From what I have read, in the New York Review of Books, Aristide is no democratic leader, although he was once seen as one:
In the late Eighties, Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s courageous opposition t the military junta that had taken power following Jean-Claude Duvalier’ departure led many to see in him a Caribbean counterpart of Nelso Mandela or Václav Havel.
By the late 90s, however, that was no longer the case:
By 1999, it seemed to many Haitians that Aristide, who once personified Haitian aspirations for democracy, now represented Haitian democracy’s biggest obstacle. The firebombing of radio stations by Aristide partisans, the murder of journalists like Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor, and the government’s unwillingness to bring the authors of these crimes to justice, all prompted Reporters sans Frontières, a Paris-based journalists’ advocacy group, to include Aristide on its list of Predators of Press Freedom. A corrupt police force in the service of the ruling party has fueled mounting human rights violations—”threats, illegal and arbitrary arrests, arbitrary detentions, summary executions, disappearances and police brutality are everyday events,” Pierre Esperance, director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, charged on October 16 of last year—reinforcing Haiti’s traditional climate of impunity and lawlessness.
Human rights workers in particular have been targeted. In 1999, Esperance himself had his car forced off the road and was shot twice and left for dead. The independence of Haiti’s judiciary, its state university, and other institutions has been steadily undermined. Gross electoral fraud by the ruling party has deprived the entire political apparatus of legitimacy. For most of this time attacks by government-sponsored and armed militants on opposition rallies made free assembly all but impossible. “Violence, in all its forms, has reemerged as the common currency of both public and private life,” according to a report issued in December by the Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project. “Haiti is an armed camp” and faces a “looming sociopolitical implosion.”
The US put Aristide in power, but have done little to temper his attacks on democracy and human rights since. The only thing we are protecting in Haiti is our own embassy. I doubt a coup will do much to restore democracy, but keeping Aristide in power didn’t seem like an option either. I hope things turn out right…
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UPDATE: It seems that at least one of the rebel leaders is accused of “taking part in a number of atrocities during the years of military rule”…