Jean-Bertrand Aristide (born 15 July 1953) is a Haitian politician and former priest who served as Haiti's first democratically elected president.[1][2] He was appointed to a parish in Port-au-Prince in 1982 after completing his studies, and became a favorite of the pro-democracy movement protesting Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's regime and the military transition regime which followed. He won the 1991 general election on 16th December 1990, with 67% of the vote, and was was sworn as President of Haiti in on 7 February 1991[3]

On 29 September 1991, he was deposed by the Haitian army in the 1991 Haitian coup d'état. Aristide agreed with the US to not implement the reforms he had promised the Haitian people when elected. Sure enough, the coup regime collapsed in 1994 under US pressure and threat of force. This US backing of Aristide was called Operation Uphold Democracy, and it reinstated Aristide. It makes him sound like the bad guy, but do not be fooled; the story is not over yet. Aristide had probably planned all along to beat the US at their own game, although it is possible that he merely remembered why he had been elected after his return. In any case, he double-crossed the US and went ahead with the promised reforms. It is about time, too, one might say, that someone stood up to the US. However, US foreign policy bullying counts on two things: people being greedy, and people not necessarily being heroes. In the latter case of threats against officials, even for heroes who do not fear for their own lives, there is the additional danger of responsibility for possibly endangering their people. Aristide prevailed against all of these threats, and was again President from 1994 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2004.

The US was not amused, and in Aristide was again ousted in the February 2004 rebellion, in which former soldiers participated.[4] He said the US had orchestrated a coup d'état against him, and received support from, among others, several members of the US Congress and Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson.[5] Aristide was forced into exile, being flown directly out of Haiti to the Central African Republic,[5] eventually settling in South Africa.

Aristide has attempted to return to office many times over the years.[6] The US continues to block his return, renewing its commitment to preventing him from taking office in Haiti even as Baby Doc Duvalier returned to Haiti in the wake of the chaos of 2010's earthquake and cholera epidemic.[7] His party, the Fanmi Lavalas movement, (WP), has been forbidden by the provisional election council created by the incumbent president, Rene Praval, to participate in the 2010 elections.[8]


Early life and church careerEdit

Aristide was born into poverty in Port-Salut, Sud Department. His father died when Aristide was only three months old,[9] and his mother moved the family to Port-au-Prince, seeking a better life for her two children.[10] In 1958, Aristide started school with priests of the Salesian order.[11] He was educated at the College Notre Dame in Cap-Haïtien, graduating with honors in 1974. He then took a course of novitiate studies in La Vega, Dominican Republic before returning to Haiti to study philosophy at the Grand Seminaire Notre Dame and psychology at the State University of Haiti. After completing his post-graduate studies in 1979, Aristide traveled in Europe, studying in Italy, Greece[12] and Israel. He returned to Haiti in 1982 for his ordination as a Salesian priest.[13] He was appointed curate of a small parish in Port-au-Prince.

Throughout the first three decades of Aristide's life, Haiti was ruled by the repressive dictatorships of François "Papa Doc" and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. The misery endured by Haiti's poor made a deep impression on Aristide,[10] and he became an outspoken critic of Duvalierism.[14] Nor did he spare the hierarchy of the country's church, since a 1966 Vatican Concordat granted Duvalier the power to appoint Haiti's bishops.[15]

Aristide was an exponent of liberation theology, a religious interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to a liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions,[16] an online religious information source</ref> Aristide denounced Duvalier's regime in one of his earliest sermons. Liberation theology is of course disparaged by the ruling Ivy League 'elite', of the sort that preach democracy and yet call governments they do not like, that are supported by a majority of the people, "populist". They would prefer that both Jesus and Marx having come to the same conclusions be a black mark on Marxism at least, if not Jesus as well, rather than bolstering the two; Marxism has been blackened sufficiently, they feel (and with some justification), that it is enough to criticize liberation theology as being "Christianized Marxism".

