Any Haitians with a progressive bone in their body regretted Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s Oct. 4 death. They would have preferred a trial in open court to expose his corrupt, grisly and extensive brutality to the world — especially to younger Haitians born after Duvalier was forced to flee to France in 1986.
Of course, the reactionaries currently in charge of the Haitian government have a different opinion. President Michel Martelly, once a card-carrying Tonton Macoute by his own admission, said in a Tweet: “On behalf of the entire government and people of Haiti, I take this sad occasion to extend my sincere sympathies to his family, his relatives, and his supporters across the country.”
The Tonton Macoutes, officially the National Security Volunteers, were paid only with their impunity to rob, rape, brutalize and steal, as long as they were loyal to the Duvaliers, father and son.
The U.S. government remained silent when François (“Doc”) Duvalier had his 19-year-old son Jean-Claude anointed to succeed him as president-for-life in January 1971, and kept quiet when he became president three months later. Its silence was seen as assent.
Washington had suspended military aid and training to Haiti in the 1960s, responding to the notorious corruption and brutality of his father. But when a fire broke out in the Haitian armory in the National Palace in 1973, the U.S. rushed to restore the heavy weapons that had been destroyed and resumed military aid to Haiti. (Haïti-Liberté, April 2013)
When a massive and militant uprising against Baby Doc’s regime began in 1985 and grew in intensity in 1986, the U.S. government chose to cut its losses and preserve its options. The U.S. Air Force flew a C-130 to Port-au-Prince and allowed Baby Doc and his wife to drive their BMW onto the plane. There was no interference with what Duvalier had stowed in the trunk. The C-130 then dropped them in the south of France to enjoy the estimated $600 million to $800 million they had stole from Haiti.
Duvalier was out of the picture, but Duvalierism was preserved. The gang formerly around Baby Doc remained basically intact. Washington didn’t loosen its ties to the repressive apparatus François Duvalier had built and consolidated with his ideology of noirism, a form of cultural nationalism promoting the Black ruling class. The Haitian people had a victory to celebrate. While the uprooting, the “dechoukag” in Creole, removed notorious local Macoute leaders, it failed to reach the main leaders. Jean-Claude was always available, if need be.
Treatment of President Aristide
Compare the treatment of Jean-Claude Duvalier with what the U.S. dished out to Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In 2004, during the second coup he faced as president, the U.S. kidnapped him and his family, forced them onto a plane with a suitcase for their clothes and flew them to the Central African Republic, one of the poorest and most isolated countries in the world.
Seven years of struggle brought into the streets tens of thousands of people, who risked attacks from Haitian cops and the U.N. Minustah force that has occupied Haiti since 2004. Finally, Aristide was allowed to return in March 2011 from South Africa. This was after President Barack Obama called South African President Jacob Zuma and asked him to keep Aristide in South Africa.
A few months earlier, in January, Jean-Claude Duvalier had returned to Haiti, a move that CNN called a “surprise,” but whose obvious purpose was to boost the presidential candidacy of Michel Martelly, an open Duvalierist. Martelly’s place on the ballot had been guaranteed by the open and direct intervention of then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Fanmi Lavalas, Aristide’s party and indisputably the most popular party in Haiti, had been kept off the ballot because it very likely would have won.
The Haitian government had opened up judicial procedures against Jean-Claude Duvalier, but they quickly ran out of steam when Martelly became president.
What is keeping Fanmi Lavalas off the ballot now is that the Haitian government has charged Aristide with serious crimes, no matter how bogus or improbable the charges are. While Duvalier was alive, the government ignored his real crimes, making it politically difficult for the Martelly regime to proceed full bore against Aristide.
Now that Baby Doc is removed from the scene, political analysts in Haiti expect the attacks on Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas to intensify. At the same time, progressives in Haiti are demanding that the state bring charges against officials in the Duvalierist government.