|Correspond with us, including our executive editor, professor Yves A. Isidor, via electronic mail:|
|firstname.lastname@example.org; by way of a telephone: 617-852-7672.|
|Want to send this page or a link to a friend? Click on mail at the top of this window.|
Must learnedly read, too; in part, of intellectual rigor
|A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake|
Posted Monday, January 17, 2011
Baby Doc's back
TO LITTLE pomp and widespread confusion, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti, returned to his country last night, a quarter century after fleeing to exile on the French Riviera. Mr Duvalier arrived on an Air France flight a little before six in the evening, and a few hundred people greeted him outside the airport. A convoy of Haitian national police then accompanied him to a glitzy hotel in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Along with his Haitian companion, Veronique Roy, and a smattering of associates, he dined on a grilled conch and promised a press conference. But in the morning, about a hundred reporters waited in vain for Mr Duvalier to appear. A shabbily suited spokesperson cited “capacity problems” at the hotel and promised that the ex-dictator would talk tomorrow.
Little is known about the intentions of Mr Duvalier, who simply said upon arrival that he had “come to help”. His trip may well have been prompted by Haiti’s current political turmoil—its presidential run-off election, originally scheduled for yesterday, has been postponed indefinitely because of arguments over who should participate. But with both the Haitian government and the UN peacekeeping force keeping mum, speculation is running rampant over what he has in mind. One theory holds that the French sent him to pressure René Préval, the president, to accept the findings of a report by the Organisation of American States, which called for the government's presidential candidate, Jude Celestin, to be dropped from the run-off. (The French embassy has denied any involvement). Another contends that Mr Préval himself cooked up the visit as a “Wag the Dog”-style ploy to distract the country. “Do you hear anyone talking about the election this morning?”, quipped Louis Henri Mars, an anti-violence campaigner. A less popular interpretation is that the stooped, haggard Mr Duvalier just wants to spend his last days at home.
It is also unclear why Mr Duvalier, a torturer, kidnapper and thief—although a less brutal ruler than his father and predecessor, François—has not been arrested. The Haitian government reiterated in 2008 that its criminal proceedings against him were ongoing, and he faces a $500m judgment in the United States. Haiti has no statute of limitations for misappropriation of public funds, and international law holds than crimes against humanity can always be prosecuted.
One of Mr Duvalier’s opponents was Boby Duval, a football star, who was held for 17 months in the late 1970s at Fort Dimanche, a notorious torture chamber. He saw dozens of his fellow prisoners die, and weighed just 90 pounds when he was released following strong advocacy from the United States. He later became a democracy activist, and now runs a football programme for poor youth. “They’re trying to put us back in the dark ages,” he said after learning of Mr Duvalier’s return. “[The dictatorship] was a very harsh reality we thought we had passed.”
But Mr Duval’s reaction to Mr Duvalier’s homecoming is not universal. Three-fifths of Haiti’s population is under 30; most of the country has no direct memory of the dictatorship. And some older Haitians express nostalgia for a time they remember as more stable, orderly, and prosperous. Lane pase toujou pi bon, says the Haitian proverb: Last year was always better.
(Photo credit: AFP)
Published by The Economist Magazine, Monday, January 17, 2011.
|Wehaitians.com, the scholarly journal of democracy and human rights|
|More from wehaitians.com|