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Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier has died from a heart attack at home near Port-au-Prince

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  • Jean-Claude was the son of Francois Duvalier, known as Papa Doc
  • He was 19 when he 'inherited' impoverished nation from his despotic father 
  • Baby Doc continued the oppressive regime, executing political opponents
  • He fled to Paris in 1986 following accusations of corruption and torture
  • In 2011 he returned to the country to the outcry of human rights groups 

Dictator: Mr Duvalier, who ruled Haiti with brutality and corruption for nearly 15 years, died today of a heart attack at his home near Port-au-Prince

Dictator: Mr Duvalier, who ruled Haiti with brutality and corruption for nearly 15 years, died today of a heart attack at his home near Port-au-Prince

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, the country's self-proclaimed 'president for life', died today of a heart attack.

Mr Duvalier ruled the impoverished Caribbean country with brutality and corruption for nearly 15 years before being overthrown in 1986, when he went into exile in France. 

His attorney Reynold George said the 63-year-old former leader died at his home in the hills above Port-au-Prince. 

He had lived in the country since 2011, when he returned declaring that he would help in the reconstruction of Haiti - whose cities were heavily damaged in an earthquake the year before.

Jean-Claude was the son of Francois Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, a medical doctor-turned-dictator who ruled the country from 1957 to 1971.

Papa Doc promoted 'Noirisme', a movement that sought to highlight Haiti's African roots over its European ones while uniting the black majority against a mulatto elite in a country divided by class and colour.

Baby Doc was a 19-year-old chubby playboy when he ‘inherited’ the country - one of the world's poorest - from his despotic father after he died suddenly of an illness in 1971.

Francois Duvalier practised voodoo and used his sinister secret civilian militia - the machete-wielding Tonton Macoute - to murder thousands and terrorise the population. 

His son continued the oppressive regime and hundreds of political opponents were either executed or simply disappeared.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated that up to 30,000 Haitians were killed, many by execution, under the regime of the two Duvaliers, which lasted nearly three decades. 

But there were some improvements for the people of Haiti under the younger Duvalier. Echoes of press freedom and personal criticism, never tolerated under his father, emerged - sporadically - because of international pressure. 

Still, human rights groups documented abuses and political persecution. A trio of prisons known as the 'Triangle of Death', which included the much-feared Fort Dimanche for long-term inmates, symbolized the brutality of his regime. 

As president, he married the daughter of a wealthy coffee merchant, Michele Bennett, in 1980. 

The wedding was a lavish affair, complete with imported champagne, flowers and fireworks. The ceremony, reported to have cost $5 million, was carried live on television to the impoverished nation.

Duvalier and his wife Michele had two children, son Francois Nicolas 'Nico' Duvalier and a daughter, Anya. 

Under Duvalier's rule, Haiti saw widespread demographic changes. Peasants moved to the capital in search of work as factories popped up to meet the growing demand for cheap labor. Thousands of professionals fled a climate of repression for cities such as New York, Miami and Montreal.

Lavish: As president, Duvalier married the daughter of a wealth coffee merchant, Michele Bennett, in 1980. Their ceremony, reported to have cost $5million, was carried on live television to the impoverished nation

Lavish: As president, Duvalier married the daughter of a wealth coffee merchant, Michele Bennett, in 1980. Their ceremony, reported to have cost $5million, was carried on live television to the impoverished nation

And aid began to flow from the United States and agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The tourists followed, some in search of a form of tropical hedonism that included booze, prostitution and Voodoo ceremonies for which the country became legendary. 

Tourism collapsed in the early 1980s after Florida doctors noted that an unusual number of AIDS cases were coming from Haitian emigres, even though the disease was believed to have been brought from the U.S.

But it was corruption and human rights abuses that defined Duvalier rule.

Young leader Baby Doc, pictured in 1980, was a 19-year-old playboy when he ‘inherited’ the country from his despotic father after he died suddenly in 1971

Young leader: Baby Doc, pictured left in 1980, was a 19-year-old playboy when he ‘inherited’ the country from his despotic father after he died suddenly in 1971. He kept order with a brutal secretive police

The National Palace became known for opulent parties as Michele took overseas shopping sprees to decorate and collect fur coats. Duvalier relished taking his presidential yacht out for a spin and racing about in sports cars. 

Under mounting pressure from the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Duvalier made pretenses of improving the country's human rights record by releasing political prisoners. 

