The despot returns: 'Baby Doc' Duvalier back to haunt Haiti

After almost 25 years in exile, the troubled nation's detested leader is on a mission 'to help rebuilding'

Intrigue, sheer bafflement and considerable anxiety surrounded the unexpected return of Haiti's former despot, Jean-Claude Duvalier, otherwise known as "Baby Doc", to his native land as international human rights groups called for his immediate arrest and prosecution for crimes against humanity.

After almost 25 years in exile in France, Mr Duvalier arrived at Port-au-Prince's airport aboard an Air France jet late on Sunday with almost no warning to the authorities in Haiti. He was greeted by a crowd of about 200 supporters before being whisked to one the first city's few still-standing first-class hotels.

With all of Haiti and a good portion of the world's diplomatic community waiting agog to see what might happen next, Mr Duvalier, 59, began yesterday huddled in the hotel with figures described as political advisers. He earlier asserted to a local radio station that he was "not here for politics" but to help the "reconstruction of Haiti" a year after its earthquake.

So deep was the disgust once evoked by Mr Duvalier's name that the mere notion of Baby Doc ever returning there would have seemed almost absurd. He assumed power as a 19-year-old from his terminally ill father, Francois Duvalier – Papa Doc – in 1971 .

After he settled into comfortable obscurity in France it was assumed that was where he would stay for good. Miami's Haitian community, a large portion of which arrived in the United States to escape the brutality of the Duvaliers, was galvanising to protest his presence in their native land. A rally denouncing Baby Doc was planned for later yesterday. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged the authorities to arrest the one-time dictator.

Mr Duvalier, accompanied by his long-time companion, Veronique Roy, had travelled on an expired diplomatic passport and the authorities in Haiti only learned of his impending arrival after the Air France plane, which had departed from Paris, took off again after a scheduled stop in Guadalupe. The information came from the French embassy.

With observers scratching their heads as to why France allowed Mr Duvalier to board the plane in the first place, officials in Paris noted only that Mr Duvalier had notified the French government of his intention to visit Haiti but that he had not been specific about timing. While rumours swirled last night that his arrest might be imminent there was no indication that any outstanding warrants still existed.

Many things about the shocking return of Baby Doc remained unanswered, such as divining his true intentions. The timing, surely, could hardly have been worse. The country is still struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake of one year ago and a cholera epidemic. It is also in the throes of a yet another political crisis triggered by presidential elections last November that were chaotic and inconclusive.

Speculation that Mr Duvalier wants in some way to fill the vacuum created by the election debacle might subside only if he leaves Haiti promptly or if he is arrested. Rumours also abound that his being in Haiti will prompt another leader-in-exile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to hurry back. If both figures were allowed to pace the stage of Haitian politics again things could become volatile, to say the least.

Many Haitians today have no first-hand memory of the brutality of the Duvaliers. Father and son used a militia, the Tonton Macoutes, to terrorise the population and impose their rule. Between them, according to estimates, they ordered the deaths of between 20,000 and 30,000 Haitians while pilfering what riches the country offered and shoring up their own fortunes in overseas banks.

"The Haitian authorities must break the cycle of impunity that prevailed for decades in Haiti," Javier Zuniga, a special adviser at Amnesty International, said in a statement urging the former dictator's arrest. "Failing to bring to justice those responsible will only lead to further human rights abuses."

A report on the recent election from the Organisation of American States (OAS), ruled last week that a the candidate favoured by the incumbent President René Preval should be excluded from a run-off that should have taken place on Sunday. Instead, the OAS, said the run-off should be between Mirlande Manigat, an opposition candidate who took the most votes in the first round, and a popular Haitian singer, Michel Martelly.

Mr Duvalier had expressed a interest in returning to Haiti twice in recent years. Few took him seriously but a small party of supporters has remained active in Haiti.

Life and crimes of a dictator

In 1971, Haiti's authoritarian leader François "Papa Doc" Duvalier died and passed the mantle of presidency to his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, pictured. Despite being one of the youngest heads of state in the world, Haiti's new dictator quickly dubbed himself "President-for-life" and used a brutal private militia known as the Tontons Macoutes to assert his rule.

Baby Doc was accused of repression, corruption and widespread human rights abuses throughout his 15 year presidency, during which more than 100,000 Haitians fled the country.

Baby Doc chose not to continue his father's fearsome cult of personality, which used Haiti's traditional voodoo religion to underpin his power. Instead, he preferred a reputation as a playboy.

He managed to maintain relative political stability until 1986, when domestic protests and international pressure finally forced Baby Doc to flee to France on a US military jet. In the years before his swift departure, he is accused of salting away millions of dollars of public money from his impoverished nation and stashing the funds in Swiss bank accounts.

An expensive divorce from his former First Lady is thought to have drained a large chunk of his wealth, but he remained in comfortable exile in France until his return to Haiti this week.

In 2007, Baby Doc asked the people of Haiti to forgive him for "errors" made during his time in power.

News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
newsTV star had been reported missing
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Teacher Required We are curr...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone