- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2011

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Back from exile, former strongman Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier lives in a villa in the hills above Haiti’s capital.

His son serves as a consultant to the country’s new president, Michel Martelly, while others with links to Mr. Duvalier’s hated and feared regime work for the administration.

Mr. Duvalier, himself, is rumored to be ill and appears too frail to return to power.

For many Haitians who remember the ex-dictator’s brutal rule, the rise of his loyalists to the new president’s inner circle triggers suspicions about where Mr. Martelly’s loyalties lie.

Such developments might be shrugged off in many countries, but not in Haiti, where much of the political establishment for the past 15 years has consisted of people associated with the mass uprising that forced “Baby Doc” to flee the country for France in 1986.

Now, a former minister and ambassador under the old regime is serving as a close adviser to Mr. Martelly. At least five high-ranking members of the administration, including the new prime minister, are the children of senior officials of the Duvalier dictatorship.

Sen. Moise Jean-Charles said he and others who lived through those years are uneasy that Duvalierists are aligned with a president with no previous political experience and a history of supporting right-wing causes.

“They’ve been nostalgic for 25 years,” Mr. Jean-Charles said of Mr. Duvalier’s supporters. “And now, they’re back in the country and back in power.”

Mr. Martelly’s powers will be at least partly held in check because his opponents control both houses of parliament.

Nonetheless, Mr. Jean-Charles, an ex-mayor under former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has taken his concerns to radio stations and the Senate floor.

Human rights advocates have echoed similar warnings, especially after a raucous protest staged by Duvalier supporters last month disrupted a news conference calling for the ex-dictator’s prosecution.

“There’s a lot of worry,” said Haitian economist and sociologist Camille Chalmers. “The political circle is made up of Duvalierists.”

Martelly spokesman Lucien Jura told the Associated Press that the appointments were based on individual qualifications rather than political affiliation.

“As President Martelly said before, he’s not excluding,” Mr. Jura said. “If the citizen is competent, honest and has good will … regardless of the political sector he’s in, he’s welcome.”

The new government includes a few veterans from Mr. Aristide’s government, including Mario Dupuy, a communications adviser who was chief spokesman during Mr. Aristide’s second term.

Mr. Martelly met with Mr. Aristide and Mr. Duvalier on Oct. 12 in an effort to reconcile differences between the former leaders and their followers. The day before he met with Prosper Avril, an army colonel who overthrew a transitional government in 1988 and resigned two years later amid protests.

“It’s time for us again to be one nation, stand behind one project,” Mr. Martelly told the AP outside the plush home where Mr. Duvalier is staying.

While running for office, Mr. Martelly pitched himself as a populist even if he later imposed taxes on remittances and phone calls from abroad to help pay for the free schooling of 772,000 children.

He also has pledged to build housing and create jobs for some of the half million people still homeless nearly two years after an earthquake devastated the country.

While Mr. Martelly has not publicly voiced any support for Mr. Duvalier, he has addressed some of the top priorities of Mr. Duvalier’s relatively small political base since taking office in May.

Last month, he proposed to restore the country’s disbanded army in addition to awarding back pay to former soldiers dismissed by Mr. Aristide in 1995. Mr. Duvalier relied heavily on the military to crack down on internal dissent.

The proposed force will patrol Haiti’s porous borders and provide relief during natural catastrophes, as well as revive an intelligence unit that the CIA created to combat cocaine trafficking after Mr. Duvalier’s ouster. That unit, the National Information Service, will assume a new role of fighting terrorism threats, mafia networks and “extremist” organizations.

Critics say Mr. Martelly should improve the police force, which is more likely to remain independent.

“He can’t control the police, so he’s trying to create his own force,” Mr. Jean-Charles said.

Adding to the worries, Mr. Martelly has not pressed for the prosecution of Mr. Duvalier, who has been accused of looting the treasury and torturing and killing political opponents during his 15-year rule.

Mr. Martelly has said it is up to the judiciary to handle Mr. Duvalier’s case.

What has sparked the most concern has been the personnel picks of the musician-turned-president.

In his first months in office, Mr. Martelly turned to people like Daniel Supplice, an adviser who served as an ambassador and a former minister of social affairs under Mr. Duvalier. Mr. Supplice has not been directly tied to the abuses associated with the Duvalier regime.

Mr. Martelly has also tapped the children of Duvalier officials including Prime Minister Garry Conille, whose father was a minister of sports and youth for the dictatorship.

Other picks with Duvalier links include Mr. Martelly’s senior advisers Thierry and Gregory Mayard-Paul, whose father was a lawyer for Claude Raymond, a feared army lieutenant general under “Baby Doc.”

Mr. Raymond’s son, Claude Jr., recently joined the administration as deputy director general for immigration. Josefa R. Gauthier, whose father was a diplomat under “Baby Doc’s” regime, is the director-general for the government’s Fund for Economic and Social Assistance.

The most prominent tie is Mr. Duvalier’s 28-year-old son Francois Nicolas, who is a consultant to Mr. Martelly.

Haiti’s political ranks have been a revolving door since “Baby Doc,” and his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, exiled thousands of professionals and shrank the talent pool from which governments draw qualified workers.

Even Mr. Aristide, who helped lead the movement to oust the dictatorship, had a few Duvalierists in his administration.

However, Mr. Martelly has hired more officials from the former regime than his last two predecessors.

The resurgent Duvalier movement made an assertive public appearance last month at a news conference organized by Amnesty International to discuss the stalled criminal investigation of the ex-dictator.

As a representative of the human rights group tried to speak, Duvalier supporters yelled into the microphones of journalists and shouted him down.

“You’re trying to create a civil war in this country,” Reynold Georges, a lawyer for Mr. Duvalier, told an Amnesty representative at the news conference. “If he needs to be tried, he will be tried.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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