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Who Benefits from Aristide’s Return to Haiti?

By Daniel Simidor

Submitted to AlterPresse on February 23, 2006

Aristide’s decision to return to play the Nelson Mandela of Haitian politics, even before Preval’s inauguration, is very destabilizing. Even in a country with such strong and stable institutions, Mr. Mandela’s status as paramount chief of South African politics places him above Mbeki - sort of the relationship between the CEO (Mbeki) and the Chairman of the Board (Mandela) in many corporations. Fortunately for South Africa, the real Mandela has retired for good and gone back to private life.

Aristide on the other hand is actively undermining Preval’s authority, trying to usurp his popular mandate even while claiming to respect him as president. "The Haitian people saw the vote as a non-violent way to have me back," Aristide proclaims from his exile in South Africa. "It was a vote for me, of course. The people said it clearly, people voted the way they did because they want me back."

Let’s face it, Aristide means trouble. If his sole intention were "to continue to invest in education," he would have waited at the very least after the investiture of the new government to make his announcement. With this move, Aristide clearly intends to back Preval into a power-sharing situation where he will keep the upper hand. The agenda is no longer what Preval could or couldn’t do for Haiti, but how much power Aristide and his followers will be able to wrestle for themselves.

Sadly, with the new elections and with Preval as the new president, Haiti finally had a chance to begin addressing the pressing issues of social justice and social peace at the heart of the current crisis. Different social strata were beginning to move, however grudgingly, toward political consensus, or at least toward some truce. A new spring would soon blossom for the "first Black Republic...the poorest country in the Americas," as the French Le Monde puts it.

But Aristide had no intention of Haiti going anywhere without him. And yet the man who threatened in his New Year message not to allow "them" to replace his "guts" with their "straw," is little more than a puppet in this macabre game where no one in Haiti, not even Aristide himself, is likely to be a winner.

The big question then is who is pulling the strings? Those who don’t want Preval’s victory to go to his head? Those who don’t want him to feel too independent, to show too much initiative? In other words, those who would allow Preval to be Haiti’s new president only if he can be made to toe the line, if his government is divided and weak, dependent on the so-called international community for its survival?

The best way to keep those crazy dreams of sovereignty and human development from messing with the program for Haiti, as outlined in the Interim Cooperation Framework (CCI) and other important documents and UN resolutions, is to keep Haitians at each other’s throats. Aristide’s return at this juncture accomplishes just that.

Daniel Simidor
Brooklyn, 2/23/06