February 29th is a date that appears every four years in order to compensate for the discrepancy between the 365 days of the yearly calendar and the slightly longer time it takes the Earth to make one trip around the sun. For Haitians, this unique date on the calendar has a major significance.
On this date two leap years ago Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted for the second time from the Haitian presidency. The coup d’état against him came after three weeks of attacks by a rebel army formed by armed gangs and dissident military troops.
The role of several international actors in the coup such as the French and Canadian governments continues to be a source of controversy since Aristede left Haiti in 2004. For instance, the U.S. State Department claimed that his ouster was “facilitated” by Marines based on his request. Days after he left Haiti Aristede alleged that he was forced to leave in order to “avoid bloodshed.”
Aristede’s many detractors including “business leaders (and) landowners” claimed that he was an authoritarian ruler who allowed corruption to run rampant under his administration. Yet for his supporters, such as several hundred protesters who rallied today in Port-Au-Prince, Aristede’s successors have done little to calm political tensions or improve the economy of the Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished country.
The following video is the trailer to a 2005 documentary entitled Aristide and The Endless Revolution. Directed by Nicolas Rossier, the film examined the events leading up to the 2004 coup as well as the consequences of that event in Haiti:
Aristede lived in exile in South Africa for seven years before retuning to Haiti in March 2011.
Earlier this week the Haitian government denied rumors that a judicial investigation was opened against Aristede.
Video Source – YouTube via Baraka Productions
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, USA TODAY, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Haiti Libre