Thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince to rally for the return of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The Aristide supporters massed downtown Friday before ending their rally near the presidential palace, which was ruined in last year’s devastating earthquake. The pro-Aristide rally took place days after the government announced it had issued a diplomatic passport for the former priest, who is living in exile in South Africa.
Aristide has said he is ready to return to his homeland and that he hopes the governments of Haiti and South Africa will make that possible. If is not clear when he might return to the Caribbean nation. A U.S. State Department spokesman has said the last thing Haiti needs is the return of former rulers and the revival of past controversies.
A runoff election is scheduled for March 20 and follows a lengthy dispute about the initial round, which took place Nov. 28. The second round pits former first lady Mirlande Manigat against popular entertainer Michel Martelly.