Aristide's criticisms did not go unnoticed by the regime's top echelons. Under pressure, the provincial delegate of the Salesian Order sent Aristide into three years of exile in Montréal.[13] By 1985, as popular opposition to Duvalier's regime grew, Aristide was back preaching in Haiti. His Easter Week sermon, "A Call to Holiness," delivered at the cathedral of Port-au-Prince and later broadcast throughout Haiti, proclaimed, "The path of those Haitians who reject the regime is the path of righteousness and love." [17]

Aristide became a leading figure in the ""ti legliz movement"" - Kreyòl for "little church." [18] In September 1985, he was appointed to St. Jean Bosco church, in a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. Struck by the absence of young people in the church, Aristide began to organize youth, sponsoring weekly youth masses.[19] He founded an orphanage for urban street children in 1986 called Lafanmi Selavi [Family is Life].[20] Its program sought to be a model of participatory democracy for the children it served.[21] As Aristide became a leading voice for the aspirations of Haiti's dispossessed, he inevitably became a target for attack.[22] He survived at least four assassination attempts.[11] [23] The most widely publicized attempt, the St Jean Bosco massacre, occurred on 11 September 1988,[24] when over one hundred armed Tonton Macoute wearing red armbands forced their way into St. Jean Bosco as Aristide began Sunday mass.[25] As Army troops and police stood by, the men fired machine guns at the congregation and attacked fleeing parishioners with machetes. Aristide's church was burned to the ground. Thirteen people are reported to have been killed, and 77 wounded. Aristide survived and went into hiding.[20]

Subsequently, Salesian officials ordered Aristide to leave Haiti, but tens of thousands of Haitians protested, blocking his access to the airport.[26] In December, 1988, Aristide was expelled from his Salesian order.[27] A statement prepared in Rome called the priest's political activities an "incitement to hatred and violence," out of line with his role as a clergyman.[28] Aristide appealed the decision, saying "The crime of which I stand accused is the crime of preaching food for all men and women." [29] In a January 1988 interview he said "The solution is revolution, first in the spirit of the gospel; Jesus could not accept people going hungry. It is a conflict between classes, rich and poor. My role is to preach and organize...." [9] In 1994 Aristide left the priesthood, ending years of tension with the church over his criticism of its hierarchy and his espousal of liberation theology.[30] He married Mildred Trouillot, a US citizen, the following year. They have two daughters.[31]

First presidency (1991 - 1996)Edit


Following the violence at the aborted national elections of 1987, the 1990 elections were approached with caution. Aristide announced his candidacy for the presidency and following a six-week campaign, during which he dubbed his followers the "Front National pour le Changement et la Démocratie" (National Front for Change and Democracy), or "FNCD", the "little priest" was elected President in 1990 with 67% of the vote. He was Haiti's first democratically elected president. However, just eight months into his Presidency he was overthrown by a bloody military coup. He broke from FNCD and created the OPL (Organisation Politique "Lavalas") - "the flood" or "torrent" in Kréyòl.

A coup attempt against Aristide had taken place on 6 January, even before his inauguration, when Roger Lafontant, a Tonton Macoute leader under Duvalier, seized the provisional President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot and declared himself President. After large numbers of Aristide supporters filled the streets in protest and Lafontant attempted to declare martial law, the Army crushed the incipient coup.[32]

During Aristide's short-lived first period in office, he attempted to carry out substantial reforms, which brought passionate opposition from Haiti's business and military elite.[33] He sought to bring the military under civilian control, retiring the Commander in Chief of the Army Hérard Abraham, initiated investigations of human rights violations, and brought to trial several Tontons Macoute who had not fled the country.[33] He also banned the emigration of many well known Haitians until their bank accounts had been examined.[33] His relationship with the National Assembly soon deteriorated, and he attempted repeatedly to bypass it on judicial, Cabinet and ambassadorial appointments.[33] His nomination of his close friend and political ally, René Préval, as Prime Minister, provoked severe criticism from political opponents overlooked, and the National Assembly threatened a no-confidence vote against Préval in August 1991. This led to a crowd of at least 2000 at the National Palace, which threatened violence.[33]

