“Baby Doc” Duvalier returns to Haiti

posted at 9:33 am on January 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Almost 25 years ago, the downtrodden people of Haiti managed to finally put an end to the Duvalier dynasty, which ruled one of the world’s poorest nations for thirty years through terror and theft on the grandest of scales.  They gave Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier the heave-ho in 1986, sending him off to France to live in luxury on the Haitian wealth accumulated by Duvalier and his father François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, where the former dictator has stayed ever since … or at least until yesterday.  Duvalier entered Haiti last night on a “diplomatic” passport, apparently allowed to travel there by France:

And what’s perhaps even harder to imagine is how the government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy could have allowed Duvalier, who arrived from Paris, to board an Air France flight bound for Haiti under the current circumstances. “For the French to have even permitted [Duvalier] to leave their territory amidst an electoral and cholera crisis here shows they have not much interest in the welfare of the Haitian people,” says a high-ranking Haitian government official.

French officials, who technically had no power to stop Duvalier, weren’t responding to that question on Sunday night. But Port-au-Prince media were rife with conflicting conspiracy theories — all of them focused on last week’s election report by the Organization of American States (OAS). It concluded that Jude Célestin, the candidate of Haitian President René Préval’s party, actually finished third, not second, in the first-round balloting on Nov. 28, and that Célestin should therefore not be eligible for a runoff vote — which, ironically, was originally supposed to have been held Sunday but has been postponed.

The less-than-credible Nov. 28 results, which many if not most Haitians believe the government fixed to eke out a runoff spot for Célestin, were met by violent street protests last month. Even before last week’s OAS report, the aloof and unpopular Préval was under ample international pressure, including from the U.S., to recognize the official third-place finisher, Michel Martelly, as the actual runner-up. (He would then face first-place candidate Mirlande Manigat in the runoff.) Last week, France’s ambassador to Haiti, Didier Le Bret, was frequently on Haitian radio calling on Préval to respect the OAS recommendation. Préval in turn angrily charged France and the international community with imperialist-style strong-arming.

The question now is, Who if anyone in this standoff benefits from the sudden presence of Duvalier? Some Haitian pundits on Sunday said it might be meant to compel Préval to acquiesce to international demands to sacrifice Célestin. But it’s hard to believe, even under Sarkozy, that France and the international community would stoop so low diplomatically as to encourage Duvalier to return to Haiti for that purpose. Others suggested that Duvalier’s return instead gives Préval leverage by showing the international powers how much more turbulent things can get if they keep messing with the Haitian President. But again, could even Préval be cynical enough to open the door to one of the 20th century’s most notorious dictators for that kind of political gain?

Duvalier, 19 years old when he officially took power and tossed out at age 34, wouldn’t leave his cushy exile in France merely to act on behalf of the OAS, or even to counter the OAS.  It’s difficult to imagine any reason for Duvalier to be in Haiti except to seize power once again.  It’s about the most propitious time for a power grab; we have a disputed and almost certainly corrupt election, starvation, epidemics, and the ravages of natural disasters still plaguing the nation.  That kind of chaos breeds dictators more often than not, and the return of a ready-made dictator might make it even easier to seize control.

Haiti threatened to try Duvalier for his crimes as dictator if he ever returned to the country, a threat that kept Duvalier in France after he first suggested he might run for President in 2006.  With the nation’s political structure crumbling and people starving, the police may well believe they have better things to do now than to arrest a man who might well end up back in power.  His “diplomatic passport” would prevent an arrest, if that is indeed how he entered the country, in any event.

Duvalier says he returned to help his country in its time of need.  A better bet is that Duvalier decided to help himself to more of Haiti, and that the situation there is about to get even worse than it was before his arrival.

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When it rains….

apostic on January 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM

apostic nails it.

ted c on January 17, 2011 at 9:38 AM

Haiti should count the issuing of a diplomatic passport to Duvalier an act of war.

France might surrender. \

Slowburn on January 17, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Well, France is our greatest ally, just not Haiti’s.

myrenovations on January 17, 2011 at 9:50 AM

Looks like we found a job for Jared Lee Loughner…

right2bright on January 17, 2011 at 9:50 AM

This deserves a “What Could Go Wrong” headline.

Tony737 on January 17, 2011 at 9:52 AM

Duvalier saw that Jerry Brown got elected again after a 30 year hiatus and said “hey this planet is nuts; anything is possible.”

And we wonder why birds fall dead from the sky and fish float belly up in our waters.

Geochelone on January 17, 2011 at 9:55 AM

With the nation’s political structure crumbling and people starving, the police may well believe they have better things to do now than to arrest a man who might well end up back in power.

Ummm, Ed, the police down there don’t actually have to arrest someone to “take care” of them.

