Haiti issues a passport to ex-president Aristide

The Haitian government has issued a diplomatic passport for former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who went into exile seven years ago this month following his ouster by armed rebels.

Haitian officials Tuesday said the passport has been handed over to Aristide’s Miami-based attorney, Ira Kurzban. The government recently said that if Aristide wanted a passport to return home from exile in South Africa, his request for one would be honored.

Aristide, who is a former priest, 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. It is not clear when Aristide might make the trip home from South Africa. A U.S. State Department spokesman recently said the last thing Haiti needs is the return of former rulers and the revival of past controversies.

In 1990, Aristide became Haiti’s first democratically elected president, but he was soon ousted in a military coup. He returned to power in 1994 through U.S. military intervention and served until 1996. He was re-elected in 2000. His political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was not allowed to participate in the disputed presidential elections last Nov. 28.

In January, former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier made an unexpected appearance in Haiti after 25 years in exile.

Authorities have since confiscated Duvalier’s expired passport. Since his return to Haiti, he has been charged with corruption, embezzlement and other abuses of power from his brutal, 15-year rule that ended in 1986.

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