Why 'Baby Doc' Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti: 5 theories
Did 'Baby Doc' Jean-Claude Duvalier unexpectedly return to merely 'see his family,' as his lawyer maintains? Or was it a maneuver to finagle $6.2 million from his frozen Swiss account?
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A Swiss law set to go into effect Feb. 1 – the law on returning illicit dictator funds – will allow the Swiss government to return that money to the Haitian people. Last May, the head of international law at the Swiss foreign ministry told reporters that the Swiss government would likely apply the law to the Duvalier funds.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Haiti after the earthquake
In Pictures Baby Doc returns
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There was a caveat: If Haitian authorities had the opportunity to capture and prosecute Duvalier, the Swiss law could not be used. Hence, if Duvalier made a brief appearance in Haiti – he had a return ticket for Thursday – he could go back to France and claim the money.
“If he went to Haiti and was not prosecuted, he could have returned and said ‘I was there and they had their chance,’ ” says Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch and a former prosecutor in Haiti. Duvalier “may have gone hoping that he would not be detained and could come back to France and claim the $6.2 million.”
Duvalier may have believed he would not be prosecuted because, in many ways, he believes he did nothing wrong, says biographer Elizabeth Abbott, who chronicled the rise and fall of Duvalier and his father, “Papa Doc,” in a 1991 book.
Theory 3: Health problems sparked return
“I don’t think he has any idea of the destruction he wrought,” Ms. Abbott says. “I’m sure he was thrilled to be back but he doesn’t see that he did anything that was wrong. He’s said that he made a few mistakes.”
Abbott says Duvalier appears physically weak and frail. Many who remember his plump mustachioed face from before he fled in 1986 wonder whether health problems prompted his return.
Mr. Georges, the attorney for Duvalier, in an interview Wednesday says he, too, has heard that speculation. “I haven't spoken with him about that yet,” he says.
Georges adds that the prosecutor’s case is weak because a statute of limitations expired while Duvalier was in France.
“The government is afraid and they tried to arrest him,” he says, adding that President Préval was trying to force him out of the country. “I myself was arrested twice by Préval for the same reasons and they wanted me to leave the country – because I talk too much.”
Theory 4: France, US orchestrated return to pressure President Préval
Haitian, US, and French authorities have said they were unaware of Duvalier’s return until shortly before the flight landed after a stopover in Guadalupe. But observers question how such a high-profile figure could have boarded a plane without the blessing – and, possibly, the encouragement – of any of those governments.
Ms. Abbott describes Duvalier as “somewhat not an autonomous person,” whose return to Port-au-Prince “had to have been orchestrated.”
Eyes have immediately turned to the French and US governments, two of Haiti's largest foreign donors. Foreign governments financed most of the $29 million election and vowed that it could take place fairly and freely. It has turned into a mess.
The country is supposed to inaugurate a new president next month, but it has yet to hold a second round of balloting. The first round on Nov. 28 ended in claims of fraud and widespread irregularities. Election monitors have said it’s unlikely a second round of voting will be held before late February.