1991 coup d'étatEdit

In September 1991 the army performed a coup against him (1991 Haitian coup d'état), led by Army General Raoul Cédras, who had been promoted by Aristide in June to Commander in Chief of the Army. Aristide was deposed on September 29, 1991, and after several days sent into exile, his life only saved by the intervention of US, French and Venezuelan diplomats.[34] In accordance with the requirements of Article 149 of the Haitian Constitution, Superior Court Justice Joseph Nérette was installed as Président Provisoire to serve until elections were held within 90 days of Aristide's resignation. However, real power was held by army commander Raoul Cédras.[35] The elections were scheduled, but were canceled under pressure from the United States Government. Aristide and other sources claim that both the coup and the election cancellation were the result of pressure from the American government.[36][37][38] High ranking members of the Haitian National Intelligence Service (S.I.N.), which had been set up and financed in the 80's by the Central Intelligence Agency as part of the war on drugs, were involved in the coup, and were reportedly still receiving funding and training from the C.I.A. for intelligence-gathering activities at the time of the coup, but this funding reportedly ended after the coup.[39] The New York Times said that "No evidence suggests that the C.I.A backed the coup or intentionally undermined President Aristide."[39] However, press reports about possible C.I.A. involvement in Haitian politics before the coup sparked Congressional hearings in the United States.[40]

A campaign of terror against Aristide supporters was started by Emmanuel Constant after Aristide was forced out. In 1993, Constant, who had been on the C.I.A.'s payroll as an informant since 1992, organized the FRAPH, which targeted and killed Aristide supporters.[41][42][43]

Aristide spent his exile first in Venezuela and then in the United States, working to develop international support. A United Nations trade embargo during Aristide's exile, intended to force the coup leaders to step down, was a strong blow to Haiti's already weak economy.[44] President George H.W. Bush granted an exemption from the embargo to many US companies doing business in Haiti, and President Bill Clinton extended this exemption.[45][46]

1994 returnEdit

Under US and international pressure (including United Nations Security Council Resolution 940 on 31 July 1994), the military regime backed down and US troops were deployed in the country by President Bill Clinton. On October 15, 1994, Aristide returned to Haiti to complete his term in office.[47] Aristide disbanded the Haitian army, and established a civilian police force. The noted speaker, academic, and historian Noam Chomsky is highly critical of what he calls hidden American imperialist actions in Haiti; "When Clinton restored Aristide-Clinton of course supported the military junta, another little hidden story...he strongly supported it in fact. He even allowed the Texaco Oil Company to send oil to the junta in violation of presidential directives; Bush Sr. did so as well-well, he finally allowed the president to return, but on condition that he accept the programs of Marc Bazin, the US candidate that he had defeated in the 1990 election. And that meant a harsh neoliberal program, no import barriers. That means that Haiti has to import rice and other agricultural commodities from the US from US agribusiness, which is getting a huge part of its profits from state subsidies. So you get highly subsidized US agribusiness pouring commodities into Haiti; I mean, Haitian rice farmers are efficient but nobody can compete with that, so that accelerated the flight into the cities." [48]

Aristide's first term ended in February 1996, and the constitution did not allow him to serve consecutive terms. There was some dispute over whether Aristide, prior to new elections, should serve the three years he had lost in exile, or whether his term in office should instead be counted strictly according to the date of his inauguration; it was decided that the latter should be the case. René Préval, a prominent ally of Aristide and Prime Minister in 1991 under Aristide, ran during the 1995 presidential election and took 88% of the vote. There was about 25% participation in these elections.[49]

Opposition (1996 - 2001)Edit

In late 1996, Aristide broke from the OPL over what he called its "distance from the people"[36] and created a new political party, the Fanmi Lavalas. The OPL, holding the majority in the Sénat and the Chambre des Députés, renamed itself the Organisation du Peuple en Lutte, maintaining the OPL acronym.

