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Baby Doc no! Aristide yes!

Published Jan 19, 2011 4:57 PM

In the midst of unspeakable suffering of the Haitian people and just days after the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, one of the figures most reviled by the Haitian masses has returned to the country.

Tens of thousands were jailed, tortured and killed under the successive regimes of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, mostly by the paramilitary Tonton Macoutes. When the people of Haiti were able to force out Jean-Claude Duvalier through a mass struggle in 1986 (the father had died in office), he fled on a U.S. plane accompanied by a U.S. guard.

Duvalier had been in exile in France until he boarded a plane and arrived back in Haiti on Jan. 16.

After many Haitians demanded that Duvalier be indicted for human rights violations, he was brought to a court on Jan. 18, questioned and then returned to his luxury hotel. It is up to a judge to decide whether he’ll be formally charged with “corruption, theft, misappropriation of funds and other alleged crimes.” (Guardian, Jan. 18)

In addition to torture and killings, Duvalier’s monetary schemes are directly related to the impoverishment of Haiti. In the last six years before he fled the country, he rerouted $500 million in U.S. loans into his own bank accounts. It was the Haitian people, and not Duvalier, who were forced to repay the loans.

Whatever brought about the outrageous return of this mass murderer to Haiti, it raises another even more important question about another exiled president: Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Isn’t it long past time Aristide was allowed to return?

After years of repressive military regimes, the people of Haiti elected preacher and mass leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990 in a landslide, and re-elected him in 2000 with 92 percent of the vote. Washington organized a coup in 2004, kidnapping Aristide on Feb. 29 and flying him out of the country in the custody of both private security forces and the U.S. military. Some of the same Haitian military leaders who participated in the 2004 coup had previously been leaders of the Tonton Macoutes.

Aristide had the support of most Haitians when this U.S.-backed coup deposed him. And yet, in this time of need for Haitians, he is prevented from returning from Haiti. His political party, Fanmi Lavalas, is even prevented from running in the elections.

Jean-Claude Duvalier, to jail!

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to Haiti!