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Aristide supporters protest outside The Miami Herald

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About 60 South Florida Haitians who support the return to their native country of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide staged a protest near The Miami Herald building Friday afternoon.

The group was upset over a Feb. 10 editorial discouraging Aristide’s return to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, stating that the ousted leader’s presence could hinder upcoming runoff presidential elections.

“The Miami Herald acts as if Aristide has no supporters; Aristide does have supporters!’’ said Jacob Francois, one of the organizers.

The protesters, picketing near the Venetian Causeway and in view of Miami Boat Show traffic, chanted “We want Aristide,’’ wore T-shirts saying “Aristide must return” and carried placards that read: “Aristide is our president.’’

Aristide was recently issued the necessary paperwork from Haiti’s government that would allow him to return to his homeland. He fled the country in 2004 following a bloody uprising and has since been living in exile in South Africa.

The group said the newspaper should leave the future of Haiti to the Haitian people.

“If Duvalier returned, why can’t Aristide?’’ asked Farah Juste, a popular singer who led the protesters in song, referring to the return last month of former Haitian strongman Jean-Claude Duvalier to Haiti, two decades after he was deposed.

“A newspaper should not say that Aristide should not go back,’’ said Marleine Nicolas, 47. “Haiti is for Haitians. We love Aristide.”

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