Another “If only I (k)NEW(s)!” update from Haiti


I have a confession to make—

I’m a tad bit apprehensive here in Haiti today—

Since, as many of you know by now, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier arrived in Port-au-Prince Sunday evening.  If that doesn’t blow your ever-lovin’-Haitian mind, nothing can, nothing will.

It’s in honor of this less-than-happy happening, that today I offer another “If only I (k)NEW(s)!” update from Port-au-Prince.

First, a brief overview:

Sunday night former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier landed unexpectedly at the Port-au-Prince airport.  He had been exiled in France for nearly 25 years.  Duvalier, son of the infamous and brutal “Papa Doc” became “president for life” when his father died in 1971 and he himself continued to brutalize the Haitian people for 15 years, until exiled in 1986.  Many believe he may have ulterior political motives for returning at this time, wanting to fill the power vacuum left here after a fraudulent presidential election in November.

Duvalier history in Haiti:

–Francois “Papa Doc,” Duvalier, a medical doctor, served as president from 1957-1986.

–In 1959 Papa Doc established the Tonton Macoutes, a secret police, that terrorized Haitians for nearly 27 years.

–Papa Doc had political opponents imprisoned and/or executed.  Some estimate as many as 30,000  were killed.

–Papa Doc died in 1971, having named his 19-year-old son as his successor.

–Baby Doc continued the atrocities begun by his father: “prison camps, torture, arbitrary executions, extrajudicial killings . . .” in the words of Amy Wilentz (see her book The Rainy Season).

–In 1986 a coup exiled Baby Doc and his family to France.

–Haitians danced in the street, knowing he was gone.

Current developments:

On Sunday at 5:50 pm Duvalier, along with his wife, arrived in Port-au-Prince aboard an Air France flight from Paris.  59-year-old Baby Doc, wearing a dark blue suit and tie, is said to have kissed the ground upon deplaning.  From the airport, where he told reporters only, “I’m here to help,” Duvalier traveled in an SUV to Petion-ville’s Karibe Hotel.  (Petion-ville is the up-scale Port-au-Prince suburb Sara and I call home.)

Sources indicated that Baby Doc traveled to Haiti on a diplomatic passport, but it’s not clear which country issued it.  Though most find this hard to believe, a senior aid of current President Preval said it did not become clear to Haitian officials that Duvalier was returning until the plane he traveled on stopped on the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe.

It’s the timing of the former dictator’s return to Haiti that seems suspect, his arriving on the day a final run-off presidential election was to be held, one day before the head of the OAS (Organization of American States)  was scheduled to meet with President Preval to discuss the outcome of a vote recount.  The OAS findings were leaked to the press a week ago and suggested the OAS would recommend that Jude Celestin, candidate from president Preval’s political party, and Preval’s hand-picked successor, be eliminated from a final round of elections, due to massive election “irregularities”—namely ballot boxes having arrived at polling places already stuffed with votes for Celestine.

Because of this, some, both in Haiti and abroad, believe Duvalier has arrived for political purposes, hoping to fill a power vacuum here in Port-au-Prince.  It’s this fear that has lead the United Nations to restrict the movement of its staff until further notice (or until Baby Doc’s motives for coming can be clarified).

We can only wait ourselves, since Duvalier’s press conference scheduled for Monday was postponed and is expected to be held today, Tuesday, instead.

Finally and, perhaps, more importantly, some journalists and academic experts are asking if this return of Baby Doc’s will prompt Jean-Bertrande Aristide to come home, as well, or at the very least drive Aristide supporters to the streets demanding that their exiled hero be allowed to return.

A few good news articles you might want to read:

–“’Baby Doc’ Duvalier returns to Haiti in a surprise move”—a piece from CNN.com.

–“Haiti’s ‘Baby Doc’ in surprise return from exile”—at Yahoo news.

–“Duvalier Meets with Advisers as Haiti Holds its Breath”—from the New York Times.

Disclaimer:

Remember, as I’ve said before, that here in Haiti it’s hellaciously hard to get good news.  And by “good news” I mean accurate news.  More often than not I throw my hands in the air and exclaim in utter and complete newsless-ness, “C’est la vie, la vie.”  Indeed—whatever will be will be—cause I’m not gonna be able to change it and I’m sure as hell not gonna know about it ahead of time.

22 thoughts on “Another “If only I (k)NEW(s)!” update from Haiti

  1. Thanks for the update, Kathy.

    I’m pretty sure your “new neighbour” isn’t in Haiti for altruistic reasons. Former, or should I maybe say “dormant”, dictators have a knack for recognizing a situation where they can insinuate themselves.

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  2. The really odd thing is that some Haitians are welcoming him back. I just don’t get it. I hope he does get arrested and has to stand trial for his hideous past crimes.

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    • I actually know people here who are welcoming him back–one I talked to this morning who visited with him at the Karibe yesterday. I just don’t get it. Tomorrow I’ll try to share some of the theories that are being floated. But thanks for reading. I’m so glad you stopped by and hope you’ll come back. We have a lot of fun around here and would love your company at the party!

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      • Would love to hear the theories floating around on the streets. Why is he being received well by what seems to be a fairly nice sized group? What was the public’s reaction when he was detained and then released? What to people seem to think are his motives? Curious to hear your view being that you’re sort of “in the middle” of everything. Would be interested in the difference between what you see and what we see on cable networks. Thanks for sharing!

        Universal Learning Centre
        First Library in Pilate, Haiti
        ~ because everyone deserves an education.

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      • Thanks for your comment. There are LOTS of theories floating around about why he returned. Some think he’s sick and came “home” to die. Others believe he cam back to retrieve funds from a Swiss account that would be lost without a move on his part after Feb 1st (I don’t really understand this one). Still others believe he came back to get involved in potitics again. He has, in fact, said he’s like to be president again.

        I’m told many young Haitians are okay with his having come back, but probably because they weren’t around during the Duvalier era and don’t remember the attrocities.

        When he was detained, supporters protested outside his hotel and outside the courthouse, but I’m not personally aware of folks thinking the detainment was justified.

        Thanks for your questions. Hope this helps.

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  3. Oh this whole thing makes me nervous, and I’m sitting in a playroom in Tennessee! I like to give people the benefit of a doubt, but it would seem absurd that such a cruel former dictator would time his return during a scandalous election process. We’ll be praying for a peaceful outcome for Haiti!
    Thanks for keeping us connected and informed!

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  4. As I watched international news…not that network stuff…they interviewed several people there…too young to remember the cruel former dictator…they were positive about his arrival…how very sad and scary.

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    • Things here just seem to get stranger and stranger. Now I’m hearing reports that Duvalier has been released by Haitian authorities and is headed back to his hotel. Don’t know if this is accurate, but the UN helecopters have begun circling again in the last few minutes. Thanks for thinking about us Sunshine! I’ll keep you posted.

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