Baby Doc Is Back!
by Eric Margolis
by Eric Margolis: Big
Trouble in Tunisia for America’s Mideast Raj
The last thing
earthquake and poverty ravaged Haiti needs is "Baby Doc," aka Jean-Claude
But he's back!
Being the son
of an iron-fisted dictator would be tough for anyone – especially
when your father was Haiti's fearsome "Papa Doc." But "Baby Doc"
is no "Papa Doc."
I met Haiti's
"President for Life," Dr. Francois Duvalier – know to all as "Papa
Doc" – at his white-domed palace in Port-au-Prince during the 1960's.
He was one of the most sinister men I've ever encountered.
At his side
was a shy, pudgy boy who was obviously petrified by his father,
just like everyone else in spooky, nightmarish Haiti.
ruled over the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. In 1800, when
Haiti was a French slave colony, its soil was so rich it grew four
crops of tobacco, spices, sugar cane, and indigo yearly. The monetary
value Haiti's exports were estimated to exceed all of Spain's gold
and silver-producing Latin American colonies combined. The great
wealth of the important French city of Bordeaux was built on West
Indian slavery, not wine, as one would imagine.
1801, Haiti's slaves revolted against their brutal French masters.
After a bitter guerilla war, Haiti's blacks defeated the French
occupying army and declared independence in 1804.
economic chaos ensued. After massive deforestation, the island's
rich topsoil was washed away, leaving barren, arid mountains and
dead soil to feed the growing population.
Duvalier had started off in the 1940's as a crusading country doctor
fighting diseases, but after being elected president, power soon
drove him off the deep end. "Papa Doc" ruled through terror enforced
by his sinister blue-denim-clad militia, the "Tonton Macoutes,"
meaning bogeymen in Haitian Creole.
killed, beat and tortured at random, imposed "street taxes," and
extorting business. I was lucky to survive a number of run-ins with
A Ton-Ton commander
who tried to overthrow Duvalier supposedly transformed himself through
voodoo into a black dog. "Papa Doc" ordered all black dogs on the
heads of his victims in the palace and used to lecture the bodies
of executed enemies propped up in chairs in the city's main park.
Weekly executions, broadcast over the radio, were held at the sinister,
yellow-painted Fort Dimanche.
The key to
"Papa Doc's" power lay in voodoo. He was the island's chief "hongan,"
or high priest of the slave cult from West Africa. Haitians believed
Duvalier could kill by curses, hear or see everything, even raise
the dead. Perhaps he could.
At night, the
mountains throbbed with the beat of drums and cries of voodoo worshippers.
"Papa Doc" was said to fly through the darkness and make himself
author Graham Greene wrote a fascinating book about Haiti, "The
Comedians," which was also made into an entertaining film with Richard
Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I met many of the colorful real-life
Haitian characters used by the author in his book.
Senior died in 1971, his 19-year-old playboy son took power, and
was immediately christened "Baby Doc." In fact, the son was a figurehead
for Haiti's tiny ruling oligarchy of wealthy, light-skinned mulattos
who sat atop the nation's ethnic pyramid.
seethed in Haiti as full-blooded blacks sought to overthrow the
hated mulatto oligarchy. The mulatto-led army battled insurrection,
killing tens of thousands and torturing many.
In 1986, "Baby
Doc" and his beautiful mulatta wife, Michelle were forced into exile,
but not before absconding with some $300 million of public money
but tarantula-hearted Michelle soon burned through most of "Baby
Doc's money in a legendary shopping spree that left Paris' Avenue
Matignon awestruck. After cleaning out Duvalier, Michelle divorced
divorce me," exclaimed the shocked Duvalier, "I am the president
"No," she sweetly
replied. "I married the president of Haiti. You are now a nobody!
has lived modestly in Paris ever since. The French allowed him to
stay as an option in case they ever want to take a more active role
in their former colony. Swiss bankers kept $6 million of Duvalier's
looted money, but froze it after he was charged with crimes against
"Baby Doc" surprised everyone by suddenly flying to earthquake-ravaged
Haiti, proclaiming, to general amusement and disgust, that he had
come to help his battered country. In his entourage was a former
US Congressman fishing in troubled waters.
was promptly arrested and charged with crimes against humanity,
then released. Haiti has no functioning government or justice system
– something on which Duvalier was counting.
bright, "Baby Doc" was hoping Haiti's political and economic chaos
might allow him to get back into power. He still commands a large
following among devotees of voodoo and some mulattos. Duvalier clearly
hoped the visit might somehow help unblock his frozen funds in Switzerland.
Haiti remains in a total mess after a discredited election and last
year's earthquake that killed 200,000. More violence and suffering
Haitians believe their island has been cursed by the evil, top-hatted
voodoo deity, Baron Samedi. There appears no real hope for poor
likely remain a ward of the United States, Canada, and the UN. In
fact, the last time Haiti was reasonably well run was during its
occupation from 19151934 by the US Marine Corps.
had sent in the Marines to Haiti under the absurd belief that Imperial
Germany was about to seize the island. In 2004, Washington overthrew
Haiti's only popular leader, the left-leaning Rev. Jean-Betrand
Aristide and put a US-backed "asset" in power.
will be lucky to escape jail or lynching. But nothing is for sure
in Haiti. His luck may yet change. Up in the mountains the drums
beat, and the whisper goes around, "the son of our Great Hongan
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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