Aristide wants to return to Haiti

Jan. 20, 2011 at 8:12 AM
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Just days after Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide says he's ready to return to his homeland as well.

Aristide's former foreign press liaison said the two-time head-of-state wrote a letter from South Africa, copies of which were e-mailed to undisclosed recipients and circulated on the Internet, The Miami Herald reported Thursday.

"The purpose is very clear," Aristide's letter dated Wednesday read. "To contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education."

Aristide, who fought the Duvalier regime in the mid-1980s, could not be reached for comment in South Africa where he has been living in exile since 2004, the Herald said. He was democratically elected president in 1990, but a military junta ousted him seven months into his term. Three years later, a U.S. invasion restored him to power. Aristide, 57, has been a research fellow at the University of South Africa in Pretoria.

Aristide's apparent desire to return to Haiti comes after Duvalier made a surprise visit to his native country.

Aristide's lawyer in the United States said the former president doesn't have a passport, and the U.S. and South African governments were preventing him from leaving Pretoria, CNN reported.

"If he were free to leave and had passport, he'd be on a plane tomorrow," said Ira Kurzban.

"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 P.J. 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."

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