March 2011, Week 3


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Fri, 18 Mar 2011 23:42:30 -0400
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1 Aristide on the Way Home
2 Haitians Celebrate Ex-President's Homecoming


Aristide on the Way Home: Presidential Candidate
Threatens to Kill Him and Perform Necro-Sodomy

Greg Grandin
March 18, 2011  

Rejecting a direct personal appeal from Barack Obama,
South Africa has allowed exiled Haitian president Jean-
Bertrand Aristide's plane to take off. Obama told South
African President Jacob Zuma that he had "deep
concerns" that Aristide's return to Haiti will disrupt
the country's presidential runoff, scheduled to take
place this Sunday. But his plane took off yesterday
and, after a stop in Dakar to refuel, is expected to
arrive in Port-au-Prince later today, just a few hours
before Obama will leave DC for Brazil. Amy Goodman at
Democracy Now! will have on-the-spot coverage.

Meanwhile, in Haiti, a video has surfaced that shows
one of the two neo-Duvalierist frontrunners, Michel
"Sweet Micky" Martelly, threatening a bar patron: "All
those shits were Aristide's faggots," he says. "I would
kill Aristide to stick a dick up your ass." It
shouldn't be taken as an idle threat. As Kim Ives
points out, Martelly is close to Colonel Michel
Fran├žois, a mass murderer and one of the plotters of
Aristide's 1991 overthrow.

So, what does Aristide's return mean in relation to
Obama's Latin American bid?

The mainstream media is heavily spinning Obama's trip
to Brazil as a rapprochement between Washington and
Brasilia. Exhibiting a myopia typical of US reporters
who can't seem to shift the focus, when it comes to
locating the sources of diplomatic obstruction, back to
the US, the New York Times's Alexei Barrionuevo today
placed blame for the bad blood squarely on Brazil:
"After a year of strain between Brazil and the United
States-mostly because of Mr. da Silva's efforts to wade
into the contentious standoff between the West and Iran
over its nuclear program by seeking to avoid further
sanctions when the United States was pushing for them."

Needless to say, there's no worse sin than the
presumption that someone not from the "West"-a former
metal worker and trade unionist no less-have a say in
how the "West" wages its conflicts. Expectedly,
Barrionuevo ignores the problems within the United
States, which I touched on here, that prevent movement
on issues from tariffs to climate change, Palestine to

But so far, the heralded "mending of fences" isn't
panning out in any substantive sense.

Yesterday, Brazil, as a non-permanent member of the US
Security Council, ignored heavy lobbying by Washington
and abstained from the vote authorizing the bombing of
Libya. Dilma's ambassador to the UN, Maria Luiza
Riberio Viotti, must not have gotten the memo that
Brazil would be cooperating more closely with
Washington. Yesterday, she warned that military action
would "exacerbate tensions on the ground and cause more
harm than good to the same civilians we are committed
to protect." And, judging from Aristide's impending
return, Brazil likewise rebuffed US requests to
pressure South Africa not to let Aristide head home.
Zero for two, and Air Force One hasn't yet left the
tarmac for Brazil.

Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and
is a member of the American Academy of Arts and


Haitians Celebrate Ex-President's Homecoming

Aristide arrives in Port-au-Prince on charter plane
with family, ending seven years in exile in South

Last Modified: 18 Mar 2011 15:16

Haiti's former president has arrived back home from
South Africa, ending seven years in exile.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide waved aside US concerns that his
homecoming might disrupt Haiti's presidential runoff
scheduled for Sunday, flying to Port-au-Prince, the
capital, in a charter plane with his family.

The plane touched down at Port-au-Prince airport at
9:10am (1410GMT) on Friday.

A small crowd of journalists, dignitaries, airport
workers and former members of his security team mobbed
Aristide as soon as he descended the steps of the small

He waved and blew a kiss to the crowd, but made no
statement before entering a VIP lounge inside the
airport terminal. His wife, Mildred, wept.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the airport waving
flags and photos of Aristide, known affectionately by
many Haitians as "Titide".

Aristide, 57, who says Washington helped engineer his
ouster in 2004, insists he will not be involved in

He wants, he says, to lead his foundation's efforts to
improve education in the impoverished Caribbean nation
devastated by last year's catastrophic earthquake.

Al Jazeera's Sebastian Walker, reporting from Port-au-
Prince, said the arrival of Aristide is "an incredibly
significant development in a very sensitive electoral

"Aristide has a huge influence ... and whatever he says
about the elections; whether people should turn up and
go and vote is going to be significant," he said.

Aristide's ousting

Aristide became Haiti's first freely elected president
in 1991, but was overthrown after seven months. Re-
elected in 2000, his second term saw economic
instability and violence which culminated in protests
leading to his ouster in 2004.

Before Aristide headed home, Barack Obama, the US
president, called his South African counterpart, Jacob
Zuma, to stress the importance of the former president
not returning before the poll.

But South Africa said it could not stop Aristide from
going back to his country.

"What I should stress is that we are not sending former
president Aristide to Haiti," said Collins Chabane, the
cabinet minister.

"He was given the passport by the government of Haiti
and we can't hold him hostage if he wants to go,"
Chabane was quoted as telling a news conference.

Sunday's vote pits Mirlande Manigat, a law professor,
against entertainer and music star Michel Martelly in a
clash of contrasts that has jazzed up the first second-
round runoff in the history of Haiti's presidential

Haiti held elections last November but they were marred
by fraud and ended with no clear winner. One of the
three main contenders, who finished third, said he was
rigged out of a second run-off place.


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