Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier Returns To Haiti Amid Uncertain Political Climate
January 18, 2011 By Staff
Today in Latin America
Top Story — With Haiti’s political situation already chaotic, former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier unexpectedly returned to the country on Sunday.
Duvalier ruled Haiti from 1971 until he was overthrown by popular uprising in 1986. He assumed power at the age of 19 when his father François, known as “Papa Doc,” died.
An associate close to Jean-Claude Duvalier told CNN that Duvalier returned to Haiti to mark the anniversary of the Jan. 12 earthquake and because of homesickness.
Jean-Claude Duvalier has been accused of pilfering millions from state coffers and using a secret police known as the Tonton Macoutes to kill and torture political opponents. Haitian President René Préval said in 2007 that Duvalier would face criminal charges, but Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellrive seemed to contradict Préval on Sunday when he said the former dictator “is a Haitian and, as such, is free to return home.”
“The question now becomes, if Baby Doc is back, why shouldn’t [Jean Bertrand] Aristide be allowed to come back,” political scientist Eduardo Gamarra told The Christian Science Monitor, referring to the leftwing president who was ousted in 2004.
Duvalier’s return has fueled concern that Haiti’s elections — marred by accusations of voter fraud and poor organization — might run further off track. Runoff elections were scheduled for Sunday, but the country’s electoral commission has yet to announce the two frontrunners.
Duvalier reportedly has a return ticket scheduled to depart on Jan. 20.
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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- At least nine people died Sunday in a shootout in Nezahualcoyotl, a suburb of Mexico City, reportedly due to a conflict between rival gangs.
- The family of a fifteen year-old Mexican boy is suing the U.S. Border Patrol for $25 million after he was shot to death in June on the U.S.-Mexico border.
- A trial has begun in Cuba for the deaths of 26 patients in a psychiatric hospital a year ago.
- Cuba said on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama’s move to relax more U.S. travel restrictions to the island was a positive step but did little to soften the decades-old trade embargo.
- Frustrated by the Dominican Republic’s lack of commitment in the fight against trafficking of Haitian children, the United States could impose sanctions against that country, the State Department’s head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons said.
- A Dominican woman who was arrested for kidnapping a 25-day-old baby said she committed the crime “to give a child” to her sterile husband and avoid a separation, authorities said.
- The second round of the presidential and legislative elections in Haiti, scheduled for Sunday, was not held because of the electoral crisis the country is going through, the general director of the Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP, Pierre Louis Opont, confirmed.
- A newly leaked U.S. diplomatic cable says Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom described Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu as a “fabrication” of a French anthropologist.
- El Salvador received $3.54 billion in remittances last year, 2.2 percent more than in 2009, according to a central bank report released Monday.
- At least four people died in the torrential rainstorm that hit Honduras over the weekend, authorities said Monday.
- The Venezuelan banking regulator Sudeban fined two banks for failing to meet a government-mandated threshold of monthly loans to the agricultural sector.
- Venezuelan state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA will raise $3.15 billion through a reopening of its existing bonds that mature in November 2017, the company said Monday in a statement.
- Direct trading among the Chilean, Colombian and Peruvian stock exchanges will be delayed from an originally expected late-January start date, as the testing period for the merger of the three bourses will be extended until March, the Santiago Stock Exchange said Monday.
- State run Petroecuador said Monday that its Shushufindi Refinery was affected by an accidental blast caused by an electricity outage and has cut its output by 50%.
- Colombian army troops nabbed seven suspected members of the Los Urabeños drug gang during operations they carried out in the northwestern province of Cordoba after two college students were murdered on a Caribbean beach.
- Guerrillas from the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) attacked a police station late Sunday night, reportedly seeking to avenge the deaths of rebel leaders under President Fernando Lugo.
- Demonstrators striking against a 17% increase in gas prices in Southern Chile have left travelers stranded after the protesters blocked major access roads in the region.
- On Monday, the Brazilian government sent 700 troops to the region north of Rio de Janiero that was devastated by floods and mudslides that killed at least 655 people.
- Argentine farmers protesting a government grain export quota have initiated a seven-day strike.
Image: a-birdie @ Flickr.