ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. lawyer for exiled former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide says he is preparing paperwork to enable his client to return home.
Aristide has been in exile since February 2004, and he and his family now live in South Africa, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported.
Supporters said his return would provide encouragement for the nation, which was hit by an earthquake nearly 13 months ago in which more than 200,000 people died.
Since the earthquake some 4,000 people have died from an outbreak of cholera.
"If he returns, people will have hope, they will have jobs," said Jean-Hubert Altidor, 30. "He will create jobs for the youth."
Altidor is unemployed and lives near Aristide's former home, where workers have been busy cutting the lawn and planting flowers in anticipation of his return.
Aristide's longtime lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said it isn't known when Aristide would return to Haiti because his client's passport has expired.
Former Haitian strongman Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti in January.
Critics said Aristide's return could further destabilize the poor nation and the Obama administration opposes his return to Haiti.
"I think we would be concerned that, if former President Aristide returns to Haiti before the election, it would prove to be an unfortunate distraction," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "The people of Haiti should be evaluating the two candidates that will participate in the runoff, and I think that should be their focus."
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