Still, journalists and activists were jailed or exiled. Haitians without visas or money left by boarding flimsy boats in a desperate effort to reach Florida shores. 

Corrupt: As Haiti's living conditions deteriorated under the rule of Jean-Claude Duvalier, Pope John-Paul II made a visit in 1983 and famously declared: 'Things must change'. Above, Duvalier, his wife and the Pope

Corrupt: As Haiti's living conditions deteriorated under the rule of Jean-Claude Duvalier, Pope John-Paul II made a visit in 1983 and famously declared: 'Things must change'. Above, Duvalier, his wife and the Pope

As Haiti's living conditions deteriorated, Pope John-Paul II made a visit in 1983 and famously declared: 'Things must change'.

Three years later, they did. 

Facing accusations of corruption, torture and other human rights abuses, Duvalier fled to Paris in 1986 following mass protests, the desertion of the Tonton Macoute and pressure from the U.S. 

The couple divorced in 1993. Duvalier later became involved with Veronique Roy, who accompanied him on his 2011 return to Haiti. 

In the wake of the younger Duvalier's ousting, the country turned on his security forces, slaughtering them by the thousands.

Opulent: The National Palace became known for opulent parties as Michele took overseas shopping sprees to decorate and collect fur coats. Duvalier, pictured, elished taking his presidential yacht out for a spin

Opulent: The National Palace became known for opulent parties as Michele took overseas shopping sprees to decorate and collect fur coats. Duvalier, pictured, elished taking his presidential yacht out for a spin

His departure ushered in a period of halting democracy that has continued with tumultuous elections. 

While in exile in France, Mr Duvalier spoke often about returning to Haiti, telling reporters over the years that he wanted to return to the Caribbean country. Supporters periodically marched on his behalf in the Haitian capital.

In 2007 Rene Preval, Haiti’s former president, said Duvalier could return to the country to face justice for the deaths of thousands and the theft of millions of dollars, supposedly hidden in Swiss bank accounts. 

Four years later, a somewhat frail-looking Mr Duvalier returned to the country, declaring that he had returned to help in the reconstruction of Haiti, whose capital and outlying cities were heavily damaged in a magnitude-7.0 earthquake the year before.

Return: In 2011, a somewhat frail-looking Mr Duvalier returned to the country, declaring that he had returned to help in the reconstruction of Haiti, whose capital and outlying cities were heavily damaged in an earthquake

Return: In 2011, a somewhat frail-looking Mr Duvalier returned to the country, declaring that he had returned to help in the reconstruction of Haiti, whose capital and outlying cities were heavily damaged in an earthquake

But many suspected he came back in an effort to reclaim money he had allegedly stashed. Others said he merely wanted to die in his homeland.

The move was met with widespread anger. Human rights groups demanded his arrest - demanding the Haitian government charge him with crimes against humanity and for stealing millions of dollars from the nation. 

More than 20 victims of his rule stepped forward to file charges that ranged from false imprisonment to torture. 

Human Rights Watch issued a report saying that Duvalier may not have directly participated in the torture and killings under his regime, but that there was enough evidence to prosecute him. 

Under fire: In February 2013, following his return to Haiti in 2011, Jean-Claude appeared in court for a hearing to determine if he could be charged with crimes against humanity. He testified about his rule in front of a judge

Under fire: In February 2013, following his return to Haiti in 2011, Jean-Claude appeared in court for a hearing to determine if he could be charged with crimes against humanity. He testified about his rule in front of a judge

But there were also those who heralded his return, seeing him as the only man who could solve their current problems. Old political allies rallied around him. As he touched down in Port-au-Prince, around 200 supporters were there to greet his arrival on January 16.

Despite the occasional stay in the hospital, Duvalier seemed to enjoy his new life back home and was free to roam the capital. 

He was spotted attending government ceremonies, dining with friends in several high-end restaurants and avoided jail time. In 2013 he began renovating an old house that Roy said had been destroyed in the wake of his 1986 ouster. 

Low-key: The once-feared leader spent his final years in relative obscurity, living in the leafy hills above the Haitian capital. Above, Duvalier attends the funeral of former Haitian President Leslie Manigat in July

Low-key: The once-feared leader spent his final years in relative obscurity, living in the leafy hills above the Haitian capital. Above, Duvalier attends the funeral of former Haitian President Leslie Manigat in July

The efforts to prosecute him stumbled along. Duvalier stunned human rights observers and alleged victims of his regime in 2013 when he testified about his rule before an investigating judge. 

