Live From Haiti: Baby Doc Returns

by Jon L. Denby

Port-au-Prince—Tonight, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier retuned from exile in France. His arrival was unannounced. There is already reports here of his supporters and detractors taking to the streets to burn tires and perhaps riot.

Mr. Duvalier was the dictator of Haiti from 1971 to 1986 when a popular uprising forced him from power and into exile. He fled to France where he has since lived in relative wealth from the money he stole from the national treasuries during his rein.

His sudden return comes amidst a period of political instability and chaos here in Haiti. The recent elections marked by fraud and irregularities has left in place a political vacuum that some suspect Mr. Duvalier means to take advantage of. President René Préval, the current president of Haiti, and fairly unpopular, has had his term of office extended while the Organization of American States (OAS) worked to review the election results. The OAS has since recommended that Preval’s favored candidate, Jude Celestin, be disqualified, while the other contenders, Michel Martelly (a.k.a. Sweet Micky) and Mirlande Manigat be allowed to continue into a run-off election.

 There is now speculation, including with this reporter, that Mr. Duvalier plans to take advantage of this delicate timing to stage a return to power, possibly by a coup d'état. Mr. Duvalier still commands large numbers of supporters around the country who would be delighted to see him in power once again. It is unclear what kind of support he commands with the nation’s police and military forces, organizations whose support would be essential to any successful coup.

The streets are currently quite here in Delmas 75. However, there are reports of his supporters burning tires in Cité Soleil, the sprawling slum here in Port-au-Prince (and purportedly the most dangerous place in the western hemisphere). Other slums are also said to be mobilizing. Only daylight will reveal what Mr. Duvalier’s intentions actually are.