TugboatPhil on January 17, 2011 at 10:02 AM

The question now is, Who if anyone in this standoff benefits from the sudden presence of Duvalier?

That the real question. Is Duvalier using the crisis in Haiti to try and get back into power? What other reason could compel him to go at this particular point in time? We know it’s not because he’s a humanitarian. It’s probably because in this crisis he smells opportunity.

Tommy_G on January 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Duvalier saw that Jerry Brown got elected again after a 30 year hiatus and said “hey this planet is nuts; anything is possible.”

And we wonder why birds fall dead from the sky and fish float belly up in our waters.

Geochelone on January 17, 2011 at 9:55 AM

heh. true that! and also why 200+ cows just dropped dead in WI. I know I know…nothing to be concerned about…not at all/

ted c on January 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM

On the bright side, if Haiti had any trains, they might run on time.

Vashta.Nerada on January 17, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Now class. Just observe Haiti and you will see what the United States will become if the progressives, Marxists, and radicals have their way.

mizflame98 on January 17, 2011 at 10:09 AM

Interesting conundrum looming for the Secretary of State if Baby Doc does try to regain power, forcing the U.S. to take a public stand on the former and possible future dictator.

Since Bill Clinton sent U.S. forces to Haiti in 1994 over concerns about a looming dictatorship by Duvalier’s successor, Hillary can’t just issue some generic statement of concern as a representative of the Obama Administration; instead she’ll be asked why Obama isn’t doing at the very least what her husband did with Cedras 17 years ago, if Obama opts to do nothing.

jon1979 on January 17, 2011 at 10:09 AM

PBHO called Duvalier to congratulate him on leaving behind his criminal past and attempting to put his life back in order.

Bishop on January 17, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Poverty, squalor, rampant disease, corruption.

Shoulda gone with Wyclef, Haiti.

KingGold on January 17, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Pirates of the Caribbean. They could try hijacking oil tankers for the insurance money. It could work. It works for Somalia.

Skandia Recluse on January 17, 2011 at 10:16 AM

He heard Billy Jeff talkin’ bout how much money was there and the rosy report he gave last week bout how much improved things were. Baby Doc just had to see for himself and get some more of our charity. Don’t know if anybody is in charge in that country but the police should be knocking on his door and making an arrest.

Kissmygrits on January 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Kissmygrits on January 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Baby Doc could smell the money all the way from France. Pray for the Haitian people.

Fallon on January 17, 2011 at 10:26 AM

ted c on January 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Yea bro. I heard about those 200 cows that tipped over just the other day. Freaky. Do you think it’s the Canary in the Coal Mine for Mother Earth?

Somewhere in the quatrains of Nostradamus all this havoc was foreseen. The dude tried to warn us *geo thumbs thru his copy* and we missed it.

/sarc @%50

Geochelone on January 17, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Hey, great! Someone new that Obama can bow to.

pilamaye on January 17, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Yeah, but was he ever as bad as Booooosh?!

I don’t think so…

catmman on January 17, 2011 at 10:34 AM

Did Obowma congratulate “Baby Doc” the dictator on his return? The smell of money writs large … I wonder what schemes to bilk the US taxpayer lay ahead.

tarpon on January 17, 2011 at 10:34 AM

Duvalier says he returned to help his country in its time of need.

So he brought back all those MILLIONS he stole and will disburse the funds to a needy population. Right?

GarandFan on January 17, 2011 at 10:35 AM

And what’s perhaps even harder to imagine is how the government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy could have allowed Duvalier, who arrived from Paris, to board an Air France flight bound for Haiti under the current circumstances. “For the French to have even permitted [Duvalier] to leave their territory . . .

French officials, who technically had no power to stop Duvalier,

Um, if France doesn’t have the power to stop him from leaving (and I’d be worried if someone, not indicted for a crime or even under official suspicion, could be simply detained from leaving a country not of their origin) then how can they stop him from leaving?

Haiti should indeed arrest him.

rbj on January 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM

“Baby Doc” Duvalier returns to Haiti

No Folks, this is not The Onion.

Geochelone on January 17, 2011 at 10:48 AM

What a despicable person, Duvalier. Haitians will know even more suffering.

JSGreg3 on January 17, 2011 at 10:50 AM

He can turn people into zombies!!!

Akzed on January 17, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Haiti should indeed arrest execute him.

rbj on January 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM

FIFY

JSGreg3 on January 17, 2011 at 10:51 AM

He only left with millions before. Now there are billions floating around not disbursed he can find and take away.

Oleta on January 17, 2011 at 11:03 AM

This can not be good. I cannot imagine that there is anything good that he can do for the country. Now is the time as never before to pray for Haiti.

Kevin K. on January 17, 2011 at 11:09 AM

With all the aid money that’s continuing to come to Haiti how could Duvalier resist coming to “help”?

