Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Haitian people have just completed a chapter with the death of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

By Herve Gilbert
French Version
Jean-Claude Duvalier
July 3, 1951 - October 4, 2014
Former Haitian President Jean Claude Duvalier known as "Baby Doc," died Saturday, October 4, 2014 as a result of a heart attack, according to the announcement made by Haitian authorities. He was  63 years old. There were desperate efforts made to revive him. According to the Minister of Health, Florence Guillaume  Duperval a helicopter-ambulance requested by the family was unable to transport him in time to the hospital.

Jean-Claude Duvalier was president of Haiti from 1971 to 1986 after the death of his father, François Duvalier, known as "Papa Doc." In April 1971, he became President for  life of Haiti from 1971 to 1986, becoming the youngest head of state in the world.

After seizing power, he introduced political changes from the regime of his father and he delegated much authority to his advisors.Thousands of Haitians were killed or tortured and hundreds of thousands fled the country to various destinations; the closest being, the Dominican Republican, the country of which the dictator "sold" Haitians as cane cutters under false contracts.

His dictatorship was marked in the early years by a willingness  for change and appeasement. ,"Baby Doc" offered some pledges of good democratic will. He restored relations with some countries  like the United States and the Dominican Republic that had a cold diplomatic relation with Haïti during his father’s presidency, and his presence as the head of the government of Haiti reestablished the renewal of international aid to Haiti . Duvalier held absolute power that the Haitian Constitution entitled him. He started little by little toward reform of the political system of his father, by releasing political prisoners and press censorship. There has however been no radical changes in depth. Because the opposition were not tolerated and the regime remained absolute. His recurring leitmotif during his speeches: "My father made a political revolution, I will do the economic revolution" was a total failure in the context of real economic development in Haiti during his presidency.
February 7, 1986
Jean-Claude Duvalier was ousted in 1986 after a popular revolt. On February 7, 1986, he handed the reins of the government to the Haitian soldiery and left Haiti aboard an Air Force plane; he landed at Grenoble, France. After the sudden departure of the dictator in Haiti, the home of his supporters were plundered under the phenomenon known in Creole as "dechoukaj" or in French "uprooting." A crowd in uproar, attacked the mausoleum of "Papa Doc", destroying it with stones and bare hands. Papa Doc's coffin was taken from the grave, where the crowd danced and breaking it into  pieces; they grabed the body of the dictator by beating it symbolically. The grave of the famous bodyguard of "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc", Jacques Gracia recently buried  9 months before, was also exhumed. During this day of "dechoukaj", there were hundreds of victims, mostly Tontons Macoutes killed. On February 8, 1986 the new government released political prisoners, and established a curfew.

The Duvaliers settled in France. For a while, they lived a life of luxury and pomp, although they were never officially granted political asylum. Their request was rejected by the French authorities. Jean-Claude Duvalier lost most of his fortune after his divorce with Michele Bennett in 1993. Since then, he was living a modest life in exile, Duvalier continued to have supporters who created the Francois Duvalier Foundation in Haiti, in 2006 to promote the positive aspects of his presidency. This foundation included the creation of state institutions to improve access to education for the country's black majority.
Baby Doc  and his companion Veronique Roy
at Port-au-Prince airport on January 16, 2011
On January 16, 2011, he boarded Air France with his new companion Veronique Roy and returned to Haiti after 25 years in exile. He landed in Port-au-Prince, and told reporters that he returned "to help the Haitian people." In Haiti, experts and activists of human rights believed that this return was actually linked to a Swiss law which came into effect on February 1st; the law on the restitution of illicit assets, dubbed " The Duvalier" or "Duvalier law", which reversed the burden of proof. This permitted the Swiss Confederation to return a blocked off 4 million dollars to the Haitian government, even without a formal request from the judicial authorities of that country. By returning to Haiti, Duvalier hoped to show that the failure to prosecute him was not due to his fleeing the country but the fact that there were no complaints and that escrow account were rightfully his. However, we must emphasize that it was another Jean-Claude Duvalier returning to Haiti after 25 years in exile. We noticed a slim, frail man with a heavier gait than before. Apparently, he did not seem to be healthy...

JCD arrested, on his way to the court on January 18, 2011
On January 18, he was arrested at his hotel and then subpoena before the Judge at the courthouse before being released and forbidenned to leave the country. Jean-Claude Duvalier,was held responsible by international organizations for Human Rights of the death of thousands of opponents during his presidency (1971-1986). He was also accused by the authorities of Haiti for embezzlement of over $ 100 million dollars, the abuse of power, theft and corruption. After three failed appearances, he presented for the first time before the Court of Appeals in Port-au-Prince, on February 28 2013. In February 2014, an additional investigation was opened against him, which  charged him with formal crimes against humanity.

