Haiti: Aristide to reenter politics as a ‘coach’

Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004) made a tentative reentry into politics with a press conference held on May 9 at his home in Tabarre, a well-to-do suburb northeast of Port-au-Prince. Aristide said his political party, the Lavalas Family (FL), “is evolving, is becoming stronger and more powerful,” and he appeared confident that it would be able to field candidates in parliamentary and local elections to be held before the end of the year; electoral authorities kept FL off the ballot in 2009 partial senatorial elections and in the 2010-2011 presidential and legislative elections. He predicted that the party would win seats, but not that it would dominate as it did during his 2001-2004 presidential term. “One person alone,” “one political party alone” or “one group in society” can’t solve the problem of hunger, Aristide said. “We have an indispensable coming together to do in order for us to diminish hunger in our country.”

Aristide spent seven years in de facto exile in South Africa after being driven from office in 2004. He suddenly returned on March 18, 2011 but made very few public appearances until May 8 this year, the day before his press conference, when he went to a downtown courtroom to testify to an investigative judge about the April 2000 murder of journalist Jean Léopold Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint, the guard at Dominique’s Haïti Inter radio station. The police banned demonstrations but took no action when thousands of Aristide’s supporters turned out to see the former president. (AlterPresse, Haiti, May 8, May 9; Miami Herald, May 9, from correspondent)

Apparently Aristide has been holding meetings in an effort to revive FL, which has been weakened by factional rivalries along with the denial of ballot status. On May 4 Haitian-American musician Richard Morse told the Associated Press wire service that he and his wife, the popular singer Lunise Exume Morse, had been meeting with Aristide to discuss the possibility of running Lunise Morse on the FL line for senator for West department, which includes Port-au-Prince. “He’s back, and he’s trying to get good people on his team,” Richard Morse said of Aristide, who is barred by the 1987 Constitution from seeking a third term. “He’s not a candidate,” Morse explained. “He’s a coach. He’s an adviser.”

Morse, who founded the mizik rasin band RAM and manages the well-known Hotel Oloffson in downtown Port-au-Prince, supported Aristide in the early 1990s but broke with him later. More recently Morse was an adviser to rightwing president Michel Martelly, his cousin, but he quit in January, charging that there was “outright corruption” in the Martelly administration. (AP, May 5, via Huffington Post)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 12.