J.C. Duvalier: An Evil Blot in Haiti Comes to an End*
By Anthony L Hall
The following excerpt — from “Return of Baby Doc,” January 20, 2011 — telegraphed (and effectively sums up) my thoughts on the timely death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier:
Theories abound about Baby Doc’s return — ranging from it being pursuant to a political plot orchestrated by the US and France, to a desperate attempt to fulfill a condition Swiss banking authorities have placed on the release of what remains of his ill-gotten gains.
Whatever the case, I fear no contradiction in asserting that Baby Doc returning to Haiti makes about as much sense as Idi Amin returning to Uganda. This is why I am convinced he has returned from exile because he’s now either certifiably insane or terminally ill. And judging from his rather frail and jaundiced appearance, I suspect it’s the latter. Alas, he’s probably suffering heroic delusions of dying on home soil.
All the same, I applaud Haitian authorities for launching an immediate investigation to hold him to account not just for the violent crimes his dreaded Tonton Macoutes executed, but also for the financial crimes he perpetrated.
I just hope he stays alive long enough to face the judge before he meets his maker.
Well, here’s to dashed hopes:
Jean-Claude Duvalier, who presided over what was widely acknowledged as a corrupt and brutal regime as the self-proclaimed ‘president for life’ of Haiti until a popular uprising sent him into a 25-year exile, has died.
The former leader, known as ‘Baby Doc,’ made a surprise return to Haiti in 2011, allowing victims of his regime to pursue legal claims against him in Haitian courts and prompting some old allies to rally around him. Neither side gained much traction, however, and a frail Duvalier spent his final years quietly in the leafy hills above the Haitian capital.
(The Associated Press, October 4, 2014)
He clearly got — what I suspected was — his wish to die in peace. I can only hope now that his maker ensures that he does not rest in peace.
I fully appreciate, of course, that victims of his regime now feel doubly betrayed by Haitian President Michel Martelly. After all, he not only welcomed Baby Doc back with open arms, but expressed presidential sympathy upon his death while, as The Associated Press duly noted:
… making no mention of the widespread human rights abuses that occurred under Duvalier and his more notorious predecessor and father, Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier.
As it happens I am irreconcilably conflicted: on the one hand, I sympathize with the victims because Martelly should have acknowledged (the truth about) the Duvaliers’ legacy of corruption and human rights abuses; on the other hand, despite my declared hope for Baby Doc to face the judge, I sympathized with Martelly when he inaugurated his presidency by vowing to pursue political reconciliation … even at the expense of judicial truth and consequences.
Here in part is what I’m on record saying with respect to this latter point in “New Haitian President Seeks Reconciliation,” The iPINIONS Journal, Vol. VII, October 12, 2011:
In a deft and enlightened move, Martelly declared from the outset of his presidency that he wanted to make peace — not just with Aristide but with every other former Haitian leader as well. To this end he made quite a public show today of meeting with both Aristide and Baby Doc.
Implicit in this of course is that he will discourage any attempt to prosecute Baby Doc, and that Aristide will now be loath to challenge the legitimacy of his presidency. Beyond this, Martelly’s move is deft and enlightened because it lays the foundation for the kind of political certainty that is sine qua non for the foreign direct investments Haiti will need to rebuild….
And, after Haiti’s judicial authorities duly announced in January 2012 that Baby Doc would not stand trial for his alleged crimes against humanity (making it clear that, where there might be political reconciliation, there will be no judicial truth), I attempted to console his victims as follows:
I wish the long-suffering people of Haiti an extended period of peace, happiness, and prosperity. I am convinced that foregoing a war-crimes trial will help this wish come true.
(“Haiti Reconciles with Baby Doc,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2012)
Baby Doc died of an apparent heart attack — on home soil — on Saturday. He was 63.
Good riddance, Baby Doc!