duvalier The return of ex-Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s to Port-Au-Prince on Jan. 16, caught his nation by surprise as most Haitians still struggle to recover from last year’s devastating earthquake and deal with a disputed presidential election. The former “president-for-life” ruled Haiti from 1971, at the age of 19, until he was driven from power and into exile after a popular revolt in 1986. Both Jean-Claude and his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier who had led Haiti since 1957, have been accused of committing gross human rights violations and looting the impoverished nation’s meager treasury.
While “Baby Doc” said he had “come to help” his nation after last January’s earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 Haitians, there was speculation that he had really returned to Haiti in order to manipulate a banking law to release $5 million frozen in a Swiss bank account. Not long after his return, Duvalier was charged with theft and misappropriation of funds and is also being sued for torture and other crimes against humanity. During their reign, 20,000 to 30,000 Haitians were killed by the father and son tyrant’s paramilitary force, known as the Tontons Macoutes.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with attorney Ira J. Kurzban, who represents exiled former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Kurzban, who won a $500 million judgment against Jean-Claude Duvalier, discusses the green light he believes Washington gave Duvalier to travel to Haiti, and covert U.S. maneuvers to block Aristide’s return to Haiti from exile in South Africa.
Attorney Ira J. Kurzban has represented exiled former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide since 1991. Read more about events in Haiti at HaitiLiberte.com.