Former Haiti President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide still has an influence over Haiti and his supporters are at the center of a new crisis in the impoverished country.
The 62-year-old and two times president of Haiti was toppled from power 12 years ago. Aristide’s influence over the years has grown since he returned from exile in South Africa in 2011.
Three of the four top candidates in the first round of the country’s presidential election are believed to be his followers.
His name is uttered with reverence by poor protesters whose violent demonstrations last week forced the run-off vote to be called off.
It is believed that his actions and that of his supporters in the next few weeks could determine Haiti’s future.
An unemployed Haiti protester, Fredo Doriva said Aristide is the engine of the country’s movement adding that without him they cannot live.
The country was supposed to choose a replacement for the outgoing president, Michel Martelly last Sunday, but the run-off was postponed indefinitely after opposition candidate, Jude Celestin refused to participate over alleged fraud that sparked the protests and violence.
Aristide,who was twice elected president and ousted in coups, is constitutionally barred from running again.
Since he returned from a seven-year exile in 2011 to a country on its knees from a devastating earthquake, Aristide, has kept a low public profile, officially dedicating his time to a university bearing his name.
But he remains involved in his party’s strategy.
His most recent appearances was to vote in October last year and to endorse Maryse Narcisse, a doctor, as Fanmi Lavalas’ (A party) presidential candidate.
Narcisse said Aristide has played a role as a captain and hope he will accept the role of a coach. “I will consult with Aristide regularly and would want him as a senior adviser if I were to become president.”
Speaking during a campaign, she said her political mentor predicted in October the vote would be “a selection not an election.”
“He respects the Haitian people, and the Haitian people are mobilizing,” Narcisse said. “The mobilization will continue.”
Aristide’s last term in office was marred by violence and an economic recession. Street gangs ruled the slums of Port-au-Prince and terrorized large parts of the city with kidnapping and shootings.
But even among Aristide’s many detractors, there is a recognition of his appeal to Haiti’s poor masses.