part interview.

Watch Part 2:


Just before their journey, President Obama called South African President Jacob Zuma to try to prevent the trip. But the South African Government said it would not bow to pressure, so the Aristides boarded the flight in Johannesburg on Thursday night.

Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman was the only reporter to join them on the journey. This is part one of our global broadcast exclusive conversation with Aristide as he flew over the Atlantic Ocean, approaching Haiti. "If we decide to go back when we had an army of 7,000 soldiers controlling 40 percent of the national product that would mean we are headed back to misery, instead of doing something to move from that misery to poverty with dignity," Aristide says.

For the video/audio podcast, transcript, to sign up for the daily news digest, and for Democracy Now!'s Haiti News Archive, visit http://www.democracynow.org/tags/haiti






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Jean Bertrand Aristide Returns to Haiti

By Beth – 03/23/2011 at 11:12 am

Accompanied by actor Danny Glover and Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide returned to his homeland, welcomed by throngs of excited Haitians who poured into the streets to greet him.

Aristide is returning as a citizen since his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the elections. In a speech just after he landed in Haiti, he addressed the people in many languages, and called for inclusion rather than exclusion:

“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.”

Aristide was the President of Haiti from 1991-1996, and from 2001-2004. Each of those terms was brought to an end by U.S. backed coup d’états, and he has been living in exile in South Africa for the last seven years.

Aristide was a vocal opponent of Francois “Papa Doc” and Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier during his time as a reverend in Haiti and was a champion for the disenfranchised and poor in Haiti. He founded an orphanage for urban children and also a medical school that was taken over by the U.S. military and turned into a military base in 2004 after the second coup. His accomplishments as President of Haiti included achievements in education and healthcare, and support for Aristide in Haiti has remained strong.

Speaking to Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised to see the response today?

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: No, no, no. No, I wasn’t surprised. It was amazing to see the way they continue to express their love, but it wasn’t a surprise.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it was something to see you burst through the door, from the embrace of I don’t know how many thousands of people.

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: And I understood them, because they suffer so much and for so long. Seeing that moment becoming a reality, it wasn’t only me getting through the door of the house; it was millions of people getting through someone. That’s why it couldn’t be easy. And I understood it. Powerful, powerful, as an experience, yeah.

The United States has been ambivalent about Aristide’s return, as Goodman stated, “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.”

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