Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, pictured (left) in 1980, and (right) yesterday. Kathy Willens, PA / Dieu Nalio Chery, AP

Notorious Haitian dictator returns to "help" country's people

Jean-Claude Duvalier was ousted in revolt in 1986 after he and his father presided over brutal regime reinforced by deadly private militia, the Tonton Macoutes.

A FORMER HAITIAN dictator who has been in exile for 25 years has flown back to the country saying he wants to “help” its people.

Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc” after he took power at the age of 19 from his father Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in 1971, flew back to Haitian capital Port-au-Prince last night. Both father and son were notorious for their brutal regimes in which violence, repression and corruption were significant weapons of their authority.

Francois Duvalier ruled from 1957 to 1971 after which Jean-Claude took over as “president-for-life”. Jean-Claude’s regime came to an end in 1986 but not before he was accused of embezzling millions from Haiti, which he denies, according to the BBC.

He and his father were notorious for their use of a private army of militia men called the Tonton Macoutes, named after a mythic bogeyman character in the Caribbean.

  • David Aponte, a research associate in the US Council for Hemispheric Affairs, released a report on the Tonton Macoutes in March of last year that made for grim reading. He wrote:

The militia consisted mostly of illiterate fanatics that were converted into ruthless zombie-like gunmen. Their straw hats, blue denim shirts, dark glasses and machetes remain indelibly etched in the minds of millions of Haitians… The Tonton Macoutes often stoned and burned people alive, regularly following such rites by hanging bodies of their victims in the street as a warning to the population at large.

  • The entire report, The Tonton Macoutes: The Central Nervous System of Haiti’s Reign of Terror, can be read here.)

A journalist who watched as Jean-Claude Duvalier fled Haiti 25 years ago after a popular revolt told ABC News that she questioned Duvalier’s return “with the outcome of Haiti’s presidential elections last November yet to be decided. Amy Wilentz said:

Of course I don’t think that this man should have anything to do with Haitian politics. Merely by setting foot in the country he raises a lot of political questions.

Haiti is still in a state of crisis following last year’s earthquake. More than one million survivors of the tragedy are still living in hellish conditions in makeshift camp sites.

Here’s how Haiti news recorded Jean-Claude Duvalier’s return – and the reaction of supporters – last night: