Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aristide Coming Home to Joy, Fear, Doubt

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aristide Coming Home to Joy, Fear, Doubt

Article excerpt

They've swept the streets, carted away huge mounds of trash, plastered trees with posters and hung pennants everywhere. Inside poor neighborhoods, elaborately painted rock gardens and seashell displays read, "Welcome Back President Aristide" and "Viv Demokrasi."

"We do this for our president, and we do it with happy hearts," said Fanfan Remy, a teen-ager from a slum called Carrefour. "It symbolizes change and a removal of all that was bad, including the former government. It's like we're throwing them out with the trash."

Jean-Bertrand Aristide's nation awaits his return Saturday, the joy of the many impoverished people tempered by the bitterness of those with the most to lose.

"These people aren't ready for democracy," said a bank manager who requested anonymity. "They think democracy means going out and taking whatever they want."

Aristide supporters, the majority of whom are poor, look to the day when they will have jobs, decent housing and enough to eat.

Many of them seem to believe Aristide can provide these things overnight. They were dancing in the streets as dusk fell Friday.

This worries the country's business owners and its small class of elite. Whereas the middle class is divided over Aristide, the rich and professional classes overwhelmingly oppose him.

They fear that Aristide supporters will quickly grow impatient once he returns, and that the president will be unable to control them if they act on their discontent.

Business owners believe people will call for immediate pay raises that the country's economy cannot support and demand services the government is not equipped to provide.

Then, they say, the poor will blame those who are better off for the country's problems and come after them.

"I have two children, and I'm afraid to take them out," said a middle-class women named Anne Marie who did not want to give her last name. "I don't want them to see bodies burning in the streets, and that's what Aristide supporters do, they burn people whom they consider their enemies. …

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