After seven years in exile in South Africa, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is widely expected to soon arrive in Port-au-Prince, raising fears that turmoil looms in the run up to national presidential elections next month. According to reports, Mr. Aristide has received a diplomatic passport from the Haitian government, and officials in South Africa, where he now resides, have said they will facilitate his return back home.
The United States and others have warned that Aristide’s return to Haiti could be an “unfortunate distraction” for voters and have urged him to wait until after the second round of voting. But Mr. Aristide remains very popular among Haiti’s poorest communities, many of whom are jubilant at the prospect of his arrival.
Mr. Aristide became Haiti’s first democratically elected president in 1991, following the 29-year reign of the father-son Duvalier dictatorship. But he was also removed from power twice, most recently in 2004 when Aristide fled the country aboard a U.S. supplied aircraft. In the years since, supporters have organized periodic protests demanding his return, while critics have lobbed accusations that Mr. Aristide allowed drug-fueled corruption and violent attacks on opponents by armed militias.