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The Return of Duvalier: Haiti's Denouement?

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The story of the unexpected and shocking return of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier on Sunday, and the spectacle of his questioning by Haitian authorities on Tuesday, has as many subplots as a Greek drama. Unfortunately for Haiti, there will be no deus ex machina--no god of truth to shed light on the reasons why Duvalier picked this moment, 25 years after he was exiled in disgrace to France, to resurrect his corrupt legacy.

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There will be no divine or earthly intervention of a human "god in the machine" to resolve this twisted narrative. Speculation, rumor, the fog of "diplomacy," and obfuscation on the part of international players are nothing more than contrivances, and no one can craft the ending of this drama except for the collective will of the Haitian people--if they are given the opportunity to do so.

"Baby Doc" Duvalier, now 59, led a brutal dictatorship from 1971 to 1986, when the United States supported his ouster and offered a military escort to exile. Murder, torture, looting, and the strangulation of Haitian free enterprise by the elite are part of his history, which many in Haiti are too young to remember since the median age is just over 20 years, according to 2009 demographics.

The Tonton Macoutes, a paramilitary organization created by Duvalier's father, President François "Papa Doc' Duvalier, used terror and murder to control societal dissidents. That legacy has been forgotten or relegated to the dustbin of "history," although some Haitians will tell you the Tonton Macoutes are still in Haiti--now, they are simply called "gangs."

That is the simplistic background.

The unanswered questions are why now, and who orchestrated Duvalier's return after 25 years? There are some clues that are worth examining.

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One year after the earthquake of January12, 2010 killed up to 250,000 (bodies are still being pulled from the rubble), injured 300,000, and left 1.5 million living in tents, tarps and rubble, the presidential election is in chaos. When it became obvious in December that ballots had been altered and burned, polling places controlled by thugs, and most of the citizenry disenfranchised even though they were on the voting rolls, President Rene Preval agreed to have the Organization of American States (OAS) oversee a certification process. The results removed Jude Celestin, Preval's handpicked choice, from the runoff in favor of the popular musician and businessman, Michel Martelly.


Did Preval orchestrate the return of Duvalier to distract from the election disaster? Did he do it alone, or were the United States and France complicit? It is hard to believe that Duvalier was not under close surveillance, given the unrest in Haiti and a simmering and lingering desire there for his return on the part of some Haitians. Drive through Port-au-Prince today and graffiti calling for the return of Duvalier covers crumbling stone walls.

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How did Duvalier mange to travel on a recently expired Haitian passport? The diplomatic passport was issued by interim President Gerard Latortue shortly before Preval first took office in 2004. Latortue followed ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, and Aristide will also play an important part in this unraveling.

Piecing together the sketchy narrative, Duvalier took a plane from France to the French territory of Guadeloupe. He did not need a passport anymore than a person flying from New York to California would need one. What is puzzling and as of now unanswered, is how Duvalier was allowed to board a plane for Haiti from Guadeloupe with an expired passport? French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero maintains in interviews that no one told the Ministry about the last leg of Duvalier's journey to Port-au-Prince. Possible? Perhaps.

Then there have been the "read between the lines" denials by the United States that the State Department knew about Duvalier's exodus.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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I just want to thank Rob Kall of OEN and Dick and ... by Georgianne Nienaber on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 9:14:59 AM
Still wondering why Duvalier is back folks? CHECK ... by Mac McKinney on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 11:39:01 AM
as in any good plot filled with red herringsclick ... by Georgianne Nienaber on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 12:03:48 PM
Is this two steps forward then make a little turn?... by Mac McKinney on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:24:37 PM
PJCrowley Philip J. Crowley ... by Elizabeth Ferrari on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 5:28:58 PM
I didn't think there was a "Matrix" until seeing t... by Mac McKinney on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 11:18:17 PM
MR. TONER: Go ahead.QUESTION: On Haiti, we've seen... by Georgianne Nienaber on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 11:32:45 PM
The Fix, to block Aristide, is indeed in, but the ... by Mac McKinney on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 11:44:13 PM