Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is no stranger to obstacles
and hardships -- his life and political career has been a series
of dramatic events.
flight from Haiti in late February 2004 amidst a rebel uprising
marked the second time he had been driven out of power. The embattled
Haitian leader was ousted from office in 1991 after a violent
in 1953 in the Haitian coastal port town of Port-Salut, Aristide
moved with his mother and sister to the capital city of Port-au-Prince
as a young child. He attended the College Notre Dame in the northern
city of Cap-Haitian for his undergraduate studies and then did
novitiate studies at a seminary in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
his time in the Dominican Republic, he pursued a post-graduate
degree in philosophy at the State University of Haiti and then
traveled to Rome and Israel for two years of biblical study.
returned to Haiti in 1983 and was ordained a Catholic priest by
the Haitian bishop. He was assigned to a poor parish on the outskirts
future Haitian leader quickly gained popularity as a priest, becoming
a spokesman for a progressive wing of the Catholic Church and
criticizing the ruling regime of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc"
Duvalier. His liberation theology encouraged the church to play
a role in social problems, such as the plight of Haiti's poor.
to a profile by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., it is believed
that Aristide survived nine attempts on his life during this period,
including one where attackers armed with guns and machetes burst
into a church where he was giving mass in 1988. He survived the
attempt but dozens of churchgoers were killed.
leaders disapproved of his activism in political matters and Aristide
was expelled from his religious order, the Salesians, in 1988.
He left the priesthood entirely in 1994.
launched a hasty campaign for president in 1990 and won with 67
percent of the vote, becoming Haiti's first democratically elected
president. He took office on Feb. 7, 1991.
the election, which was largely considered free and fair by the
international community, Aristide's opposition was not satisfied
with the outcome. A violent coup, led chiefly by military leader
Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, erupted in September and Aristide was overthrown.
being driven out of Haiti, Aristide began a three-year exile in
the United States.
October 1991 to September 1994 a de facto military regime governed
Haiti outside of its constitutional framework. For his part, Aristide
traveled around the world speaking against the violence the ruling
regime was using to control the Haitian people and lobbying international
governments and organizations for assistance.
economy also suffered during this time as many government ministries
were not functioning properly and basic supplies grew more and
1994, President Bill Clinton dispatched 20,000 U.S. troops to
Haiti to help maintain peace and assist with the restoration of
democracy. Aristide returned to his homeland on Oct. 15, 1994.
he first returned, he had a serious problem -- how to reconcile
his political base and [fulfill] what he promised to do vis-a-vis
the economy," University of Virginia professor Robert Fatton
Jr. told the Miami Herald of Aristide's return to Haiti.
to constitutional limits, Aristide did not run for president in
1995. Rene Preval, a leading member of Aristide's Lavalas Party,
was elected Haiti's president.
took another run for the office in 2000. His campaign, however,
was criticized by human rights organizations as utilizing violence
and intimidation of voters in the days leading up to the poll.
supporters of the Lavalas Party were accused of numerous human
rights violations by groups such as Amnesty International, including
attacks against journalists and allegations of forced disappearances.
went on to win the presidential election although major opposition
parties boycotted the poll. He survived an attempted coup in 2001
that left five others dead.
unrest from the latest election combined with Haiti's weak economy
and high unemployment rates proved a volatile mix -- a rebel uprising
in February 2004, which resulted in the deaths of more than 100
people, threatened Aristide's power once again.
rebel forces moved across the country and toward the capital,
Aristide fled his homeland again on Feb. 29 to the Central African
married Mildred Trouillot, a Haitian-American lawyer, in 1996.
They have two daughters.
Compiled by Maureen Hoch for the Online NewsHour