‘Baby Doc’ causes stir with return

Former Haitian dictator ends his exile in France with unexpected arrival

Supporters of Mr. Duvalier wait outside the terminal of the Toussaint Louverture international airport, after listening to radio reports of his return to Port-au-Prince. "I'm not here for politics," Mr. Duvalier told Radio Caraibes. "I'm here for the reconstruction of Haiti." (Associated Press)Supporters of Mr. Duvalier wait outside the terminal of the Toussaint Louverture international airport, after listening to radio reports of his return to Port-au-Prince. “I’m not here for politics,” Mr. Duvalier told Radio Caraibes. “I’m here for the reconstruction of Haiti.” (Associated Press)
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, a once feared and reviled dictator who was ousted in a popular uprising nearly 25 years ago, has made a stunning return to Haiti, raising concerns he could complicate efforts to solve a political crisis and the stalled reconstruction from last year’s devastating earthquake.

Mr. Duvalier’s arrival at the airport Sunday was as mysterious as it was unexpected. He greeted a crowd of several hundred cheering supporters but did not say why he chose this tumultuous period to suddenly reappear from his exile in France — or what he intended to do while back in Haiti.

“I’m not here for politics,” Mr. Duvalier told Radio Caraibes. “I’m here for the reconstruction of Haiti.”

His longtime companion, Veronique Roy, told reporters at one point that he planned to stay three days, but gave no further details.

Spokesman Henry Robert Sterling said Mr. Duvalier was inspired by the earthquake to come back to Haiti and would discuss his reasons at a Tuesday news conference.

Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier (center) waves to supporters from a hotel balcony after his arrival in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday. Mr. Duvalier returned Sunday to Haiti after nearly 25 years in exile, a surprising and perplexing move that comes as his country struggles with a political crisis and the stalled effort to recover from last year's devastating earthquake. (Associated Press)

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Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier (center) waves to supporters from ... more >

“He wanted to come back to see how is the actual Haitian situation on the people and the country,” Mr. Sterling said outside the hotel in the hills above downtown where Mr. Duvalier and Ms. Roy were staying.

President Rene Preval, a former anti-Duvalier activist made no public statement on the former dictator’s re-emergence, though he told reporters in 2007 that Mr. Duvalier would face justice for the deaths of thousands of people and the theft of millions of dollars if he returned.

Mr. Duvalier, however, apparently faces no charges in Haiti, and there were no attempts to arrest him. National Police for a time guarded him at a luxury hotel before withdrawing, leaving security to hotel guards.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive shrugged off Mr. Duvalier’s appearance.

“He is a Haitian and, as such, is free to return home,” Mr. Bellerive told the Associated Press.

Asked if Mr. Duvalier could destabilize the country, the prime minister said: “Until now, there’s no reason to believe that.”

The 59-year-old Mr. Duvalier took power at age 19 as part of a father-and-son dynasty that presided over one of the darkest chapters in Haitian history, a period when thuggish government secret police force known as the Tonton Macoute stifled any dissent, torturing and killing opponents.

He came back on an Air France jet in a jacket and tie to hugs from supporters, waving to a crowd of about 200 as he climbed in an SUV and headed to a hotel with Ms. Roy.

“He is happy to be back in this country, back in his home,” said Mona Beruaveau, a candidate for Senate in a Duvalierist party who spoke to the former dictator at the immigration office inside the airport terminal. “He is tired after a long trip.”

Later, Mr. Duvalier appeared on a balcony of the Karibe Hotel and waved to supporters and journalists outside. All he said was “tomorrow, tomorrow,” apparently referring to the news conference. The government sent national police officers there to provide security.

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