Aristide, Jean-Bertrand (1953–)

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Aristide, Jean-Bertrand (1953–)

Jean-Bertrand Aristide (b. July 15, 1953) was president of Haiti in 1991, 1994–1996, and 2001–2004. A onetime Roman Catholic priest, Aristide took office on February 7, 1991, as the country's first democratically elected president since Haitian independence in 1803. Ordained in 1982 and a supporter of liberation theology, he was hailed as a savior by Haiti's poverty-stricken masses but viewed with suspicion by the Haitian elite. Overthrown by a military coup seven months after his inauguration, a Aristide was restored to the presidency in 1994 by a U.S.-led invasion and completed his five-year term in 1996. Constitutionally barred from a second consecutive term, he was succeeded by René Préval, his former prime minister and protégé. Aristide returned to win a second term in a controversial 2000 election, running against six unknown candidates in a vote boycotted by Haiti's organized opposition and by international monitors, except for a small group from Caribbean nations.

Commencing his second term in February 2001, Aristide became increasingly authoritarian, creating his own version—known as chimères—of the reviled Tonton Macoute of the twenty-nine-year Duvalier dictatorship ending in 1986. National alienation grew. His base was eventually reduced to pockets of support in the slum neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, the capital, and the peasant countryside. By late 2003 his position had become untenable against a fractured opposition of university students, the business community, and former members of the Haitian army, dissolved by Aristide in 1991. In the pre-dawn hours of February 29, 2004, Aristide fled the country aboard a U.S. government plane for eventual South African exile. Replaced by a two-year transitional government, new elections were held in February 2006, returning Préval to the presidency and leaving open the prospect for Aristide's eventual return.

See alsoDuvalier, Jean-Claude; Haiti; Tonton Macoutes.


Works by Aristide

In The Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti, ed. and trans. Amy Wilentz. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide: An Autobiography, ed. Linda Maloney. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993.

Other Sources

Deibert, Michael. Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005.

Dupuy, Alex. The Prophet and Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti, the International Community, and Haiti. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.

Fatton, Robert Jr. Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy. Boulder, CO: Lynn Rienner Publishers, 2002.

Griffiths, Leslie. The Aristide Factor: A Biography of Haiti's First Democratically Elected President. Oxford, UK: Lion Publishing, 1997.

                                            Don Bohning