Aristide, Jean-Bertrand (1953–)
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.
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.
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.
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