EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Breaking News

World News

January 15, 2010

Aristide says he wants to return to Haiti

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A weeping former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, living in exile in Africa since he was ousted in a rebellion five years ago, said Friday he wants to return to his quake-devastated country and is prepared to leave immediately, but did not indicate any concrete plans to do so.

In a rare public appearance, Aristide told reporters at a hotel next to Johannesburg's airport that he and his family are ready to return to Haiti to help with the catastrophe. He said friends, whom he did not name, are willing to provide a plane to fly him to Haiti with medical supplies and other emergency equipment.

"As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity," said Aristide, his wife Mildred next to him, eyes downcast, twisting a handkerchief.

Aristide spoke in a hotel meeting room reserved by the South African foreign affairs ministry. A ministry official told reporters Aristide would make the statement and not answer questions, and the former president didn't. He wiped his tears with a white handkerchief as he left the hotel.

Aristide, a former slum preacher, was beloved by many of Haiti's majority poor but opposition to his rule grew during his second presidential term after he was accused of masterminding assaults on opponents, allowing drug-fueled corruption and breaking promises to help the poor. Still, during riots in Haiti in 2008 over soaring food prices there was a deafening clamor for Aristide's return, showing that he remains hugely popular.

If Aristide does return, political instability in an impoverished nation struggling to dig itself out from the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake could result. Aristide has previously hinted at returning, saying he merely wants to be a teacher. But his enduring popularity and ability to galvanize Haitians would likely propel him into the political spotlight.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
World News

NDN Video
Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Deadly Landslides in Japan Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Arrests Witnessed in Ferguson Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape Texas Gov. Perry: Indictment 'a Political Act' US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading Video Shows Ferguson Cop Months Before Shooting Heavy Rains Flood Arizona Roads US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah Raw: Police at Scene of St. Louis Shooting Police: 2 Calif. Boys Planned School Shooting NOLA Police Chief Retires Amid Violent Crimes
Photos of the Week