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Haiti Ex-Dictator 'Baby Doc' Duvalier Dies

  • VOA News

Former dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier waves to supporters from the balcony of a rented guest house where he is staying in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 21, 2011.

Former dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier waves to supporters from the balcony of a rented guest house where he is staying in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 21, 2011.

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier has died of a heart attack at the age of 63.

Duvalier's lawyer says the former leader died at a private residence Saturday in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

In 1971, Duvalier became one of the world's youngest leaders at the age of 19 following the death of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Francois Duvalier, a physician-turned-politician, had ruled Haiti since 1957.

Like his father, the younger Duvalier ruled with an iron fist, enforcing power with the aid of the feared "Tonton Macoutes" militia, a secret police force blamed for hundreds of deaths and disappearances.

Jean-Claude Duvalier, who called himself "president for life" was ousted in a popular uprising in 1986. He went into exile in France, where he lived until he made a surprise return to Haiti in early 2011. Shortly after returning to his homeland, he was charged with corruption, embezzlement and other abuses of power from his brutal, 15-year rule.

Several Haitians filed lawsuits accusing him of human rights violations. Critics accused Duvalier and his family of living a lavish lifestyle while doing little to ease Haiti's poverty and illiteracy. He was also alleged to have stolen millions of dollars in public funds.

After returning to Haiti, Duvalier said he felt "profound sadness" for Haitians who said they were victims of his 15-year rule. He also said he returned to show his solidarity at a difficult period for the country as it struggled to recover from a devastating earthquake in 2010. Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

In January 2012, a special advisor for Amnesty International said crimes against humanity committed while Duvalier was in power remained shrouded in total impunity. Javier Zuniga also said Haitian authorities had not made a serious effort to look into past events that afflicted a generation of Haitians with torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and other serious human rights violations.

Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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