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Coup leader Guy Philippe repatriated to Haiti as many question his next role in country in upheaval

Published:Thursday | November 30, 2023 | 1:21 PM
Guy Philippe smiles during an interview in Pestel, Haiti, August 24, 2016. Philippe returned to Haiti on Thursday, November 30, 2023, after the US government deported him. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, File)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Notorious coup leader Guy Philippe returned to Haiti on Thursday after the United States government repatriated him, sparking concerns that his presence could unleash further upheaval in a country already reeling from gang violence and political instability.

It wasn't clear what role, if any, Philippe expected to play upon his return to Haiti, which is under siege by gangs that grew extremely powerful in the political vacuum created by the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Philippe was a charismatic leader who was instrumental in the 2004 rebellion against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and had powerful ties to police, politicians and the business elite, said Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert and professor at the University of Virginia.

“Whether those kinds of ties will be revised, it's not clear. What is very clear is that Guy Philippe has always seen himself as some sort of a messianic figure who should lead Haiti,” Fatton said.

Philippe's attorney, Jean Joseph Louicher, confirmed to The Associated Press that Philippe arrived in the capital of Port-au-Prince on Thursday morning.

“We've been fighting for four years to reduce the sentence of Guy Philippe to bring him home,” he said, referring to a money laundering charge he pleaded guilty to in the US.

Louicher said he was waiting for Philippe to be processed as required by protocol and released by Haiti's National Police and migration officials “so he can go home safely to his family today.”

Philippe, who was dressed in a gray jumpsuit, was seen walking into Haiti's National Police station after getting off a bus.

He could not be immediately reached for comment.

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