How could this ex-dictator & major thief come on a diplomatic passport, is he a French official or have diplomatic status? Can’t believe the French government is that low – but then they did take him in.

I don’t see why he could not be arrested and eventually brought to trial. If Haitians allow him any role to play then I think the Haitians are truly hopeless and deserving of no more of our taxpayer aid – France can support them and we should encourage the French to then take in a huge migration from there, you know, to supplement the multicultural enrichment they are enjoying from the North African Muslims.

Chessplayer on January 17, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Bad news for Haiti, who have plenty already.

So, when should we expect our POTUS to vote “present!” on this development?

cs89 on January 17, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I mean, how much damage can he do … relatively speaking?

BrideOfRove on January 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM

In May it will be 25 years ago that my family moved to Haiti in the aftermath of Baby Doc and his cronies the “Tonton Macoutes”. Used to be anyone dressed similar to the uniform of the TonTon Macoutes would reap mob justice, usually ending in a dismembering by machete. Anyone with any clear ties to Duvalier was a villain and a best bet to win any form of political power was disavowing his family.

The only reason I can see the people of Haiti accepting Duvalier back into the country is in the sense that they’ve fallen on such hard times its like the children of Israel wishing to go back to Egypt. Who cares that it was slavery, they had garlic and leaks to flavor their food! Life under the Duvalier regime was horrific, but at least there was a stable norm. In the 20years since my family left the country, things have spiraled so far down, in large part due to a lack of any consistency in governance. All regimes are about the strength the personality of the person in charge and little has been done to promote the rule of law. In a country where there’s an exception to every rule, to the point of Catholic priests serving as witch doctors after dark, it needs a personality or group of persons strong enough to promote the rule of law on all levels. It needs its own Thomas Jeffersons and Benjamin Franklins and George Washingtons who have larger than life ideals and who hold a benevolent respect for the nation. Unfortunately in third world countries, seeking benevolence beyond your family is almost unheard of. Its a true Darwinian society where only the fittest survive, usually by treading on the backs of the weak.

DrewVT6 on January 17, 2011 at 11:41 AM

It’s difficult to imagine any reason for Duvalier to be in Haiti except to seize power once again. It’s about the most propitious time for a power grab; we have a disputed and almost certainly corrupt election, starvation, epidemics, and the ravages of natural disasters still plaguing the nation. That kind of chaos breeds dictators more often than not, and the return of a ready-made dictator might make it even easier to seize control.

Too right. It always bothers me when posts like this get so little comments.

Also, with ZerObama at the helm, all tyrants and dictators (past and present) are licking their chops. Now is the time. What a bloody shame.

Gob on January 17, 2011 at 11:59 AM

DrewVT6 on January 17, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Thank you Drew, for a very powerful post. Those who have no idea what the Tonton Macoute were should look it up.

Gob on January 17, 2011 at 12:07 PM

I mean, how much damage can he do … relatively speaking?

BrideOfRove on January 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM

He could seize power (with Obama’s blessing), declare his conversion to Islam, rename himself Barack Hussein Muhammad, institute sharia law and convert those billions of international aid dollars to developing nuclear “energy”.

Extrafishy on January 17, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Pop him now! Remember our lead man in Haiti’s reconstruction? Slick.

a capella on January 17, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Kissmygrits on January 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Exactly right. Old Baby Doc heard that there was 1.5 billion or so US tax dollars pumped in down there and decided he needed to get his taste.

conservnut on January 17, 2011 at 1:38 PM

“People have the government they disserve”. Isn’t that what the Russian scholar said?

saiga on January 17, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Haiti has “wealth”?

I think Baby Doc’s return to Haiti is yet another demonstration of the weakness of the Obama Administration. There are incidents taking place all over the globe that would NOT happen under George W. Bush.

It’s just a free-for-all while our fearless leader sleeps in, catches up on Sports Center, and works on his chip shot.

David2.0 on January 17, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Baby Doc in Haiti = thousands of boat people washing up on the Florida Keys.

I wonder what Senator Marco Rubio would say about this…

Steve Z on January 17, 2011 at 2:33 PM

There was always something faintly debauched looking about Baby Doc. Has not changed with time I guess.

jeanie on January 17, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Pirates of the Caribbean. They could try hijacking oil tankers for the insurance money. It could work. It works for Somalia.

Skandia Recluse on January 17, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Tortuga is a great jump off point for those types of operations.

Tim Burton on January 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM

As sad as it is but, at this point, what’s the difference? Who knows, he might actually make things happen there, if only to enrich himself. But we, the U.S., must not give another dime to that cesspool until the millions (billions?) we’ve given them show more than growing tent cities without improvements such as homes and infrastructure in the year since the earthquake.

Big John on January 17, 2011 at 11:09 PM