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EXCLUSIVE: Aboard Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Airplane as Ex-Haitian President Returns from 7 Years in Exile

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In his first public statements on his way home, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide speaks to Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, who is aboard the plane covering the historic return. “I think that the Haitian people are very happy,” Aristide says, “happy to know that we are on our way heading to Haiti, happy to know that finally their dream will be fulfilled by seeing us on the ground, because they fought hard for democracy. They always wanted the return to happen, and now it’s happening.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Early this morning, Amy called in with an update about Aristide’s return to Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, broadcasting on board the Aristides’ flight, the flight of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as he leaves exile with his family from South Africa, heading to Port-au-Prince. We’ve just stopped in Dakar, Senegal, for refueling, and I’m standing with President Aristide.

President Aristide, your thoughts on this momentous day?

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I think that the Haitian people are very happy, happy to know that we are on our way heading to Haiti, happy to know that finally their dream will be fulfilled by seeing us on the ground, because they fought hard for democracy. They always wanted the return to happen, and now it’s happening. I share their happiness. I share their hope. And I renew my commitment to serve them on the field of education. Once we move together toward such a goal, a difference will be made. And I also think about so many other friends of the Haitian people that share this same goal. I thank them on behalf of the Haitian people.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on board the Aristide flight, as the President, the former president of Haiti, his wife, the former first lady of Haiti, Mildred Aristide, and their children leave exile in South Africa, making their way to Haiti. We have just landed in Dakar, Senegal, for refueling. And I’m here with the former First Lady Mildred Aristide. If you could share your thoughts on this historic day?

MILDRED ARISTIDE: Well, we are very pleased to finally be leaving South Africa and to be returning to Haiti. It’s been — as I told everyone in South Africa, it was a tragedy, a great tragedy, that took us from home. But having to be anywhere from — but in Haiti, South Africa has been a wonderful place. The people and the government have been incredibly hospitable and welcoming and warm to us. But it’s been a long time that we’ve needed to be at home. So we’re really very pleased and anxious and just waiting to go home. To see the country, knowing and having seen from afar what the earthquake has done, we are just very, very filled with a lot of emotion at the idea of being home within a few — well, maybe about eight more hours. So, we’re looking forward to it, and we’re thinking of the people who have been waiting for this day. And we’re happy.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Mildred Aristide, the former first lady of Haiti, returning home in, oh, just a few hours. We should be arriving in Haiti around noon on Friday. That’s March 18th, 2011, seven years after the President of Haiti was ousted in a coup, sent to the Central African Republic by the United States with security and military, ultimately finding refuge and going into exile in South Africa, now returning to Haiti. I’m Amy Goodman on board the Aristide flight — we’ve stopped in Dakar, Senegal — headed to Port-au-Prince, for Democracy Now!

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