Boy prince finds life in exile less than charming


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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Nemanja Matic holds the Capital One Cup with Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Account Managers - Radio

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Cheshire's number 1 commercial ...

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a career in custome...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot