Originally: Aristide disappoints expatriates


Aristide disappoints expatriates

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, once revered as the leader who would bring true

democracy to Haiti, has left many Haitians in South Florida disillusioned.



Two-hundred years of independence. Forty-three heads of state. Thirty-two

coup d’etats. And now the forced departure of the country’s first

democratically elected president — a polarizing figure once hailed by

followers as a modern-day Messiah.

A history punctuated by strife, violence and instability that has imbued the

Haitian people with a quiet sense of ambivalence as they watch — once again

— Haiti implode.

So many Haitians had staked so much hope on Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the

man who might finally deliver what the Caribbean nation has never had: a

true taste of democracy.

”Aristide was the dream,” said Bertin Semelfort, 45, a Miami activist and

friend of the former president who visited with him Thursday in

Port-au-Prince. “And they don’t believe whoever will take office will make

a difference.”

The emotions sweeping across South Florida Haitians over the departure of

Aristide is far from feelings Haitians expressed 14 years ago when they

flooded the streets of Little Haiti — to celebrate his first presidential

victory in 1990 and later to decry the military coup in 1991 that cut short

his first term in office.


But with the exception of a small group of Aristide supporters who gathered

Sunday and Monday on Northwest 54th Street in front of the Veye Yo

headquarters, a local pro-Aristide advocacy group, the Haitian response to

their homeland’s latest crisis has been relatively reserved.

”People are burned out,” said Terry Rey, a Florida International

University professor who studies the local Haitian community. “They are


They are also frustrated, said the Rev. Father Reginald Jean-Mary of Notre

Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in Little Haiti.

”Haitians today are more divided than united,” Jean-Mary said. “They feel

powerless that they cannot do anything. They see it as an act of force.”

The departure of Aristide, which some Haitians here are calling the 33rd

coup d’etat, is not the same as it was in 1991.

”They understand Aristide has made a lot of mistakes, they are conscious of

that. They were caught by surprise,” Jean-Mary said.

The disillusionment over Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who many

believe failed to make good on promises to deliver Haiti from its misery,

has provoked a range of emotions among many of South Florida’s 215,000


”I don’t know what to think,” said Luigi Chery, 27 of Miami. “There has

been one president after another in Haiti, and the situation has always been

bad. It hasn’t gotten any better. People just don’t seem to know what

direction they want to go.”

”I’m not sure right now how I feel,” Darlyne Jean-Charles, 24, of Miami

said Sunday just hours after learning Aristide had resigned under pressure

from the United States and France. “When Aristide was there, there was a

lot of misery. But with him gone, who’s to say that the people who will

replace him won’t be more corrupt?”

Dr. Joseph Fanfan Jr., a Fort Lauderdale pediatrician, echoed Jean-Charles.

”It saddens me, really,” he said in an interview in his office. “That is

a country with no order, no army. I don’t know who to blame. I tend to

believe we had problems before Aristide and we will continue to have them.”


Uncertainty about Haiti’s future was widely expressed among Haitians here

even as their countrymen in Port-au-Prince embraced an armed rebel group as

they entered the capital Monday.

As reality began to set in for some, shame and humiliation began to set in

for others.

The symbolism, say some Haitians, is just too poignant: In this year of

Haiti’s bicentennial, it’s the French, their country’s former colonizers,

along with the United States, which occupied Haiti for 19 years, that

pressured their first democratically elected president to resign and will

now shape their future.

”How do I feel? I am ashamed. I feel humiliated when I see the situation

that Haiti is in,” said Claudy Gassant, a former Haitian investigative

judge who fled Haiti two years ago to seek political asylum when his armed

bodyguards could no longer guarantee his protection from the Aristide