Aristide to return to Haiti ‘fully recovered’

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was scheduled to arrive Friday in Haiti after spending nearly a month in Cuba for medical treatment, an associate of his told The Associated Press.

Joel Edouard “Pacha” Vorbe, an executive committee member of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, said Aristide was expected to arrive by plane.

“He is completely recovered,” Vorbe said, though he said he didn’t have details about Aristide’s condition.

Aristide’s return adds a potentially volatile element to an already tense situation in a country facing a power vacuum following the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Aristide has long been one of Haiti’s most polarizing politicians and is still popular with some groups.

The twice-elected, twice-ousted leader returned to Haiti from exile in 2011 and has largely kept a low profile except for when he campaigned for the presidential candidate of his party in 2016.

It wasn’t clear what health conditions prompted Aristide to fly to Cuba. At the time, Moïse only said that Aristide had to seek treatment abroad and that Haiti’s embassy in Cuba would provide any assistance required.

Haiti is currently being run by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph with the backing of Haiti’s police and military, although he faces growing challenges to his power more than a week after Moïse was killed in an attack at his private home.

More than 20 suspects accused of direct involvement in the slaying have been arrested, the majority of them former Colombian soldiers. At least three other suspects were killed, and police are still looking for at least seven others, authorities have said.

Colombia’s government has said only a small group of Colombian soldiers knew the true nature of the operation and that the others were duped.

While Haiti’s government has asked for military assistance, U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday that sending troops was “not on the agenda.” However, he said U.S. Marines would be deployed to boost security at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.

Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s elections minister, said he believes the door is still open for potential U.S. military assistance, noting that the country is in a “fragile situation” and requires a secure environment to hold elections in upcoming months.

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