Haiti’s ex-President Aristide breaks silence



Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said if Haiti’s upcoming local and senatorial elections are free, fair and transparent, there “is a good chance” that his Fanmi Lavalas Political Party would win a good portion of the seats.

“Fanmi Lavalas is evolving, is becoming stronger and more powerful,” Aristide said. “I am not doing propaganda for Fanmi Lavalas. We are speaking the truth and for me, this is the truth.”

Aristide made the revelation in a press conference Thursday at his home in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Tabarre, where he thanked the Haitian people for transforming an “ordinary day into an extraordinary day,” and called for unity among Haitians to help the country get out of its ongoing hunger crisis. The political jab came in the midst of his reflection on the problem of hunger, which he called “one of the biggest problems we have in the country of Haiti today.”

“One person alone cannot solve the hunger problem. One political party alone cannot solve the hunger problem. One group in society cannot solve the hunger problem,” he said. “We have an indispensable coming together to do in order for us to diminish hunger in our country.”

It was Aristide’s first public statements since his surprise return to Haiti two years ago after seven years in exile in South Africa. He did not allow questions or cameras, saying the light hurts his eyes, which have undergone several surgeries. His statements, in which he also addressed his silence, came a day after thousands of Haitians took to the streets to pay homage to him. He made a rare public appearance Wednesday to answer a judge’s summons at Port-au-Prince’s main courthouse in the ongoing murder investigation of former political ally, agronomist-turned-famed journalist Jean Leópold Dominique.

Aristide’s statements, broadcast over several Haitian radio stations, also came as the Haitian government prepares to host senior level representatives of the international community in Port-au-Prince on Friday to discuss how to better coordinate aid to Haiti. The new body, launched by Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe last fall, will be Haitian-led and replaces the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission that was partially led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Three years after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, billions of promised aid dollars remain outstanding as donors express their displeasure with the Haitian government’s administering of more than $400 million in no-bid contracts, and lack of transparency. Government officials hope to win back donors’ confidence as they lay out their priorities for the next three years and discuss the ongoing needs.

A drought and two storms last year, along with rising food prices, have plunged Haitians deeper into misery in recent months. To help Haitians cope, agencies such as the U.N. World Food Program are using their emergency stocks of food to feed the population.

Aristide said while he has stayed out of the public limelight, he sees what’s happening in the country “with my heart’s eye.” It is time, he said, for Haitians to come together.

“Haitians don’t like to say they are hungry because we are proud,” he said.

Aristide, known for speaking in parables, was clear, concise and even apologetic, telling uninvited journalists he will schedule a future press conference with them. He said he had been silent the last two years out of personal choice, and has spent his time working with his medical university that trains doctors and nurses. His re-emergence has sparked speculation in recent days that he may be re-entering Haitian politics.

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