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March 2011, Week 3

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Sat, 19 Mar 2011 14:50:12 -0400
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Defying U.S., Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide Returns Home

    In defiance of the Obama administration, former
    Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is
    headed back to Haiti today for the first time
    since being ousted in a 2004 U.S.-backed coup.
    Hours ago, Aristide, his family, and a
    delegation of supporters boarded a plane in
    South Africa bound for Port-au-Prince.
    Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman is with the
    Aristides to document their journey home. She
    filed this report. [includes rush transcript]

Amy Goodman, reporting from South Africa Democracy Now!
March 18, 2011

Amy Goodman's latest reports from Haii on the Democracy
Now! Live Blog

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/18/defying_us_former_haitian_president_jean

(1)

JUAN GONZALEZ: In defiance of the Obama administration,
former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is
headed back to Haiti today for the first time since
being ousted in a 2004 U.S.-backed coup. On Thursday,
Aristide boarded a plane in South Africa bound for
Port-au-Prince. Joining him on the flight is his wife,
Mildred Aristide, attorney Ira Kurzban and actor Danny
Glover. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman is also on
board. Before leaving, she filed this report from
Johannesburg.

    AMY GOODMAN: It's been a long day in Johannesburg,
    South Africa, touch and go at the beginning. Would
    the Aristides be returning home to Haiti, ending
    their seven-year exile here in South Africa?
    President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former First
    Lady Mildred Aristide and their two daughters are
    making their way back to Port-au-Prince, back to
    their home, back to where President Jean-Bertrand
    Aristide was president twice, and in both cases he
    was thrown out in a U.S.-backed coup, the first
    time in 1991, for three years, and then again in
    2004.

    As the word came down that it looked like this
    would be the day, everyone scrambled to get their
    equipment and their suitcases from the hotel, the
    delegation. And as we walked outside, I asked Danny
    Glover about his thoughts.

    DANNY GLOVER: I always feel that everything we do
    in life prepares us for the moment that we're in.
    And certainly, if I think back to all of us who had
    positioned theirselves in the struggle against
    apartheid and all those who have positioned
    themselves to working on behalf of Haitian
    refugees, to working on behalf of the restoration
    of democracy in Haiti and the return of Aristide
    the first time, and all of those who wish so much
    for the Haitian people, his return means so much to
    them. And I think that's what I'm feeling.

    I remember sitting in my car on February 29th,
    2004, and hearing about the news of what had
    happened with his-the coup that took him from his
    country, and crying at the moment, sitting in my
    car outside of my office and crying. And I'll never
    forget that moment, as I will never forget the
    moment that he is also returned to his beloved
    country.

    AMY GOODMAN: The delegation then piled into a car
    and made their way across Johannesburg to an
    undisclosed location, where we were told there
    would be a private meeting with the Aristides. When
    we got there, President and Mildred Aristide and
    then their two children-Michaelle, 12, and
    Christine, 14-came into the room and greeted
    everyone.

    JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Hello, Amy.

    AMY GOODMAN: Hello.

    JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: How are you?

    AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide was not making any
    formal statements at the time. He didn't want us to
    have our video camera running, except when he sat
    down with Danny Glover and remembered the last time
    he was on a plane with the actor.

    JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: One day I was in a plane, a
    long time ago. It was in the U.S. And suddenly,
    someone emerged: a tall man, a great actor. And
    when I realized it was Danny, you can imagine the
    joy, the happiness. So, we embraced each other. And
    then he changed his plane. Together, we went to a
    meeting with the Haitian community.

    AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide has been in exile
    for seven years. They clearly were extremely
    excited, somewhat nervous. President Aristide was
    reserved, quiet, thinking about what he is going to
    say, when he lands tomorrow in Haiti, to the
    Haitian people.

    We pulled into Lanseria Airport on Thursday evening
    around 7:00, 8:00. A scrum of reporters were
    waiting. Once inside, I asked Ira Kurzban, the
    attorney for the Aristides, about the pressure
    that's been brought to bear on the South African
    government not to return the Aristides back to
    Haiti.

    We've heard a lot about the pressure brought to
    bear on South African President Zuma. What do you
    know?

    IRA KURZBAN: Well, we know that the State
    Department has issued several statements, of
    course, asking the South African government not to
    allow President Aristide to come back before the
    election. We know that President Obama directly
    called President Zuma, asking him again not to
    allow President Aristide out of the country. And we
    know that there's been a sustained campaign over
    seven years to keep President Aristide here.
    Through documents that were leaked through
    WikiLeaks, we know that the United States
    government has really, in a very systematic way,
    tried to keep Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as they
    originally said, halfway around the world.

    AMY GOODMAN: after a few hours of waiting at the
    airport, the press statements were read from the
    South African government and from the former
    president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

    SOUTH AFRICAN SPOKESPERSON: We've just had a very
    brief-a goodbye interaction between President
    Aristide, his family and President Zuma, who, on
    behalf of the government, with people of South
    Africa, had wished President Aristide a bon voyage
    and safe landing.

    JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: [translated] One part feels
    very sad to leave our beloved friends, but on the
    other hand, our soul is resting because we are
    going back home after a period of seven years.
    Also, there in Haiti, they are very happy, and they
    are waiting for us. They wanted us to return home
    much faster. This has been their dream and wish,
    and this will soon come true.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Aristides are about to get on the
    plane, but I'm supposed to go first. This promises
    to be a long night's journey into a new day.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That was Amy Goodman reporting from
Johannesburg, South Africa.

(2)

EXCLUSIVE: Aboard Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Airplane as
Ex-Haitian President Returns From 7 Years In Exile

Video:

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/18/exclusive_aboard_jean_bertrand_aristides_airplane

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