The Fanmi Lavalas won the 2000 legislative election in May, but a number of Senate seats which should have had second-round runoffs were allocated to Lavalas candidates which, while leading, had not achieved a first-round majority of all votes cast. Fanmi Lavalas controlled the Provisional Election Commission which made the decision.[50] Aristide then was elected later that year in the Haitian presidential election, 2000, an election boycotted by most opposition political parties, now organised into the Convergence Démocratique. Although the US government claimed that the election turnout was hardly over 10 percent, international observers saw turnout of around 50 percent, and at the time, CNN Election Watch reported a turnout of 60% with over 92% voting for Aristide.[51] Only later did allegations surface mentioning the above figure of a 10% voter turnout.[52]

Second presidency (2001 - 2004)Edit

Aristide called for France, the former colonizer of the country, to pay $21 billion[53] in restitution to Haiti for the 90 million gold francs extorted from Haiti by France over the period from 1825 to 1947. These payments were in recompense for lost French ownership of Haitian slaves and other property on Haitian independence.[54]

2004 destabilization and coupEdit

See 2004 Haitian rebellion

In February 2004, the assassination of Amiot Metayer sparked a violent rebellion that culminated in Aristide's removal from office. Amiot's brother, Buteur Metayer, blamed Aristide for the assassination, and used this as an argument given in order to form the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti.[55] Joined by other groups [56] the rebels quickly took control of the North, and eventually laid siege to, and then invaded, the capital. Under disputed circumstances, Aristide was flown out of the country by the US on February 28, 2004.[57]

Earlier in February, Aristide's lawyer had claimed that the US was arming anti-Aristide troops.[58] Aristide later stated that France and the US had a role in what he termed "a kidnapping" that took him from Haiti to South Africa via the Central African Republic.[59] However, authorities said his temporary asylum there had been negotiated by the United States, France and Gabon.[60] On March 1, 2004, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), along with Aristide family friend Randall Robinson, reported Aristide had told them that he had been forced to resign and had been abducted from the country by the United States and that he had been held hostage by an armed military guard.[61]

After Aristide was removed from Haiti, looters raided his villa.[62] Most barricades were lifted the day after Aristide left as the shooting had stopped; order was maintained by Haitian police, along with armed rebels and local vigilante groups.[63] Almost immediately after the Aristides were transported from Haiti, Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson, dispatched a Member of Parliament, Sharon Hay Webster, to the Central African Republic. The leadership of that country agreed that Aristide and his family could go to Jamaica. The Aristides were in the island for several months until the Jamaican government gained acceptance by the Republic of South Africa for the family to relocate there.

Aristide has accused the US of deposing him.[5][64] According to Rep. Maxine Waters D-California, Mildred Aristide called her at her home at 6:30 a.m. to inform her "the coup d'etat has been completed", and Jean-Bertrand Aristide said the US Embassy in Haiti's chief of staff came to his house to say he would be killed "and a lot of Haitians would be killed" if he refused to resign immediately and said he "has to go now."[5] Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York expressed similar words, saying Aristide had told him he was "disappointed that the international community had let him down" and "that he resigned under pressure" - "As a matter of fact, he was very apprehensive for his life. They made it clear that he had to go now or he would be killed."[5] When asked for his response to these statements Colin Powell said that "it might have been better for members of Congress who have heard these stories to ask us about the stories before going public with them so we don't make a difficult situation that much more difficult" and he alleged that Aristide "did not democratically govern or govern well".[5] CARICOM, an organization of Caribbean countries that included Haiti, called for a United Nations investigation into Aristide's removal, but were reportedly pressured by the US and France to drop their request. Some observers suggest the rebellion and removal of Aristide were covertly orchestrated by these two countries.[65][66] Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson released a statement saying "we are bound to question whether his resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to provide the requisite support. The removal of President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces."[5] In a 2006 interview, Aristide said the US went back on their word regarding compromises he made with them over privatization of enterprises to ensure that part of the profits would go to the Haitian people and then "relied on a disinformation campaign" to discredit him.[67]

