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#5148: Ron Howell's article on Baby Doc in NY Newsday (fwd)
Return of Duvalier?
Some Haitians support former dictator's bid to govern
by RON HOWELL
Backed by supporters based in New York City and Long Island, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier says he wants to end his exile in France and return to power in the troubled Caribbean country he left 14 years ago.
"I am working to get back to Haiti,” he said, speaking in French during a telephone interview from his residence in Paris.
"That is my goal,” Duvalier said, talking for the first time to an American journalist about his ambitions.
The campaign to make Duvalier, 49, the next leader of Haiti is being managed by a band of Haitian emigrants using a building in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn as their office.
Their campaign has been picking up steam as they worry that Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the popular leftist ex-president, will offer himself as a candidate for Haitian presidential elections in November.
Some of the Duvalier loyalists in the New York area are friends and former associates of Emmanuel Constant, the accused ex-leader of a Haitian
terrorist organization who has been living in the Laurelton section of
Queens. Critics say the United States is allowing Constant to remain here
because he was once on the CIA payroll in Haiti, and it is believed he
harbors many secrets about past U.S. involvement in the country.
Constant was a loyal follower of the Duvalier family, which was in power in Haiti between 1957 and 1986. Human-rights groups allege that during that
time, some 40,000 people died and a million more fled into exile, many in
New York City.
The group lobbying for Duvalier's return calls itself the Haitian Center for Economic and Social Development. Using the French acronym CHADES, the
organization was started four years ago. It has been stepping up its
activities since last December, holding two rallies in Brooklyn and one in
Connecticut. They claim thousands of members in New York City, Long Island,
Miami, Montreal, France and the Dominican Republic, although those numbers
could not be independently verified.
Two founders of CHADES met with Newsday on Wednesday afternoon in the Valley Stream offices of a Haitian businessman who did not want to be identified, and they arranged the long-distance call to Duvalier, whom they respectfully addressed as "Your Excellence.”
One of the CHADES co-founders, Frantz Bataille, is a Haitian physician who lives in the Bronx and remains a close friend of Constant. Bataille is also employed as a writer for Haiti Observateur, an influential Brooklyn-based right-of-center weekly newspaper. Publisher Raymond Joseph took pains to stress that while Bataille works for him, he himself is not a member of CHADES. Joseph said he opposes the return of Duvalier to Haiti.
The other CHADES founder who met with Newsday was Rahoul Dupervil of
One Haitian human-rights activist said he was surprised to learn that scores and perhaps hundreds of Haitians in the New York area seem to be organizing to get Duvalier back into power. He said that movement is a sign that Haiti is in a severe political crisis and that many Haitians are desperate for someone with name recognition to oppose Aristide.
"I think one of the things driving it is that there is a leadership vacuum in Haiti,” said Jocelyn McCalla, executive director of the National
Coalition for Haitian Rights.
According to CHADES co-founder Dupervil, Duvalier may try to go to Haiti as early as November to participate in the upcoming elections. Or he may wait until some future day, when Haitians get fed up with the country's worsening poverty and violence and take to the streets to demand that he come back.
Asked for an assessment of those plans, McCalla said CHADES members are
"crazy” if they think large numbers of Haitians will ever welcome the man
they once referred to as Baby Doc.
Francois Duvalier, "Papa Doc,” had governed by terror, spreading fear across the nation with his armed civilian henchmen, the Tontons Macoutes. When he died in 1971, his chubby son Jean-Claude, then 19, inherited the presidency and continued his father's brutal policies.
Like his father, Baby Doc was staunchly anti-communist, and he had the
backing of the United States government.
Amid growing protests against his rule, Jean-Claude left Haiti in February, 1986, on a U.S. military plane, flying to his long exile in France. Duvalier has said he exists now on financial support from sympathetic Haitians living around the world.
The once and would-be future ruler has a girlfriend of French-Italian
descent, Veronique Roi, who comes from France to Brooklyn from time to time
and represents him at meetings with CHADES members, said group co-founder
Bataille. At CHADES gatherings, Duvalier addresses the members on a speaker
At a Sept. 10 rally in Brooklyn, according to a transcript provided by
Dupervil, Duvalier told his supporters: "The cry of the people reaches our
heart like an agonizing call that cannot be ignored. Consequently, I offer
myself as a guarantor of inevitable changes that must take place in the
future, changes without which our country will perish.”
A reporter from the Marxist Brooklyn-based Haitian newspaper, Haiti Progrès, attended the rally and reported that 100 people attended. Dupervil
maintained a thousand people were there.
Dupervil argued that support for Jean-Claude Duvalier has been building
among upper- and middle-class Haitians.
"He's the only one who has the popularity in Haiti now, besides the other man who is there,” he said, referring to Aristide. "The Haitian middle class is 90 percent Duvalierist. He is their only alternative now.”
Aristide took office in February, 1991, as the country's first
democratically elected president. He was overthrown in the fall of that year and then restored to office in October, 1994. But he was prohibited by the constitution from succeeding himself. Now that his protégé Rene Preval's term is ending, Aristide is expected to run again for office in the elections scheduled for Nov. 26.
Copyright © Newsday, Inc. Produced by Newsday Electronic Publishing.