Charlie Edwards looks into his crystal ball and predicts Haiti’s own voodoo son, “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s return will be as unpleasant as his dictatorial regime.
When Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier died in 1971, his 19 year old son took charge of one of the world’s poorest nations. Known for his fearful rule and ‘chubby playboy’ style, Baby Doc’s tyranny ransacked his country’s public finances, continuing a pilfering and embezzlement that funded his father’s dictatorship in the 1960s.
Just a year after an earthquake hit the capital, Port-au-Prince, the Voodoo Doctor is back. He has “returned from exile” to relieve the suffering of the Haitian people. “”I was waiting for this moment for a long time. When I first set foot on the ground, I felt great joy,” he told the welcome party on the air strip.
Ok, so he was not as bad as his despotic father. He renamed the feared “Tonton Macoute”, the secret police, “volunteers of national security”. There is no actual legal thing as exile in Haiti, and he was free to return. And the current President, Rene Preval has spent the past six months fixing an election to make sure one of his aides wins the Presidency, and not an actual political opponent.
Duvalier’s return will be another sorry chapter in the history of the poor Creole communities who have suffered in Haiti throughout time. It was these communities that suffered the worst damage from the 7.0 scale earthquake in 2010, and then lived and died in the makeshift camps in the city limits that carried cholera to thousands of the survivors. When you look back and think that 2010 was a bad year because Matt Cardle won the X-Factor, think again.
Dictators come to national prominence in times of crisis. Duvalier’s motives could well be as patriotic as his statement on the air strip seemed; or it could spark another wave of terror across the island. Germany was in the depths of depression when Adolf Hitler claimed power, the Roman usage of “dictator” was to denote “temporary leaders in times of emergency”. It only became a negative term after Julius Caesar became a dictator without setting a limit to his term, and suffice to say, he overstayed his welcome.
The 25 year reign of Papa and Baby Doc shook Haiti to the ground. It was a violent corrupt regime. But the last time Duvalier “set foot on the ground” was in 1986. Half of the population are under the age of 21 in Haiti. They did not live through it. For the older, wiser generation, they are readying themselves to fight against the regime all over again.