Saturday, August 25, 2007
Someday, the United States and its surrogates in the UN will allow the Haitian people to chart their own course. Must they be forever punished for one of the most successful revolutions in history against imperialism and white supremacy?
Pere Gerard Jean-Juste, an outspoken Haitian voice for human rights, economic justice and democracy, returned to Haiti last weekend for the first time since being hustled out of a prison cell by heavily armed guards and put on a waiting plane to Miami in January of 2006. Pere Jean-Juste, a Catholic priest, had spent nearly six months in a series of Haitian prisons for refusing to stop his public criticisms of human rights abuses by the coup government which overthrew elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Once in Miami, Father Jean-Juste was immediately hospitalized for treatment of leukemia by Dr. Paul Farmer, a long-time friend, who had secretly performed a biopsy on Jean-Juste in his prison cell.
Now, a year and a half later, Pere Jean-Juste was coming home, not knowing how he would be received. As the plane landed in Port au Prince, Father Jean-Juste quietly blessed himself as he saw his home parish, St. Claire, from the window.
As he walked towards the entrance to the Toussaint L'Ouverture airport, dozens of people waved and clapped from the balconies overlooking the landing space. Inside, airport officials, police officers, media and church members crushed in on him. Patting his back, shaking his hands, giving him hugs, the crowds pressed in and called out "Mon Pere!"
A new Haiti greeted him. The unelected coup government had finally left the country. The people elected President Rene Preval. Democracy had returned.
Inside, TV cameras, microphones, and tape recorders were thrust in his face. Many wanted to know if he was going to be a candidate for Presidency of Haiti in the next election. Father Jean-Juste laughed and said, "The only election in the Catholic Church is for Pope and since the Pope is in good health, I do not see an election anytime soon."
Father Jean-Juste spoke of the disappearance of the human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, called for the return of President Aristide, and urged people interested in human rights in Haiti to keep the pressure on nonviolently. He was returning to Haiti on a pilgrimage. Was he afraid of death he was asked? "I am a Christian," he replied. "I know where I am going. If I die, I know the struggle will continue. The struggle must continue for human rights and democratic principles."