|41st President of Haiti|
April 22, 1971 – February 7, 1986
|Preceded by||François Duvalier|
|Succeeded by||Henri Namphy|
July 3, 1951|
|Died||October 4, 2014
|Political party||National Unity Party|
|Domestic partner||Véronique Roy
|Religion||Vodou, nominally Roman Catholic|
Jean-Claude Duvalier (French: [ʒɑ̃klod dyvalje]), nicknamed "Bébé Doc" or "Baby Doc" (July 3, 1951 – October 4, 2014), was the President of Haiti from 1971 until his overthrow by a popular uprising in 1986. He succeeded his father François "Papa Doc" Duvalier as the ruler of Haiti after the latter's death in 1971. After assuming power, he introduced cosmetic changes to his father's regime and delegated much authority to his advisors, though thousands of Haitians were killed or tortured, and hundreds of thousands fled the country. He maintained a notoriously lavish lifestyle (including a state-sponsored US$2 million wedding in 1980), and made millions from involvement in the drug trade and from selling body parts from dead Haitians while poverty among his people remained the most widespread of any country in the Western Hemisphere.
Relations with the United States improved after Duvalier's ascension to the presidency, and later deteriorated under the Carter administration, only to again improve under Ronald Reagan due to the strong anti-communist stance of the Duvaliers.
Duvalier unexpectedly returned to Haiti on January 16, 2011, after two decades in self-imposed exile in France. The following day, he was arrested by Haitian police, facing possible charges for embezzlement. On January 18, Duvalier was charged with corruption. On February 28, 2013, Duvalier pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption and human rights abuse. He died of a heart attack on October 4, 2014, at the age of 63.
Duvalier was born in Port-au-Prince and was raised in an isolated environment. He attended Nouveau College Bird and Saint-Louis de Gonzague. Later, he studied law at the Université d'Etat d'Haïti (University of Haiti), under the direction of several professors, including Maître Gérard Gourgue. In April 1971, he assumed the presidency of Haiti at the age of 19 upon the death of his father, François Duvalier (nicknamed "Papa Doc"), becoming the world's youngest president. Initially, Jean-Claude Duvalier resisted the dynastic arrangement that had made him Haiti's leader, having preferred that the presidency go to his older sister Marie-Denise Duvalier, and was content to leave substantive and administrative matters in the hands of his mother, Simone Ovide Duvalier, and a committee led by Luckner Cambronne, his father's Interior Minister, while he attended ceremonial functions and lived as a playboy.
Political and economic factors
Duvalier was invested with near-absolute power by the constitution. He took some steps to reform the regime, by releasing some political prisoners and easing press censorship. However, there were no substantive changes to the regime's basic character. Opposition was not tolerated, and the legislature remained a rubber stamp.
Much of the Duvaliers' wealth came from the Régie du Tabac (Tobacco Administration). Duvalier used this "non-fiscal account", established decades earlier, as a tobacco monopoly, but he later expanded it to include the proceeds from other government enterprises and used it as a slush fund for which no balance sheets were ever kept.
By neglecting his role in government, Duvalier squandered considerable domestic and foreign goodwill and facilitated the dominance of Haitian affairs by a clique of hardline Duvalierist cronies, the so-called "dinosaurs". Foreign officials and observers also seemed tolerant toward "Baby Doc" in areas such as human rights monitoring, and foreign countries were more generous to him with economic assistance. The Nixon administration restored the United States aid program for Haiti in 1971.
The extravagance of the couple's wedding, which was estimated at the time to have cost US$2 million, did not lack local critics, though The Christian Science Monitor reported that "[it] was enthusiastically received by a majority of Haitians." Discontent among the business community and elite intensified in response to increased corruption among the Duvaliers and the Bennett family's dealings, which included selling Haitian cadavers to foreign medical schools and trafficking in narcotics. Increased political repression added to the volatility of the situation.
The marriage also estranged the old-line Duvalierists in the government from the younger technocrats whom Duvalier had appointed, including Jean-Marie Chanoine, Frantz Merceron, Frantz-Robert Monde, and Theo Achille. The Duvalierists' spiritual leader, Duvalier's mother, Simone Ovide Duvalier, was eventually expelled from Haiti, reportedly at the request of Michèle Duvalier. With his wife Duvalier had two children, François Nicolas and Anya.
