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Ex-dictator to run for Haiti presidency

on 11/01/2019

More than two decades after being ousted from power, ex-dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier aims to profit from Haiti’s turmoil to recapture the presidency, an aide said Wednesday.

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The news came as Duvalier’s lawyer confirmed the former leader had returned from exile amid the political upheaval after disputed elections and planned to stay in the Caribbean nation which he once ruled with an iron fist.

“We need to shake everything up so that the elections are annulled and new elections are held in which Duvalier can run,” Henry Robert Sterlin, a former Haitian ambassador to France, told AFP.

“Then Bingo,” he would be re-elected, added Sterlin, who presented himself as the spokesman for Duvalier, once dubbed “president for life” until he was ousted by a popular uprising against his brutal rule in 1986.

Duvalier’s surprise return late Sunday has stoked further turmoil here, as Haiti struggles to recover from a devastating earthquake and resolve a political crisis triggered by tainted November presidential elections.

“He will stay in Haiti forever, it’s his country. And take part in politics. That’s his right. A politician never dies,” his lawyer Reynold Georges told AFP earlier Wednesday, adding that Duvalier was preparing to move back into his old house.

Memories of Duvalier’s repressive 1971-1986 regime remain strong, and human rights groups have accused him and his late father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, of presiding over decades of unparalleled oppression and abuse.

On Tuesday, prosecutors charged him with corruption, embezzlement of millions of dollars from state funds, and criminal association.

And in a new legal challenge, four Haitians, including a prominent journalist, filed criminal suits against him Wednesday alleging crimes against humanity.

“We have lodged lawsuits for arbitrary detention, exile, destruction of private property, torture and moral violation of civil and political rights,” Michele Montas, former spokeswoman for UN chief Ban Ki-moon, told AFP.

Rights groups and opponents have long accused Duvalier of torture and killings, as well as plundering hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s coffers.

The dreaded Tonton Macoutes, a secret police force loyal to the Duvalier family, has been accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing up to 30,000 suspected opponents during the 1960s and 1970s.

But Georges protested against the legal moves, saying the statute of limitations had expired long ago.

“The law here in Haiti says you have 10 years to prosecute somebody if they accuse him of a crime and Mr Duvalier was living in France for 25 years,” he told a group of journalists.

Duvalier, now 59, came to power in 1971 when he was just 19, succeeding his late father Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. He barred any opposition, clamped down on dissidents, and rubber-stamped his own laws.

But despite the past, he still enjoys some support.

“I think there is support for him, I don’t know how big it is,” Robert Fatton, a Haitian-born history professor at the University of Virginia, told AFP shortly after Duvalier’s return.

“You have to remember the Haitian population is very young. Something like half the population never experienced the viciousness of the dictatorship.”

Haiti’s political crisis deepened Wednesday when international monitors slammed the November 28 presidential vote as being riddled with irregularities and fraud.

A report released by the Organization of American States (OAS) recommended that President Rene Preval’s handpicked candidate, Jude Celestin, should be eliminated from the race.

Adjusting the results, the pan-regional OAS said Celestin should have been placed third in the first round vote with 21.9 percent — thus barring him from a second round run-off.

Former first lady Mirlande Manigat won 31.6 percent and popular singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly came second with 22.2 percent and should square off in the next round, the OAS recommended.

If the recommendations are implemented “the placement of the second and third candidates will be reversed,” the OAS report concluded.

But it remained unclear what steps Haitian officials would now take.

The Haiti election commission said late Tuesday that it would not necessarily be bound by the findings of the OAS mission, saying it would have to follow the correct legal procedures.


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