Aristide has claimed the US was retaliating for his refusal to privatize Haitian government-owned infrastructure.[4][68][5]

Exile (2004 - )Edit

After being cast into exile, in mid-2004 Aristide, his family, and bodyguards were welcomed to South Africa by several cabinet ministers, 20 senior diplomats, and a guard of honour.[69][70] Receiving a salary from and provided staff by the South African government,[71] Aristide lives with his family in a government villa in Pretoria.[72] In South Africa, Aristide became an honorary research fellow at the University of South Africa, learned Zulu, and on April 25, 2007, received a doctorate in African Languages.[73]

Possible return to HaitiEdit

After René Préval, a former ally of Aristide, was elected president of Haiti, he said it would be possible for Aristide to return to Haiti.[74][75]

On December 21, 2007, a speech by Aristide marking the new year and Haiti's Independence Day was broadcast, the fourth such speech since his exile; in the speech he criticized the 2006 presidential election in which Préval was elected, describing it as a "selection," in which "the knife of treason was planted" in the back of the Haitian people.[76]

Since the election, some high ranking members of Lavalas have been targets for violence.[77][78] Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a leading human rights organizer in Haiti and a member of Lavalas, disappeared in August 2007.[79] His whereabouts remain unknown and a news article states,"Like many protesters, Wilson Mesilien, coordinator of the pro-Aristide September 30 Foundation wore a T-shirt demanding the return of foundation leader Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a human rights activist and critic of both UN and US involvement in Haiti."[80]

On December 16, 2009, several thousand protesters marched through Port-au-Prince calling for Aristide's return to Haiti, and protesting the exclusion of Aristide's populist Fanmi Lavalas party from upcoming elections.[81]

On January 12, 2010, Aristide sent his condolences to victims of the earthquake in Haiti just a few hours after it occurred, and stated that he wishes to return to help rebuild the country.[82][83]

On Nov 7, 2010, in an exclusive interview with independent reporter Nicolas Rossier in Eurasia Review and the Huffington Post, Aristide declared that the 2010 elections were not inclusive of his party fanmi Lavalas and therefore not fair and free. He also confirmed his wishes to go back to Haiti but that he was not allowed to travel out of South Africa.[6]

Forced into exile,[5] he has attempted to return, first to office, and then only as a citizen,[6] but the US continues to block his return, renewing its commitment to preventing him from taking office in Haiti even as Baby Doc Duvalier returned to Haiti in the wake of the chaos of 2010's earthquake and cholera epidemic.[7]


Template:Cquote One of the crowd 'celebrating' Duvalier's return told a reporter from The Telegraph that he had been paid $10 Haitian dollars to cheer.[84]

(In January 2011), "a group of U.S.-based human rights groups and legal organizations filed an emergency petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to halt the roundups, detention and deportations of Haitian nationals by the U.S. government." - Democracy Now![7] On the 20th of January, the U.S. government resumed deportations to Haiti.[7] Haitian refugees face a completely different standard than Cuban refugees for entry into the US, according to Human Rights Watch,[85] Other human rights groups criticized deporting people into a triad of disasters: a cholera outbreak, violence surrounding the election and earthquake devastation.[7]


Under Aristide's leadership, his party implemented many major reforms. These included greatly increasing access to health care and education for the general population; increasing adult literacy and protections for those accused of crimes; improving training for judges, prohibiting human trafficking, disbanding the Haitian military (which primarily had been used against the Haitian people), establishing improved human rights and political freedoms; doubling the minimum wage, instituting land reform and assistance to small farmers, providing boat construction training to fishermen, establishing a food distribution network to provide low cost food to the poor at below market prices, building low-cost housing, and attempting to reduce the level of government corruption.[86]


The following are retained for the sake of full disclosure, but none are accepted as undeniable fact by any non-partisan consensus. They would have been removed immediately if they had appeared in the biography of any US politician, as a measure of comparison.

