'Baby Doc' Duvalier

Jean-Claude Duvalier was only 19 when he became Haiti's second "president for life." "Baby Doc," as he was called, became dictator in 1971, after the death of his father, Francois, who had ruled since 1957. Both Duvaliers maintained power by relying on their feared secret police, the Tontons Macoutes.

The United States pressured "Baby Doc" to reform his regime, which was marked by corruption, oppression, and torture. The younger Duvalier made only minor reforms while reportedly embezzling at least $120 million in oil, flour, and tobacco taxes.

In 1986, a popular uprising forced Duvalier out. He fled to France, where he still lives. Last year, Duvalier told Newsday that he wanted to regain power in Haiti. But his bid for president in September 2000 failed.

Meanwhile, a group of Haitian exiles in France lodged a complaint against Duvalier in 1999, alleging "crimes against humanity." Current French law only addresses crimes against humanity committed by the Axis powers in World War II, however.

Despite the longtime protection it has given Duvalier, France has never granted him refugee status. Today, he is reportedly ill and impoverished.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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