News / Americas

Duvalier Makes Surprise Return to Haiti

Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier, center, waves to the media upon his arrival at the Toussaint Louverture international airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 16 Jan. 2011.
Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier, center, waves to the media upon his arrival at the Toussaint Louverture international airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 16 Jan. 2011.

In a move that surprised many, former Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier, 59, returned to Port-au-Prince, Sunday.  It's been 25 years since "Baby Doc" fled the country, to live in exile in France.  Hundreds of people were gathered at the international airport when he returned -- among them, VOA stringer, Clarens Renois, who talked to the Creole Service's Lyonel Desmarattes about what the former leader said and did when he first arrived.

LYONEL: Clarens Renois, you were at the Toussaint Louverture international airport when Jean Claude Duvalier was arriving, can you tell us what it was like?

CLARENS: Everything went well Lyonel. I can tell you that people were quite curious when they found out that he was coming back, they didn't believe it was true that Jean Claude Duvalier had returned 25 years after he left the country. There was some confusion too because Immigrations [Customs] was overflowing with their own employees, in addition to Duvalier supporters who came to see the former president and then people who simply came out of curiosity. It was a huge surprise even for Jean Claude Duvalier, himself. By the look on his face, it seemed as though he couldn't believe he was really back in Haiti. There was a lot of pushing and shoving too before Duvalier could finally get to the Immigrations counter and then make his way inside the airport. It actually took about two hours for him to get off the bus that had brought him to the Immigrations counter.

So there was a lot of confusion even though people were obviously thrilled to see him -- his supporters, some young people and there were also people who were protesting his return to Haiti because they feel he should be judged for his crimes. Those protesters say Aristide should also be allowed back, if Duvalier got permission to return to the country.

LYONEL: Some people are saying the first thing Duvalier did when he arrived was kiss the ground. Can you confirm that? Did he make any initial statements? Did he talk to anyone at the airport?

CLARENS: Well, he didn't make any statements when he arrived. He said he wasn't going to say anything for now, except that he had returned to Haiti to "help". That was the only thing he said. He seemed very happy. But according to his wife, Veronique Roy, who accompanied him, Duvalier said "this is Dessaline's country, my country" when his feet touched the ground -- so those were his first words. Then Duvalier walked inside the airport and waiting for him there, were his former foreign minister, Adrien Raymond, the former director of the presidential guard, some other close friends, and former members of his protocol were was also there. His wife said she was surprised to see all those people because she didn't tell anyone he was coming back.

The US press says Duvalier is returning during a very difficult time for Haiti, historically. There was an earthquake, a cholera epidemic -- over a million people are living in tents. The press wonders whether Duvalier has any plans to participate in Haiti's reconstruction. What has the Haitian press and politicians said in that regard?

CLARENS: Duvalier, himself, responded to that question. His wife told us that was his main reason for returning to Haiti. He was really troubled by what he saw after the earthquake. He came back with a diplomatic passport that had been issued to him under the provisional government, a few years ago. Duvalier decided after the earthquake, that he must return to Haiti. The more serious issue he is returning is the political crisis - specifically the electoral crisis. Duvalier certainly could participate -- maybe not directly -- but his presence in Haiti at this juncture is going to represent a "new element" in the political climate, and in the electoral situation.

LYONEL: Is there any possibility - even on technical grounds that he'll be able to participate in the electoral process?

CLARENS: No, of course not. But the fact that Duvalier has returned to Haiti is important. It means something. Is Duvalier's presence going to influence the political game? Is he going to support a particular candidate? Is he going to participate in the process? It is obvious that his presence is going to have some impact on the electoral situation.

The US press account I read said Duvalier looks like he's aged. You were at the airport how did he look to you?

CLARENS: Yes, he does look older. He's probably 59 or 60 now and he looked weak, as though he's been ill. He didn't seem to be in the best health. People remember Duvalier as strong and vibrant, but that wasn't the Duvalier we saw at the airport on January 16.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC Leaders to Discuss Mexico Dispute Next Month

The International Olympic Committee said Friday the issue of government interference in Mexico will be reviewed by its policy-making executive board at its Dec. 8-10 meeting in Lausanne

Hurricane Sandra Loses Strength Off Mexican Coast

Now a Category 3 storm in the Pacific with winds of 195 kph, it's expected to weaken to a tropical storm Friday night

Ecuador to Impose Visa Requirements on Cuban Citizens

Objective is 'to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,' Ecuador's deputy foreign minister says

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon Forest Jumps 16 Percent in 2015

More than 5,800 square kilometers of forests were cleared during the 12 months ending in July, the government confirms — an area half the size of Puerto Rico

Local Opposition Leader Shot Dead in Venezuela

Armed assailants in vehicle shoot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party, in Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela

Brazil Corruption Probe Widens; Bank CEO, Senate Leader Arrested

Detentions on orders from Supreme Court raise stakes in bribery scandal that now threatens heights of Brazilian banking and politics