Monday, Feb. 08, 2010

Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Jean-Bertrand Aristide's early political career in Haiti is representative of the clash between the country's poor and disenfranchised and its élite. His victory in Haiti's first free democratic election had members of the Lavalas movement (the name means "flood" or "torrent" in Creole) hoping their dreams of reform would be realized. But upon taking office as President in February 1991, Aristide's policies made him quickly unpopular with the military and the ruling class. He was forced into exile by a coup in September 1991, but the military agreed to reinstate him under threat of a U.S. invasion in 1994. Though he was popular with the masses, Haiti's constitution prevented him from seeking a second consecutive term in 1996. The following year, Aristide formed a new political party, the Lavalas Family, and he was re-elected President in 2000. Despite charges of electoral fraud, he was inaugurated in February 2001. But antigovernment protests snowballed into a full-blown rebellion in 2004, forcing Aristide to flee the country.