PORT-AU-PRINCE – In an environment of chaos and political turmoil, the government of Haiti said this week it would provide a passport to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has been living in exile in South Africa since being ousted in a 2004 coup, and would allow him to return to the country he once ruled.
A statement from Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien Aimé said that once a passport request from Aristide had been officially received, “it would be facilitated with haste.”
But the statement also said that neither the Interior Ministry nor the Foreign Affairs Ministry had received such a request.
“An expired passport is not an obstacle for a Haitian citizen [to return],” he said. However, Aristide would have to obtain permission from any country his plane might land in on his way to the impoverished Caribbean nation.
On Jan. 22, outgoing President René Préval paved the way for a possible Aristide return by declaring during a trip to the Dominican Republic that the Haitian Constitution prohibits exiling political leaders, echoing statements from Aristide days earlier.
Aristide has said he would like to return to Haiti to “help in the field of education,” as well as areas of health. He made the announcement just four days after the surprising and unannounced return to Haiti of the former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier after 25 years in exile in France (TT, Jan. 21).