Former Haitian president Rene Preval dies at 74

FROM WIRE REPORTS

Former Haitian President Rene Preval died on March 3 at age 74.

Preval was president of Haiti from 1996 to 2001 and again from 2006 to 2011. He died at his home in Laboule, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. The cause of death had not been confirmed by the Florida Courier’s press deadline although local media stated that he died of a heart attack.

Preval devoted his years out of the presidency to turning bamboo into furniture to create jobs, and to boost national production of agricultural products. A savvy politician, he continued to be sought out by foreign diplomats in recent years as Haiti reeled from one political crisis to another.

He studied agronomy in Belgium and was former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s first prime minister after his 1990 election.

Forced into exile
Ten months after the election, Preval was forced into exile — first seeking refuge at the French Embassy and then the Mexican Embassy, both in Port-au-Prince, before eventually ending up in Washington — along with Aristide and other members of the administration.

Preval eventually broke ties with Aristide. But as a strict adherent to the Haitian Constitution, he believed that a Haitian could not be exiled from his own country.

As a result, he agreed to allow Aristide’s passport to be renewed. The move cleared the way for Aristide’s 2011 return to Haiti after seven years in exile in South Africa.

Preval is the only president in Haitian history to have served two full presidential terms and not be jailed, exiled or killed.

“May his soul rest in peace and peace to our beloved Haiti,” Aristide said in a written statement sent to the Herald.

Sought solutions
Bernard Fils-Aime, a businessman and close friend of Preval who often dined with him in Haiti and in Miami, said in the end, he remained true to himself.

“His legacy is a leadership style that put people together into finding solutions. It was never about him,” Fils-Aime said. “It was about getting in touch with all sectors, from the little guy to the most powerful, to find appropriate solutions for the country.

“That is what he was about— quiet, consensus-builder but misunderstood,” Fils-Aime said.

“Misunderstood, because people feared his kind of power.”

Preval is survived by his wife, Elisabeth Delatour Preval. two daughters, two sons and two grandchildren.

A Miami Herald story was used in compiling this report.

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