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
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
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
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
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
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
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
We've heard a lot about the pressure brought to
bear on South African President Zuma. What do you
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.
EXCLUSIVE: Aboard Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Airplane as
Ex-Haitian President Returns From 7 Years In Exile
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