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Aristide gets hero’s welcome in Haiti

posted 19 Mar 2011, 13:35 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 19 Mar 2011, 13:39 ]
Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide makes a triumphant homecoming to Haiti after seven years of exile, returning despite U.S. objections two days before a crucial presidential vote.

HAITI-ARISTIDE RETURNS - After seven years in exile, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is treated to a hero's welcome upon his return to the Caribbean nation.

Still widely revered in impoverished Haiti for his left-wing populism, Aristide arrives amid U.S. concerns he could disrupt Sunday's crucial presidential vote.

Hundreds  of supporters turned out to greet the former leader in the capital Port-Au-Prince on Friday.

They climbed trees, packed the front yard and screamed: "Long live Aristide."

"Today is the biggest day of our lives because Aristide, our brother, our friend, is with us."

Aristide, a charismatic former priest, was ousted from power in 2004 by an armed rebellion, having been elected in 2000.

This marked the second time the 57-year-old had been forced out of power after he was overthrown by the military just months into his rule in 1991.

He returns as Haitians prepare for the second-round of voting in presidential elections.

The United States had urged Aristide to delay his return and said his presence could destabilize a country still struggling to recover from a massive earthquake last year.

On Friday, supporters denied the claims.

"I hope this election is not cancelled by fighting, people setting things on fire, with people saying it's because of Aristide's arrival in the country. Aristide does not say yes or no for the election. He doesn't want exclusion. He wants inclusion."

In his first comments, Aristide mostly avoided overtly political issues and said his party was barred from fielding a candidate in the upcoming vote.

Andrew Raven, Reuters