The news of the death of Jean-Claude Duvalier fell like a bombshell this Saturday, October 4: Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier died of a heart attack. This information caused reactions around the world. They were numerous and sometimes controversial. For some, it was a relief that the dictator was no longer of this world; others experienced regret that he could not answer for his crimes in court. Certain users on Facebook and Twitter insulted Jean-Claude Duvalier mercilessly and took advantage of his death to honor the people who disappeared under his regime. Few nostalgic from the dictatorship, conversely, expressed regret at the death of the former president for life. For For Alix Fils-Aimé, the death of former dictator left a bitter taste: "He regretted that he died before the end of the judicial process. His story, he says, drowned in the ocean of crimes that Duvalier father and son had committed. "

 The family of Jean-Claude Duvalier in the Chapel of St-Louis
 October 11, 2014 during the funeral
Many people wondered if Jean-Claude Duvalier, would be entitled to a state funeral. When President Michel Martelly, declared following the announcement of the death of "Baby Doc", that he considered Jean-Claude as a genuine citizen and raised the possibility of holding a state funeral for him.

Ultimately, the former dictator did not have a state funeral after a government source said that "Baby Doc" should simply have a non official funeral. That was subsequently confirmed by the lawyer of the deceased, by reassuring that a simple service and private  would be held Saturday, October 11.

Several hundred people, including nostalgic and fanatics  of the  Duvalier's regime, attended his funeral on Saturday, October 11th which was celebrated in the small chapel at the congreganist school of St. Louis de Gonzague, the old school of the former dictator.

Former President Prosper Avril, former Ministers A. Raymond
, Fritz.Cinéas Theo Achille, Jean Marie Chanoine and former  
  General Duperval listening to the eulogy of Fritz Cinéas          
People were gathered in front of his coffin covered with the Haitian bicolor flag and offered their condolences to the companion of the deceased, Veronique Roy, his ex-wife, Michele Bennett, and their two children.
Members of the Haitian elite, including former ministers and supporters of the Duvalier regime arrived in luxury SUVs, joining citizens more modestly dressed. The pews of the chapel of Saint-Louis de Gonzague School in Port-au-Prince were completely filled. Representatives of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, currently traveled outside the country had been noticed. Former Presidents Boniface Alexandre and Prosper Avril attended the ceremony.

By not receiving the honor of a state funeral is a small victory on several aspects for opponents of the Duvalier regime," said Alex Dupuy, a sociologist born in Haiti, who now teaches at Wesleyan University in Connecticut . A state funeral would have sent the message that his regime was endorsed, rather than convicted, he believes.
The coffin was carried by former members of the FHDH
During the service, former ministers of the former dictator mentioned "one of the greatest presidents of the country", to loud applauses, while other former barons of the regime recalled his achievements during his past 15 years.
A man in tears, arms outstretched, launched "Duvalier left, he had no time to give us the keywords," as he regretted...  

A dozen young dressed with  red t-shirts heckled the funeral procession as it exited  the chapel. "Duvalier is a criminal, he will not go to heaven. "burn Duvalier, behead him," they shouted...
«You have to learn to forget. This is the time of forgiveness. Certainly, there were casualties under Duvalier, however, Jean-Claude was the perpetrator, "questioned Mary Ludie, an artist , 29 years old.» Do not continue to divide the country," she added.
There were no protesters outside the chapel, but the victims of his regime staged a sit-in protest to former headquarters of his party, where some chanted eternal fire to the soul of Jean-Claude Duvalier!

The death of former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier nicknamed "Baby Doc" has provoked reactions worldwide. On Saturday, October 4th 2014 According to many observers, Duvalier's death deprived the Haitians of a human rights trial  that could have been the most important one in the history of the country.

Duvalier cannot answer for the crimes committed during his time in office , which was a regret shared by all human rights defenders in Haiti and abroad. "The end of a saga," "the end of the duvalierienne era", "the end of an era", "the end of the Duvalier", were many headlines read in the newspapers after the death of the dictator who days preceding his death, was in his own home, away from his bodyguards, and the bite of an arachnid (poisonous), forced him to spend two weeks in the hospital, according to our colleague "the Nouvelliste ". Ironically?

Its victims, dead, may be in the process of turning in their graves because justice was not rendered to them. Those still living are forced to wonder if the judicial system that doesnt seem to live up to its mission will ever render when faced...

The fact remains that the people of Haiti have just completed a chapter with the passage into the afterlife of Baby Doc Duvalier.

By Herve Gilbert

October 11, 2014

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