The return of Haiti’s former dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, has raised questions about continued US interference in the disaster-ravaged country.
Baby Doc inherited the presidency from his father in 1971, carrying on his father, “Papa Doc’s”, legacy of terror. Between them father and son killed 50,000 people. The brutality of Baby Doc’s rule, coupled with neo-liberal policies ordered by the US, sparked an uprising in 1985.
The US initially supported Duvalier, but his lavish lifestyle and whittling away of US funds, and the resulting threat of popular unrest, made him a liability. In 1986 the US removed him from power.
Lawsuits against the former dictator have been flooding Haiti’s chief prosecutor’s office. But he was only brought in for questioning and has yet to be charged. His fate lies in the hands of an investigating magistrate, who has up to three months to evaluate the evidence and decide if Baby Doc will be brought to trial. For those who suffered under his rule, token punishment will not be enough.
Duvalier arrived in the wake of sham elections held on November 28. The most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, was barred from participating. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the exiled leader of Fanmi Lavalas, called for a boycott of the elections. Aristide won Haiti’s first democratic elections in 1990, but his promises of land reform and increased wages were too much for the US, who forced him from power in 1991 and then again in 2004.
Haitians rejected the sham elections by not showing up to vote—only 23 per cent voted.
But the Organisation of American States (OAS—dominated by the US, Canada and France) is concerned to press through with the election farce in order to have a stable and subservient government to work through. Run-off elections, scheduled for March, are intended to provide a veneer of legitimacy.
The incumbent president, René Préval, has succumbed to US pressure to withdraw his preferred successor from the electoral run-off in favour of two other candidates, both of whom have links to the Duvalier dynasty. Duvalier’s return seems to be part of an international effort to secure their victory.
However, Baby Doc’s return has led to pressure from the Haitian people to allow Jean-Bertrand Aristide back into the country. The Haitian government has now given him a passport—something that US rulers are reported to be “very anxious” about.
Haiti is still suffering the effects of the earthquake of January 2010. Reconstruction has barely begun and over a million people are still homeless in the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Since 2004, UN troops have occupied the country.
But throughout all this Haitians have demanded self-determination and freedom from occupation. Furious at the cholera outbreak introduced by foreign troops, and enraged by meaningless elections, Haitians began to fight back by attacking UN troops in November.
Their resistance is a thorn in the side of US domination—and the only hope for real democracy in Haiti.