An Event Horizon for Haiti? Baby Doc’s Mind-Bending Return from Exile


As events unfold here in Port-au-Prince around Jean-Claude Duvalier’s return from exile on Sunday, his being detained and charged with corruption by Haitian prosecutors yesterday, only to be released last night and returned to the Karibe Hotel having had his passport confiscated, I can’t help but repeat how surreal it feels—like living on the edge of a bizarre Caribbean twilight zone where reality contorts itself into a banana republic parody of all things right and just and  good.

In the midst of this twisting of right and wrong, caring and corruption, goodness and greed, I’m reminded of why I began this blog in the first place and why I called it “reinventing the event horizon.” I’m reminded of the quote from T. D. Allman’s After Baby Doc I cited in my first post back in November.  It bears repeating, as Allman associates Haiti with the same “convoluting” of reason we see happening here this week:

Haiti is not simply one more of those tropical dictatorships where to rule is to steal, and headless bodies are found by the road.  Haiti contorts time:  It convolutes reason if you are lucky–and obliterates it if you are not.  Haiti is to this hemisphere what black holes are to outer space.  Venture there and you cross an event horizon. (After Baby Doc, 1989)

Wrap your brain around that statement and you may begin to understand how Haiti feels this week—how this warping of the already absurd, not only wearies me, but worries folks the world over.

Remember, an event horizon is the edge of a black hole, a bending in the space/time continuum beyond which no light can escape—in many ways, a point of no return.

Was the earthquake an event horizon for Port-au-Prince?  Will cholera bend time and space so there’s no escaping the dis-ease that’s plagued this place for centuries?  Will fraudulent presidential elections and now Baby Doc’s return from exile push the Haitian people into further darkness?

Is there light for Haiti?

28 thoughts on “An Event Horizon for Haiti? Baby Doc’s Mind-Bending Return from Exile

  1. What frightens me is that in their desperation, the Haitian people may eventually give up and give in to Baby Doc’s influence. That’s the thought that I just can’t shake. :\

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  2. It breaks my heart to know that this culture of fear and unknown outcome is the norm for the people of Haiti. I agree with Mrs. H, too. When people are so unsure of their surroundings they can latch onto anything resembling stability, even if it is an ill-intentioned and corrupt leader. Praying for light and a sense of calm for you and your Haitian neighbors today!

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    • It’s a legitimate fear and one shared by many. It’s especially strange to me, because I have talked to a number of people here in the last several days, and many are strangely pro-Duvalier. What’s up with that?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      We appreciate your prayers, Tori———–

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  3. Kathy,
    It’s a wonderful idea to be shedding your light on Haitian news. As we sit on the edge of our seats watching these developments, I’m hoping the international community will not let Baby doc return to any form of power.
    Riveting, informative posts. Stay safe my friend.

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    • I’m glad these posts are helpful. And admittedly I’m on the eddge of my seat too, asking, “What’s going to happen next?” If I weren’t afraid of offending some readers, I would use the not-so-savory language I’d like to describe how I feel.

      But we are careful and well-protected–so, I’ll keep you posted!

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      • Correct. But, the issue remains of under what jurisdiction the crimes would be prosecutable. Haiti is a signatory states member of the International Criminal Court, but has not ratified the treaty. But even if it had, the ICC has jurisdiction only over crimes committed after July 1 2002. Baby Doc’s actions were committed years before this temporal jurisdiction comes into effect. The Security Council can refer cases to the ICC in situations in which the state in which the crimes were committed is not under the jurisdiction of the Court, but because this is a temporal problem, it would be unlikely that it would be touched (for matters of ex post facto law, for one reason). On the other hand, universal jurisdiction, in its purist form, when a state claims jurisdiction over heinous crimes (such as crimes against humanity) that occurred outside of its borders to citizens other than its own (such as the case Spain attempted to bring against Pinochet) is controversial, and states that have attempted such prosecutions have been unsuccessful, bowing to political pressures (Belgium repealed its universal jurisdiction law) or being foiled for one reason or another. I’m not sure if Haiti has crimes against humanity on its books; or if it does, whether it would be in a position to try such a resource intensive case.
        Of course, there’s also the question of whether his bad acts comprise crimes against humanity. Currently, he’s being charged with corruption, right?

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      • I’ve read several different lists of what he’s charged with. But none of them are crimes against humanity. Honestly, I don’t know enough to ask an informed question–but ultimately I was wondering if an international court could step in if Haiti fails to prosecute. That’s probably a premature question.

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  4. I guess the answer to your question would be a qualified ‘yes’. Technically it could be possible if there was collective international will for the establishment of an international tribunal, or more likely, a hybrid Haitian-international tribunal. But, although thse tribunals are becoming more common, international will and resources are still hard to come by.

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  5. I firmly believe that human beings are capable of solving their own problems and that the Haitians if left alone will craft their own solutions. The problem is that we have never been left alone and powers outside Haiti always meddle. Perhaps, the natural course of history will never take place in Haiti. The question then becomes–what’s the solution?

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    • Absolutely, centuries worth of meddling dating all the way back to Columbus. Any ideas what the solution might be? Can outsiders begin to step back now that we’re in an age of globalization? Or how? It just seems like so many countries and NGOs have handled Haiti so poorly for so long, that what do we do now? I don’t know if anyone has an answer. That’s what saddens me.

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  6. Pingback: Undoing the damage done: learning how to write outside of Academia « A.Hab.'s View of the World

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