Thursday, February 17, 2011
'Beautiful party' awaits Aristide
Former president plans to return before Haiti's second-round election
By CLARENS RENOIS, AFPFebruary 16, 2011
Supporters beat drums in the slums while workers spruced up his private villa as Haitians prepared yesterday for the possible return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide with feverish anticipation.
"Some people are cleaning the streets, others are getting the residence ready, and we are making preparations for a beautiful party," diehard follower Rene Civil told AFP.
"There is a real feeling of expectation among the people," Civil said, desperate to see his beloved "Titid" -or little Aristide -walk once again on Haitian soil.
Haiti has cleared the way for Aristide's return from exile in South Africa by issuing him with a new passport despite warnings from the United States that the move would only add to the quake-hit nation's political turmoil.
Aristide's lawyer said yesterday that the former president will return to Port-au-Prince before the second round of presidential elections on March 20.
"Yes, I believe it will happen before the election," lawyer Ira Kurzban told AFP.
The once firebrand man of the cloth, who rode his reputation as a champion of the poor to become Haiti's first democratically elected president, fled in 2004 aboard a U.S. plane, accused of massive corruption and rights abuses.
In his checkered political career, he served as president on three occasions, and was ousted from office twice, in a 1991 military coup and in a popular uprising in 2004.
As masonry workers repaired cracks in the walls of Aristide's once splendid villa, some residents dusted off their portraits of the diminutive, bespectacled former leader.
Door-to-door canvassing has been organized to recruit the biggest possible turnout whenever Aristide finally makes his return to Toussaint L'Ouverture airport.
Ancyto Felix, another tireless Aristide partisan, said there were plans to hold a massive rally in the Haitian capital on Friday.
Haiti, the poorest country in the region, is in dire circumstances following last year's earthquake, which killed more than 225,000 people.
Fervent Aristide supporters, who include many of the most desperate slum-dwellers, are convinced he is uniquely positioned lead the restoration of their battered country.
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