Boy prince finds life in exile less than charming

MISSING PERSON No 46: Baby Doc

His father, Francois Duvalier, had been known as "Papa Doc," a paternalistic nickname he received as a popular black country doctor, a name which later belied the terror of his regime. He called himself "president-for-life," a title he relinquished by passing away in 1971.

When Jean-Claude Duvalier took on the title, he was only 19. His nickname had an even more euphemistic ring to it. They dubbed him "Baby Doc". He had not studied medicine but the name went well with his baby face.

The boy ruled like a prince in the white-painted, fairy-tale presidential palace and he looked like living happily ever after, with his beautiful mulatto (mixed-race) wife, Michelle Bennet. But as he got richer, his people got poorer. They revolted against him and his terrorising thugs, known as the Tontons Macoute, or bogeymen.

After widespread protests, the couple fled the country on 7 February 1986. Just before dawn, unnoticed by their subjects but watched by journalists at Port-au-Prince airport, they set off for exile in France on board a military aircraft laid on by the country that had long supported him and his father but which was forced, finally, to bow to the popular will - the United States of America.

On their way to the airport, the Duvaliers stopped to dig up Papa Doc's remains in an eerie voodoo ceremony, and to empty the contents of the Central Bank. Haiti is a poor country and the deposed young dictator got away only with a few hundred million dollars in cash.

Still, a few hundred million goes a long way, even in the south of France, where the couple settled in idyllic exile on the Riviera, near Grasse. The word was that a courier used to travel every six weeks to Zurich and come back with a suitcase containing $100,000 in cash.

Jean-Claude was a man of relatively simple tastes. He liked to eat Haitian lambi (conch) in the Creole style but Michelle had a taste for lobster, champagne and exclusive designer clothes from Paris. When she divorced him in 1991, she had blown much of the fortune.

His town pad, the Chateau de Themericourt, outside Paris, which he had bought for pounds 1.2m, was repossessed in 1993, after he failed to meet its bills.

When the local butcher and wine store near Grasse began suing him for unpaid bills, he and his octogenarian mother, Simone, were forced to move out of the Grasse mansion and into a modest bungalow with no telephone, in nearby Vallauris.

His Pakistani chauffeur complained he was not being paid and neighbours reported to police that the four Duvalier dogs were becoming as scraggy as those in the former dictator's own country.

The word was that a certain "Jean" who put an ad on a local grocer's door saying he was looking for work as an odd-job man was the former president- for-life himself.

He is still in France, said to be moving between Haitian friends' apartments in Paris and elsewhere. He was not able to vote in yesterday's Haitianelections, which will put a new face in the presidential palace next 7 February, the 10th anniversary of his departure.

"I think I would like to go back to my country when the security conditions permit," he said in an interview in France's Journal du Dimanche. "My personal ambition above all is to work to improve the living conditions of my compatriots."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project