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Aristide returns to Haiti, ends seven years of exile

Alexandre Meneghini / AP

Haiti's ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide waves from the plane as his wife Mildred stands behind him as he arrives to the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday, March 18.

Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti on Friday, ending seven years of exile in South Africa despite U.S. objections and just two days before a crucial presidential election.

Supporters whooped and cheered at Port-au-Prince airport as a smiling, clearly delighted Aristide, accompanied by his family and U.S. actor and black rights activist Danny Glover, emerged from the charter plane that brought him home.

"If you could lean against my heart you could hear how fast it is beating, how it is singing a melody to Haiti," Aristide, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and striped tie said in his emotional first comments to reporters at the airport.

He said he had come back to make "a small contribution" to his country, which is struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and set back development in one of the world's poorest states.

Aristide, 57, who was ousted from power in 2004 through an armed rebellion, is a divisive figure in Haiti -- very popular among the poor but reviled by business leaders. Continue reading...