“Baby Doc” Duvalier in Haiti to Stay

The Miami Herald says, “They say he came home to die.  But almost four months after his shocking return, Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier appears to be the epitome of life.” Apparently he is home to stay and enjoying every minute. Here are excerpts:

A one-time despot driven from his homeland in disgrace, Duvalier, 59, has been acting like a president who left at the pinnacle of his popularity. He’s holding court at tony restaurants, hobnobbing with powerful players and greeting guests at his borrowed home high in the pleasant hills above the congested capital.

[. . .] In an hour-long interview, Duvalier said Haiti cannot have a fresh start without national reconciliation. He questioned the current government’s commitment to helping victims of the devastating earthquake and the role of non-governmental organizations. And he spoke of Foundation Duvalier, an organization he’s forming to prioritize education, health and environment in his mother’s hometown of Leogane.

[. . .] But as an aging Duvalier enjoys the perks of his new-found celebrity status in this earthquake-ravaged nation, he is igniting outrage and conflicted emotions. Former prisoners recalling his repressive regime demand justice, while others longing for the days of order insist on reconciliation. A former Haiti justice minister advising the government worries that Duvalier may never have his day in court to answer charges of corruption and crimes against humanity during his 15-year rule that ended in 1986. The judge tasked with investigating the charges has yet to issue his report and the longest imprisoned complainant, Claude Rosier, recently died of a heart attack.

Some find the timing of Duvalier’s return to Haiti peculiar. Last week the Swiss government announced it had begun procedures to return $6.7 million in frozen assets claimed by him to the Haitian government, a move some close to Duvalier said he plans to fight in European courts. And in just days, Haiti will inaugurate a new president with strong ties to supporters of his authoritarian regime.

“I did not send them and they are not there as Duvalieriests,’’ Duvalier said about President-elect Michel Martelly’s supporters who include Daniel Supplice, a childhood friend and former Duvalier minister heading Martelly’s presidential transition teams. Martelly has suggested amnesty for Duvalier and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, another president recently returned from exile. Victims and human rights observers, who view prosecution of Duvalier as Haiti’s chance to break with impunity, call the suggestion disturbing.

The son of an often brutal dictator, Duvalier shrugs off reactions about his high-profile status and appetite for Haiti’s finest fare: “I’ve always participated in the social life of the country,” he said.

For those with tortured memories of the nearly three-decade venal Duvalier dynasty, however, the new reality is difficult to accept. “People disappeared,’’ said Michele Montas, among scores of Haitian journalists and intellectuals jailed, some severely beaten and exiled by the regime’s boogeymen after their arrest on Nov. 28, 1980 under a 1969 anti-communist law that considered government criticism “crimes against the state.’’

Today, she’s among a growing group of Haitians who have filed formal complaints, accusing Duvalier of failing to prevent or punish crimes under his command, ordering arrests and prolonged detention, and in some cases of being an “accomplice’’ to crimes committed by his subordinates. “The victims are constantly on the defensive, taunted every time they testify in front of the instructing judge by his (Duvalier’s) very aggressive lawyers, outside of the judge’s chambers, and the stress of seeing Duvalier freely moving about is difficult… for all of us,” Montas said.

Photo from http://www.eurweb.com/?p=77951

For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/09/2209133/baby-doc-duvalier-enjoys-perks.html

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