Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is preparing to return to Haiti after seven years in exile. Aristide has lived in South Africa since he was deposed in a 2004 U.S.-backed coup. Reporting from Johannesburg, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman speaks actor and activist Danny Glover as he prepares to accompany Aristide. "He is coming back to be with his people. I’m here to be part of that journey with him," Glover says.
Amy will document Aristide’s flight. Follow DemocracyNow.org for updates.
AMY GOODMAN: Danny Glover, you just took perhaps the longest continuous flight in the world, from New York to Johannesburg.
DANNY GLOVER: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Why are you here?
DANNY GLOVER: Well, I’m here to accompany my friend, President Aristide, home back to Haiti. I’m here on behalf of his family and himself. He’s a very close friend of mine. And not only that, he has been issued permission by the Haitian government to come home. He has the right to return home. And I’m here to accompany him home.
AMY GOODMAN: The State Department has issued essentially a warning that says the Aristides should not be coming home before the election. What is your response?
DANNY GLOVER: Well, first of all, President Aristide — the State Department has said essentially that President Aristide left voluntarily from Haiti seven years ago. He did not leave voluntarily. We all know that; history recounts that, what happened.
And the fact that, also, that he is going home to be of assistance in the rebuilding of Haiti, his plans to be involved in building educational institutions and hospitals, etc., is an indication that he is there to be a part of the renewal and rebuilding of Haiti. And my — certainly the State Department has its own reasons for not having him back at all, because this is the first time President Aristide would have been in the hemisphere since he was deposed seven years ago. But he is coming back to be with his people. He is coming back home with his family. So, I’m here to be a part of that journey with him.
AMY GOODMAN: The South African government is flying him home.
DANNY GLOVER: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: The South African government says they won’t cave to pressure, but reportedly, they’re getting a lot of pressure, as the President of Haiti, René Préval, was getting from the U.S. government, for him not to return.
DANNY GLOVER: Well, it’s obvious that everyone’s under a great deal of pressure in this situation. First of all, we have a situation in Haiti not only as a result of the earthquake, but the ongoing destabilization over the last 20 years of the Haitian government, disempowerment of the Haitian people at the same time. So the pressure — yes, the South Africans, but the South Africans are clearly — says, "We can’t keep him here against his will." And he has had permission to come home. And certainly, I think we should focus on the work that he intends to do, the work that he wants to do, in the reconstruction of Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: Danny Glover has just gone inside to meet the delegation that will accompany the Aristides back to Haiti. He’s meeting Ira Kurzban, the Aristides’ lawyer. I want to ask him one last question.
Danny, quick question. That is, you’re dealing not with the Bush administration, but with the Obama administration, in putting this pressure on the Aristides not to return home.
DANNY GLOVER: Well, that’s the disappointing aspect of that. We elected a president on the idea of a change that we could see, a change that we could believe in. And certainly, it seems as if the Bush policy of keeping Aristide away from the Haitian people, keeping him out of the country, out of the region, is still in force. And that’s really disheartening.
And so, I’ve, as many of us have done over the last — signed onto letters, that we’ve signed letters directly to the President, asking for Aristide’s return, making it possible for his return. We know — and let’s not pretend that we don’t know — that the U.S. plays a great deal, plays a large part in determining what happens, and how they place pressure on not only the South African government, but the Haitian government and all the governments, other governments, in the region itself. And certainly we know that, you know? And it’s certainly unfortunate.
And so, we look at the election itself, and all the information on this election, this past — the first round of election, suggests that the election was not a valid — it should have been — the election should have been — should have not been approved, the results of the election. Only a quarter of the Haitians actually voted in this election. And this way of trying to push through — push through this now second round — and I’m talking about the election itself.
So, I’m separating the two. I’m separating, certainly, Aristide’s right to return as a Haitian citizen, right to return, and the idea of the election itself, you know? So it seems as if there’s some sort of — something is afoot with relationship to how people envision the new Haiti, and that doesn’t include, I believe, the voice of the people. Women have signed onto petitions. People within all aspects, all levels of Haitian society have requested that Haiti receive its past president, its president back.
AMY GOODMAN: Last question: you’re also a longtime anti-apartheid activist. You’ve come to South Africa, to Johannesburg, the home of the former president, Nelson Mandela. Your thoughts on this connection between South Africa and Haiti?
DANNY GLOVER: Well, it’s obvious. And I believe — I praise the South Africans for standing up. The South Africans have a long history of resisting, resistance against injustice. And certainly, as we move into the 21st century, we would hope that the South Africans realize that their legacy is a legacy that still is an important legacy for all those people who are struggling around the world, whether it’s people in Cairo, whether in Bahrain, whether they’re in Libya. It’s [inaudible] the legacy of South Africa. And not only the international role that people played in that, in South Africa’s eventual liberation, is an important standard. They have something to hold up to all of us.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much, Danny Glover.
DANNY GLOVER: OK, thank you.