Originally: Aristide disappoints expatriates
SOUTH FLORIDA HAITIANS
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.
By JACQUELINE CHARLES
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
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
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