Profile: Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has failed to see out 2004 – the bicentennial of his nation's independence.

    Arisitde: From priest to president to political exile

    After three years of peaceful and violent protests against his rule, a huge armed insurgency caused Aristide to flee to the Dominican Republic on 29 February 2004.

    But only a decade earlier, the former Roman Catholic priest enjoyed great popular support as a champion of the poor.

    In 1990 he won a decisive victory which swept him to power as Haiti's first democratically elected president.

    Barely months later, he was overthrown in a bloody military coup and sought exile in the US - where he campaigned against Haiti's new military rulers.

    Comeback president

    His successful petitioning in the US led to his reinstatement in 1994 with the help of 20,000 troops - most of them American.
    Forbidden to stand for a second consecutive term in 1995, Aristide was replaced by Rene Preval after presidential elections.

    But he won the 2000 poll, which was boycotted by opposition groups.

    His Lavalas party took more than 80% of the local and parliamentary seats, but international observers criticised the poll.

    Aristide's second term quickly turned into a disaster as political, social and economic crises all loomed at the same time.

    A decade that started in hope
    has ended in a social crisis

    Political opposition figures continued not to recognise the outcome of the 2000 elections and another coup attempt in July 2001 was blamed on former members of the military.

    Humble beginnings

    Jean-Bertrand Aristide was born in 1953 and educated at a Roman Catholic school and seminary.
    He was ordained in 1982 and became a strong supporter of liberation theology, which pressed the church to engage with social problems, including poverty and oppression.

    In 1986 he helped to establish a home for street children.

    A stirring orator, he championed the poor, advocated democracy and campaigned against the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

    Assassination attempts

    But his political stance and growing support angered Haiti's incumbent leaders, and he was the target of several assassination attempts in the 1980s.

    His political activities were also unpopular with church officials. He was expelled from his religious order in 1988 and left the priesthood in 1994. He later married.

    Aristide promised to hold parliamentary elections in 2004 and to instigate a programme to help the poor.

    During his presidencies, Haiti retained its status as the poorest nation in the Americas.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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