A year later, a judge overturned an earlier court decision and ruled that Duvalier could face crimes against humanity charges. But in the end the case stalled because officials did little to move it along. 

The once-feared leader spent his final years in relative obscurity, living in the leafy hills above the Haitian capital. 



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Comment by Laren Hughes on October 6, 2014 at 6:16pm

Foreigner corrupt our land and our leaders.

Comment by Laren Hughes on October 6, 2014 at 6:14pm

Thank you Ken John.  I don't like to list to Propaganda in the foreign press.  I was a little girl in Jamaica too in the 80's when I see how America came in and corrupt the youths with guns etc.  $ value dropped and the tourist left us. The economy got bad due to corruption but when they talk they talk about Jamaica and how bad it is when its not 100% true.  I never saw a dead body on the streets covered under white sheets until i came to this country.  I saw that here  in 1989 in Brooklyn not there.  People use to love each other, neighbors live like one but Corruption from the politician exploit the youth.  I understand you, they use to talk about one politician being better than the other and all sorts of thing but I remember going to elementary school in the mid 70's and we never paid for lunch, uniform was given to our parent etc.  when you walk around the school you could hear children learning with no problem, a trade was given to those in secondary school after the 9th grade, there were no taxes, no McDonald's, no pizza shops, medication from the hospital pharmacy after being seen by doctors and medical care was free, there were Cuban doctor there at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Mt. Salem, Jamaica, I know, I was a child but I remember and those were the good day to me.

Comment by ken john on October 6, 2014 at 3:55pm

@LAURENHUGHES I DO APPRECIATE WHAT YOU SAID... I'VE BEEN ON THIS BLOG FOR AT LEAST 2 YEARS I DON'T COMMENT ON WHAT PEOPLE SAY BECAUSE I DO BELIEVE EVERYONE IS BIAS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. I FOR ONE WAS A CHILD WHEN THIS MAN WAS IN POWER I USE TO ENJOY MY COUNTRY AS A YOUNG MAN. IT IS SO FUNNY TO HEAR HOW THIS MAN WAS RULING THE COUNTRY WITH "AN IRON FIST" NOW DON'T GET ME WRONG HE MADE A LOT OF MISTAKES ONE MARRIED TO THAT WOMAN BUT HIS PRESIDENCY (DICTATORSHIP) THE COUNTRY WAS AT PEACE AND AMERICA AND THEIR $$$ HAD THE SAME VALUE AS THE HAITIENS. HAITI WAS THE # 1 TOURIST PLACE IN THE CARIBEAN. AGAIN WAS HE PERFECT NO!!!!! BUT HE WAS NOT WHAT AMERICA AND THE MEDIA PORTRAIT HIM TO BE.......NO ONE KNOWS HOW VALUABLE YOU WERE UNTIL YOU GONE.......LET HISTORY REVEAL THE REAL JEAN-CLAUDE DUVALIER

Comment by evolution on October 5, 2014 at 5:32pm

Comment by sweet tea 2 hours ago

RIP BLESSINGS TO HIS FAMILY

Comment need revising.

Comment by Laren Hughes on October 5, 2014 at 5:22pm

so he was brutal, selfish one of those who would say "Let them eat cake" is what I'm feeling.  So sad.   

Comment by thomas barkley on October 5, 2014 at 4:43pm
Baby Doc use to have parties in Haiti the rooms were freeze cold so him and his friends could wear they furs and Haiti was the poorest country in the world.
Comment by thomas barkley on October 5, 2014 at 4:41pm
Well baby Doc was brutal lots of Hatians were slaughtered an many fled to Canada USA France and the caribbean I was a kid but I remember the news about Haiti daily also a few other caribbean countries they ruled with a strong arm, I was suprised he wasn't convicted for his crimes against the people.
Comment by Laren Hughes on October 5, 2014 at 3:33pm

i don't know much about this man.  Anyone wants to educate me?  Any Haitians from Haiti who lived it and experience what went down there in the 80's and on want to educate me? please do.  I want to learn about Haiti from real Haitian. Don't want American or international propaganda.  Who really know about Haiti tell me. 

Comment by sweet tea on October 5, 2014 at 3:23pm
RIP BLESSINGS TO HIS FAMILY

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