Baby Doc may be the man Haiti needs

JEAN-CLAUDE Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti once known as Baby Doc, returned to his native land last week, looking wide-eyed and frail.

He read a statement in which he expressed “deep sorrow for all those who say they were victims of my government” and promised that he hadn’t come home to cause trouble, but to help rebuild his country. Should we believe him? The press thinks he wants to clear his name in order to get access to $US6 million ($5.98m) in frozen Swiss bank accounts; Haiti’s socialist leaders worry that he has returned to seize power; many people living in dugouts beneath scraps of corrugated iron might secretly hope he has and, though it seems a shocking thing to say, perhaps we should, too. The return of Baby D could be the thing Haiti needs.

Since Duvalier fled the country in 1986, Haiti has been in a terrible mess. It has suffered two military juntas, two US-led invasions, political violence and food shortages. An earthquake last year levelled the capital and killed 300,000. Roughly a million Haitians are homeless. The relief effort was generous but incompetent. The socialist government has been defunded.

Haiti is a failed state and what it needs is stability and capital investment. Jean-Claude Duvalier could help bring back both.

The pudgy playboy inherited the presidency from his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, in 1971 and it’s true that Haiti under Jean-Claude was no utopia. While ordinary Haitians were paid the lowest average income in the western hemisphere, the Duvalier clan grew fat on kickbacks and looted foreign aid.

But we have to remember that before the Duvaliers came to power, Haitian society was stratified by skin colour. Through graft and tourism, Papa and Baby Doc created a black middle class. Fearing the disenfranchised elite, they demolished the army and handed out guns and money to the Tonton Macoutes instead. The Duvaliers ruled a network sustained by corruption, superstition and occasional acts of kindness — but they kept the peace. Jean-Claude’s succession in 1971 was the first tranquil political transition in 30 years. The Duvaliers passed the Haitian acid test of good government: at no point in their rule was the country occupied by the US. In fact, Jean-Claude lost power only because of bad luck. A swine fever outbreak destroyed agriculture and AIDS wrecked the tourism industry. But he left a country that had taken the first steps towards economic development.

Nostalgia and name recognition make him the only viable conservative opposition to a socialist president who himself is accused of fixing elections.

A Duvalier presidency is unlikely. But if some accommodation could be struck between authorities and the social force of black capitalism he represents, the West should encourage it. Sometimes it is better not to do what is just, but to do what works.

The Spectator


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3 thoughts on “Baby Doc may be the man Haiti needs

  1. Your analysis is interesting and provocative but incomplete. I do not believe Haiti needs Baby Doc. With the return of Baby Doc, the new generation, the Haitian youth have shown some wisdom and is ready to start building ANEW toward a modern and just society. They are ready to bet on their future and to put Haiti shameful past behind them. Those kids I see on TV or meet are immune to the Haiti virulent past. They are begging for an opportunity to be fed, sheltered, educated and protected from neglect and abuse by us, The ADULT in the room. It is clear by now the “before and after Duvalier” have not work for Haiti. Haiti after more than 200 years of independence has been an abject and unacceptable failure. But there is a third way beside an oligarchy or autocracy. It has not work evn in Egypt, one of the world greatest civilization for thousands of years. What Haiti needs now is a true democracy that takes care of its youth and creates opportunity for them by building a true sophisticated consumer based and educated middle class. Our model to follow is South Korea. Fifty years ago, South Korea was a poor country with no natural resources. Now they are the 12th largest economy in the world. America is begging to have access to their consumer market. The South Koreans did it by adopting policies pushing higher education. Every single young Korean aspires to higher education. They attend the best Universities in the world. Their youth, from early childhood education through high school spends an average of 12 hrs studying and receiving tutoring. They learn to compete early in school. They are manufacturing cars and electronic gadgets. If we follow South Korea model, Haiti will be able to compete for outsourced manufacturing jobs that will never go back to the US. These jobs are going to China and India now, thousands of miles away from the US. We can build the iPod and iPad or Solar energy panel right here in Haiti. We are 9 millions Haitians in Haiti and one million strong abroad with all kind of skills. Most importantly, we are 90 miles away from the US shores. Haiti youth of 30 years of age and younger constitutes 80% of the country’s population. They showed resilience,kindness and character after the earthquake and they are thirsty for opportunity and take on their future. If we build schools and universities to educate and teach this youth like South Korea did we will create a true sophisticated society with a solid foundation. I promise you Haiti will have a sound economy like Costa Rica and will be able to compete in the western hemisphere markets in less than 50 years. With our beaches and mountains, we will have no match in tourism in the region. I guarantee you Haiti will be a true independent country in 25 years. We have to start now. This is what I called the fierce urgency of NOW. Thank you for staring this clever debate. Yoours truly, Richard Douyon, MD, FAPA, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Miami, Florida.

  2. “The Spectator”, your anonymous analysis is also factually incorrect; “A swine fever outbreak destroyed agriculture” USAID and American intervention destroyed Haitian swine production.

    Excellent insight and optimism, Dr. Douyon. Freedom comes from educating and empowering humans, and protecting their private property rights – not trust in one human or his political team. History has proved this many times over.

  3. I completely agree with your comments. The next Haitian government has to be smart politically by integrating all top five political parties in important positions in the government to use all the existing talents. This way nobody will feel disenfranchised and everybody will be accountable. This coalition government has to adopt immediately policies to promote TRUE human empowerment and development, and protect property rights by creating incentive to attract Haitian investors, professionals and entrepreneurs living abroad. I would suggest the Israeli model. Any foreign nationals born in Haiti or from Haitian parents should be granted voting rights. What about that for a starter?

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