Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide left South Africa for Haiti shortly after 5 p.m. EST on Thursday despite protest from the Obama administration over his return. Hours before Aristide’s flight took off, the White House issued its strongest statement against his impending return, saying it has “deep concerns’’ his return could be destabilizing.
Before leaving aboard a chartered jet, Aristide thank South Africa for its hospitality in a speech delivered in several languages — none of them English — and declared in Zulu “the great day has arrived.’’ Traveling with him is his wife, Mildred Aristide and the couple’s two-daughters Michaela, 12, and Christine, 14. They were expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince around noon Friday, his Miami-based lawyer Ira Kurzban said in a statement.
“We are delighted to return home after seven years. In Haiti, also they are very happy,’’ Aristide said in the speech, according to The Associated Press. “Their dream will be fulfilled. Together, we will continue to share this endless love.’’
While supporters in Haiti, Miami and elsewhere were planning demonstrations to welcome him home, not everyone is happy about his return, which comes two days before historic elections involving two opponents vying to replace his one-time protégé, President René Préval.
Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesman, said the U.S. “along with others in the international community, has deep concerns that President Aristide’s return to Haiti in the closing days of the election could be destabilizing.’’
Vietor said President Barack Obama reiterated that position in a recent telephone call with South African President Jacob Zuma that addressed a range of global challenges, along with his belief that the Haitian people deserve the chance to choose their government through peaceful, free and fair elections scheduled for Sunday.
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