JOHANNESBURG – Actor Danny Glover arrived in South Africa on Thursday to escort former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide home, the politician’s lawyer said.
Miami lawyer Ira Kurzban flew to Johannesburg Wednesday to accompany Aristide back to Haiti amid unexplained delays attributed to U.S. opposition.
The star of the “Lethal Weapon” action movies arrived Thursday morning, Kurzban said.
The United States has called for Aristide to put off his departure until Sunday’s disputed presidential run-off in his homeland, saying his return would distract voters.
Aristide, who emerged as a leading voice for Haiti’s poor in a popular revolt that forced an end to the Duvalier family’s 29-year dictatorship, remains Haiti’s most popular politician though he has been in exile seven years.
He has said he will not be involved in politics in Haiti and wants to lead his foundation’s efforts to improve education in the impoverished Caribbean nation devastated by last year’s catastrophic earthquake. Aides say he fears the winner of the presidential elections might reverse the long-awaited decision to allow his return. Both are right-wing candidates long opposed to Aristide.
Glover, who is board chair for the human rights and social advocacy organization TransAfrica Forum, is among several U.S. celebrities who have been pushing for Aristide’s speedy return, including politicians Jesse Jackson, U.S. envoy to Haiti Paul Farmer and entertainer Harry Belafonte.
“I am going to South Africa to show our solidarity with the people of Haiti by standing at the side of the leader they elected twice with overwhelming support,” Glover wrote on the TransAfrica Forum website.
“People of good conscience cannot be idle while a former dictator (Duvalier) is able to return unhindered while a democratic leader who peacefully handed over power to another elected president is restricted from returning to his country by external forces,” Glover said.
Kurzban blamed Aristide’s delayed trip on arranging an aircraft. Air charter companies in South Africa said a private jet would cost more than half a million dollars.
South African officials said they are consulting with “interested parties” on the logistics of moving Aristide, his wife and two daughters.
Glover and nine others recently wrote to South African President Jacob Zuma urging him to “assist the Aristides in making their transition as soon as possible” since “all the last remaining obstacles to the Aristides’ return have been removed.”