|President Jean-Bertrand Aristide delivers speech in front of Haiti's national Palace on September 27, 1991.|
Few Haitians, scholars and historians have had the opportunity to hear and study the full speech of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on September 27, 1991. The speech was mired in controversy after Raymond Joseph, current Haitian ambassador to Washington D.C. but then Publisher of the right-wing newspaper Haiti Observateur, released his "translation" of the speech.
Joseph's translation was circulated by Ellen Cosgrove, the political officer of the U.S. Embassy in 1991, to the international press as proof that Aristide supported "pe lebrun" or necklacing with burning tires doused with gasoline. Many translators and scholars have since criticized Joseph and the U.S. for slanting the translation countering that Aristide's reference to "tool" and "smell" were colorful Kreyol metaphors describing Haiti's constitution. They say this only becomes clear when heard in the context of the entire speech.
The historical context of the speech is equally important as it follows an attempt by the Duavlierists and Roger Lafontant to overthrow Aristide's government in a coup only three months earlier. Aristide was caught between plots by Duvalierists aligned with Haiti's wealthy elite and the violent reaction and impulses of the Haitian masses to decades of brutal repression known as dechoukaj.
Aristide was overthrown two days after delivering this speech on September 31, 1991. The Joseph translation of the speech was handed out by Ellen Cosgrove to the press on October 7, 1991 during a visit by the Organization of American States (OAS) to Haiti.
This speech has been referred to many times, including in the present context, to justify keeping Aristide out of politics and the violent repression of Haiti's poor masses represented by the Lavalas movement.
Kevin Pina and the Haiti Information Project (HIP) now offer for history the complete unedited speech in Kreyol as it was videotaped that day in Sept. 1991.
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