Accusations of human rights abusesEdit

The OAS/UN International Civilian Mission in Haiti, known by the French acronym MICIVIH, found that the human rights situation in Haiti improved dramatically following Aristide's return to power in 1994.[87] Amnesty International reported that, after Aristide's departure in 2004, Haiti was "descending into a severe humanitarian and human rights crisis."[88]

Human Rights Watch, which routinely turns the other way when US-backed regimes do mischief (saying nothing about the US change in policy to block Haitian immigrants under Rene Praval's regime, for example), but are always johnny-on-the-spot when other governments misbehave, accused the Haitian police force under President Aristide and his political supporters of attacks on opposition rallies. In an almost pathetic black-is-white case of blaming the victim, they said that the emergence of armed rebel groups seeking to overthrow Aristide reflected "the failure of the country's democratic institutions and procedures".[89]

Videos surfaced showing a portion of a speech by Aristide on 27 August 1991. The audio track sounds like, "Don't hesitate to give him what he deserves. What a beautiful tool! What a beautiful instrument! What a beautiful piece of equipment! It's beautiful, yes it's beautiful, it's cute, it's pretty, it has a good smell, wherever you go you want to inhale it." [90] Critics allege that he was endorcing the practice of "necklacing" opposition activists - placing a gasoline-soaked tire around a person's neck and setting the tire ablaze [91] - However, just earlier in the speech, and edited from the videos, he is quoted as saying "Your tool in hand, your instrument in hand, your constitution in hand! Don't hesitate to give him what he deserves. Your equipment in hand, your trowel in hand, your pencil in hand, your Constitution in hand, don't hesitate to give him what he deserves." [92] There is some suspicion that Aristide's speech was edited to make it sound as if he were advocating "necklacing" when he was actually urging his supporters not to use violence but to use the constitution and voting instead.[93]

Fanmi Lavallas movement Edit

This section needs expanding

Wikipedia:Fanmi Lavalas

Accusations of corruptionEdit

Haitian investigators claimed to have discovered extensive embezzlement and money laundering by Aristide's administration in which millions of dollars of public funds were allegedly lost to sophisticated financial transactions.[94] Aristide has forcefully denied these accusations.[95] The Haitian government filed a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit in the US in Miami, Florida, in November 2005, alleging that Aristide and his associates took hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the long distance company IDT, and that IDT diverted into a secret offshore bank account controlled by Aristide payments that should have gone to the Haitian company Teleco. The lawsuit was suspended by the Haitian government on June 30, 2006.[96][97]

According to a report by Christopher Caldwell in the July 1994 American Spectator, Aristide stole Haiti's telecom revenues while in the United States. Caldwell claims that between 1991 and 1994 Aristide ordered the proceeds from Haiti's international phone traffic handled by the Latin American division of AT&T be moved to a numbered offshore bank account in Panama.[98]

Some officials have been indicted by a US court.[99] Companies that allegedly made deals with Aristide included IDT, Fusion Telecommunications, and Skytel; critics claim the two first companies had political links. AT&T reportedly declined to wire money to "Mont Salem".[100][101][102][103]


Aristide has published a number of books including an autobiography in 1993 and Nevrose vetero-testamentaire (1994) with excerpts of his masters and doctoral theses.

In 2000 Aristide published the book Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization that accused the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund of working on behalf of the world's wealthiest nations rather than in the interest of genuine international development. Aristide called for "a culture of global solidarity" to eliminate poverty as an alternative to the globalization represented by neocolonialism and neoliberalism.[104]

In 2005 the documentary Aristide and The Endless Revolution appeared. The film Nicolas Rossier investigates the events leading up to the 2004 coup against Aristide.[105]

'Liberation theology' Edit

Aristide is described by the mainstream as a proponent of Wikipedia:liberation theology,[4] from his times as a preacher. However, this appellation is a little like British in the time of George III saying American colonists were tax evaders. Those who practice this form of Christianity see Jesus' teachings against vast wealth and for equality as the obvious, inevitable, and natural form, and others as a strange exception.



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