In what may be his first public statement since one-time nemesis Jean-Claude Duvalier showed up in Haiti, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said he is "ready'' to return to his troubled homeland.
Aristide, a two-time head-of-state, wrote a letter from South Africa, according to his former foreign press liaison, Michelle Karshan. Copies were e-mailed to a list of undisclosed recipients and it is now circulating on the Internet.
Karshan said Wednesday she received the letter ``directly'' from Aristide and his spokeswoman Maryse Narcisse.
If Aristide were to return, it would be come at a politically fragile time in Haiti, compounded only by Duvalier's presence in the country. One year after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, Haiti is wrestling with sluggish reconstruction, an electoral crisis, and adeadly cholera outbreak.
``The purpose is very clear,'' according to Aristide's letter. ``To contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education,'' Aristide wrote in the letter dated Jan. 19. ``The return is indispensable, too, for medical reasons: It is strongly recommended that I not spend the coming winter in South Africa's because in 6 years I have undergone 6 eye surgeries.''
``We do not doubt President Aristide's desire to help the people of Haiti. But today Haiti needs to focus on its future, not its past,'' U.S. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said in a statement posted on Twitter. ``This is an important period for Haiti. What it needs is calm, not divisive actions that distract from the task of forming a new government.''
Aristide, a priest-turned-president who fought the Duvalier regime in the mid-1980s, could not be reached for comment in South Africa.
Seven months after he was democratically elected in 1990 for his first term, a military junta ousted him. Three years later, a U.S. invasion restored him to power.
He went into exile a second time in 2004 amid a violent rebellion; Aristide said he was ``kidnapped'' by the international community.
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