MIAMI (CBS4) – Many Haitian-Americans in South Florida admit they’re perplexed as to why former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has returned to their homeland.
“Like a ghost he has come back to haunt the collective consciousness of Haitians,” said activist Jean LaFortune.
Many vocal critics of Duvalier are demanding that he be tried for decades of alleged human rights abuses. Duvalier and his late father, former dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, were known for torturing and killing political opponents and maintaining a brutal secret police force. After being forced out of Haiti, Duvalier has lived in exile in France for the last 25 years.
“We are asking that the judicial system does what it is supposed to do, to bring him to justice, and that without any delay that free, fair and inclusive elections be held in Haiti,” said Haitian-American activist Marliene Bastiene.
Some believe Duvalier’s return is meant to be a distraction from the recent presidential and legislative elections which have been hotly, and sometimes violently, contested in the earthquake ravaged country.
“Obviously Jean-Claude Duvalier is a new element in Haiti’s present situation,” said LaFortune.
While Duvalier has not publically given a reason for his return, in the past he has offered his services to help resolve Haiti’s problems.
Haitian activists said they’ve contacted the United Nations, U.S. government officials and France for an explanation to Duvalier’s return, but they have yet to hear from anyone.
“Make no mistake, this is a man with blood on his hands,” said Steven Forester with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
To the surprise of many, thousands of Duvalier supporters greeted him at the airport when he landed in Haiti on Sunday.
“I want Duvalier to come back to my country to rebuild my country, too much problems,” said Haitian-American supporter Jean Joseph in Miami.
But a majority of Haitian-Americans in South Florida do not share Joseph’s view.
“Those of us who grew up in the era of the dictatorship, we still remember those nights, we still remember those shootings,” said LaFortune.
Many Haitian-American activists say one of their greatest fears is that Duvalier’s return will lead to a civil war in a country already caught in the grip of political turmoil and still dealing with the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquake.