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Haiti: Duvalier Visit Political Red Herring?

A little more than a year after a debilitating earthquake practically leveled the Haitian capital and destroyed innumerable surrounding towns, killing thousands and leaving survivors homeless (tent cities are still full, despite millions of dollars in relief aid pledged), exiled dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned to his homeland. Many bloggers are still stunned at this latest political development and remain unclear as to the motive behind his visit.

At first, Twitter was abuzz with what was, at the time, a rumour of his return – but it soon became clear that the rumour was true. Repeating Islands writes:

My friend Morby from Port-au-Prince, through an sms, reports that Baby Doc has landed in Port-au-Prince…his presence can only complicate the present political situation in Haiti, where he still commands (inexplicably) substantial support. The photo above, which I took back in August, already anticipated his return.

But why has he come back? Mainstream media are reporting that “he wanted to help in the rebuilding of his earthquake-battered nation”, but netizens aren't buying it. Very early on, @RAMHaiti tweeted:

The idea that Jean Claude could return to Haiti was impossible to consider after his departure 25 years ago..

#Haiti Radio stations are talking about the return of Duvalier.. Preval needed a distraction

Katlito's Blog posts a short time line of his reactions as the rumour is confirmed, saying:

First off just like everyone else, the question that I am asking myself is, why is he here? what’s the purpose?

No one seems to know. But one thing for sure is that the young people are happy to see him and those who lived under his harsh ruling have quite different feelings about this unexpected comeback…

But one thing we need to ask ourselves, how did Duvalier obtain a diplomatic passport to come back? Who allowed it to be issued?

How does that affect the political situation in Haiti?

@MacMcClelland, who was re-tweeted by @RAMHaiti, posted:
Everyone is in agreement that the Americans and French sent Baby Doc here to fuck with Preval.

Despite Duvalier's wife's assurances that he is only in Haiti for a few days and has a return flight, @RAMhaiti is not taking his presence lightly, reporting his every move via Twitter:

#Haiti Duvalier didn't speak.. Mob scene.. Looked scared.. Looked fragile..Got into car and left

Just drove home..Nothing in the streets. For now Jean Claude Duvalier's return is more media. Live shots on TV of him in a restaurant #Haiti

Live shots of Jean Claude in a reataurant tralking on his BlackBerry.. People who owe him money must be nervous #Haiti

Even as some Tweeple hope that “the next leader/leaders of #Haiti are worthy of its people — strong, resilient, hopeful, visionary & JUST”, @RAMHaiti admits that:

A lot has gone on in Haiti since JCDuvalier left. Hard to paint a rosy picture. Not only physical repression but economic too submergingmkt

He adds:

The 25 years that have passed since Duvalier make him appear more middle of the road #Haiti

That last comment prompted a wave of discussion:

@Only4RM: @RAMhaiti You say Haiti should be “farther along by now”. WISH Haiti was just at status quo since Duvalier left. At least 10 steps BACK.

@RAMhaiti 1 definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over & over but expecting a different result. Haiti needs to look FWD to progress.

And, in response to this tweet:

@RAMhaiti: The Leaders, Namphy to Preval, 1986-2011, who followed the Duvaliers were “students” of the regime.. Its time for a change #Haiti

@DaphneBourgoin responds:

@RAMhaiti But they all promised change. Yet became worse then their teacher!

There has also been some speculation as to whether the United States knew about/may have sanctioned the visit, with @Only4RM categorically stating:

@Joe_Taxi We don't know the US knew for sure. But if they didn't, it would be a HUGE Hillary AND Bill Clinton FAIL.

Either way, the reappearance of Duvalier in Haiti is curious. this isn't grey's anatomy writes:

Just when we thought life here couldn't get any weirder…Twitter exploded with people reporting that Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier was on a plane on his way back to Haiti. Soon after that his plane landed, and he is now apparently being driven down Route Frere, waving to people out of the window as he passes by. Others are saying there are rumors that Aristide's Haitian passport has been renewed. All of this while the most recent election's results are still very disputed. Things could get really interesting.

The Livesay Haiti Weblog refers to the development as “a peculiar turn of events”:

Truth has fairly consistently been stranger than fiction here, so maybe the return of JeanClaude Duvalier (Baby Doc) shouldn't surprise us so.

The AP pointed out that more than 50% of the Haitian population is under 21, therefore they don't have their own memories of Baby Doc's reign in Haiti. Many people seem to romanticize that time stating only that they “had electricity all the time back then”. Families that were not political say they lived better lives.

We're expats new to the scene but this strikes us as bizarre and scary. It makes no sense to us that he would be welcomed back right now. (Exile doesn't mean what we thought it did.)

Rumors are swirling. One person speculates the US and France brought him here to arrest so they could set a precedent and arrest Preval when he leaves office in a few weeks. Another suggests he is coming back here to die. Others say they are going to have a new election and let him run for office again. (In what twisted universe would a brutal dictator from the past be elected democratically?) That seems pretty far-fetched. It is also reported that he has a round trip ticket and will leave again soon. Some say Aristide is on his way back too. A few prominent personalities say Preval brought him in as a distraction from the failed election mess, a bait and switch of sorts. Baby Doc himself said he came to check on the well being of the country after hearing and seeing disturbing images for the last year. Irony anyone?

We don't know much. Only that it is all quite disturbing.
Like you, we're watching and listening.

Karlito's Blog shares an interesting perspective:

As far as I am concerned, I think that Duvalier’s comeback to Haiti might come at a time where we least needed it. A time when we are in serious need to clean up our mess before we can deal with such situation. I have not lived under Duvalier but I have seen videos and pictures of how things were back then, It might not have been Times Square but it was definitely 50 times better then state the country finds itself in these days.

Better or not, HaitiAnalysis.com does not mince words, calling on the Preval administration “to arrest and try Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity”:

During his regime, between 1971 and 1986 thousands of people were disappeared, tortured, raped, and murdered in a systemic state-backed campaign of repression.

With the Preval administration's CEP banning of Haiti's most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, and over 70% of the voting-age population not taking part in the recent “election”, any new Haitian government will be significantly weak and unpopular.

Duvalier saw his chance to return, as now both the lead candidates in the U.S./U.N./O.A.S. backed elections are on friendly terms with him.

HaitiAnalysis will soon be providing a chronology of human rights abuses, massacres, and killings that took place under the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier. And we will also be working with others in putting together a petition calling for the arrest and trial of Jean-Claude Duvalier

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