The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 4      January 31, 2011

Ex-dictator of Haiti returns
amid spiraling social crisis
(front page)
MIAMI—With no public announcement, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, one of the most infamous despots of the 20th century, returned to Haiti from exile in France January 16. Two days later, he was charged with “corruption.”

National police and UN troops with tanks moved in to escort Duvalier when he landed. The police used pepper spray and pointed their weapons at journalists to keep them away from the terminal. They established a detail to guard the dictator outside the Karibe Hotel where he is staying.

Small demonstrations against and in support of the dictator at the airport and in the streets over the following days were reported in the press.

Detested by the great mass of Haitian people, Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled Haiti with an iron fist from 1971 to 1986, succeeding his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, whose rein of terror began in 1957.

The Duvaliers tortured and massacred ten of thousands, ruling in an atmosphere of fear and repression backed by the Tonton Macoutes, the dictatorship’s militia force. In 1986 a popular uprising overthrew Duvalier.

Duvalier told reporters, “I came to put myself at the service of my country.” His sudden arrival takes place in the context of a spiraling social crisis.

An earthquake last year resulted in more than 300,000 dead, according to press reports. Some 1 million remain homeless. The failure of the Haitian and imperialist governments to organize immediate relief culminated in a cholera epidemic, which since late October has reportedly killed some 3,800 people.

The outcome of elections last year is still undecided amid the social and political instability that pervades the country.

In 2007 Haitian president René Préval said that Duvalier could return to Haiti but would face justice for the deaths of thousands of people and the theft of millions of dollars in state resources.

On January 17 Duvalier’s opponents began calling Haitian radio stations, recounting the brutality that resulted in him being deposed.

That same day a news conference responding to Duvalier’s return was held at the headquarters of Veye Yo, a Haiti solidarity organization in Miami. It was moderated by Tony Jeanthenor, the group’s coordinator.

Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, said, “We ask for free inclusive democratic elections in Haiti. What we are asking is that Duvalier be held accountable for the killings during the dictatorship. I lost about 19 members of my family during the 30-year dictatorial reign.”

Several speakers demanded the safe return of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and that his Lavalas Party be allowed to run in elections. The party was ruled off the ballot in the 2010 vote. Aristide was overthrown in a coup in 2004 and then forced into exile under U.S. pressure.

Jean Marceline, an unemployed construction worker, told the Militant, “Duvalier should be jailed because he did too many bad things to our country. He killed both my uncle and auntie for nothing in 1979.”

After his four-hour arraignment January 18 on corruption and embezzlement charges, Duvalier was released while the judge purportedly considers whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial.  
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