In response to an outbreak of African swine fever virus on the island in 1978, U.S. agricultural authorities insisted upon total eradication of Haiti's pig population. The Program for the Eradication of Porcine Swine Fever and for the Development of Pig Raising (PEPPADEP) caused widespread hardship among the peasant population, who bred pigs as an investment.
In addition, reports that HIV/AIDS was becoming a major problem in Haiti caused tourism to decline dramatically in the early 1980s. By the mid-1980s, most Haitians expressed hopelessness and helplessness, as economic conditions worsened and hunger and malnutrition spread.
Widespread discontent began in March 1983, when Pope John Paul II visited Haiti. The pontiff declared that "Something must change here." He went on to call for a more equitable distribution of income, a more egalitarian social structure, more concern among the elite for the well-being of the masses, and increased popular participation in public life. This message revitalized both laymen and clergy, and it contributed to increased popular mobilization and to expanded political and social activism.
In 1984 Ernest Preeg, U.S. ambassador to Haiti (1981–1983), wrote a monograph on Haiti's part in the Reagan Caribbean Basin Initiative. One paragraph stated ..."It can honestly be said that the Jean-Claude Duvalier presidency is the longest period of violence-free stability in the nation's history."
A revolt began in the provinces in 1985. The city of Gonaïves was the first to have street demonstrations and raids on food-distribution warehouses. From October 1985 to January 1986, the protests spread to six other cities, including Cap-Haïtien. By the end of that month, Haitians in the south had revolted. The most significant rioting there broke out in Les Cayes.
Duvalier responded with a 10 percent cut in staple food prices, the closing of independent radio stations, a cabinet reshuffle, and a crackdown by police and army units, but these moves failed to dampen the momentum of the popular uprising against the dynastic dictatorship. Duvalier's wife and advisers, intent on maintaining their grip on power, urged him to put down the rebellion and remain in office.
In January 1986, the Reagan administration began to pressure Duvalier to renounce his rule and to leave Haiti. Representatives appointed by Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga served as intermediaries who carried out the negotiations. At this point a number of Duvalierists, and business leaders, met with the Duvaliers and pressed for their departure. The United States rejected a request to provide asylum for Duvalier, but offered to assist with the Duvaliers' departure. Duvalier had initially accepted on January 30, 1986, and President Reagan actually announced his departure, based on a report from the Haitian CIA Station Chief who saw Duvalier's car head for the airport. En route, there was gunfire and Duvalier's party returned to the palace unnoticed by the U.S. intelligence team. Duvalier declared "we are as firm as a monkey tail." He departed on February 7, 1986, flying to France in a U.S. Air Force aircraft.
The Duvaliers settled in France. For a time they lived a luxurious life. Although he formally applied for political asylum, his request was denied by French authorities. Duvalier lost most of his wealth with his 1993 divorce from his wife. While apparently living modestly in exile, Duvalier did have supporters, who founded the François Duvalier Foundation in 2006 to promote positive aspects of the Duvalier presidency, including the creation of most of Haiti's state institutions and improved access to education for the country's black majority.
A private citizen, named Jacques Samyn, unsuccessfully sued to expel Duvalier as an illegal immigrant (the Duvaliers were never officially granted asylum in France). Then, in 1998, a Haitian-born photographer, Gérard Bloncourt, formed a committee in Paris to bring Duvalier to trial. At the time, the French Ministry of the Interior said that it could not verify whether Duvalier still remained in the country due to the recently enacted Schengen Agreement which had abolished systematic border controls between the participating countries. However, Duvalier's lawyer Sauveur Vaisse said that his client was still in France and denied that the exiled leader had fallen on hard times.
The 2004 Global Transparency Report listed Duvalier as one of the World's Most Corrupt Leaders. He was listed sixth, between Slobodan Milošević and Alberto Fujimori, and was said to have amassed between $300 million and $800 million.
Following the ousting of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Duvalier announced his intention to return to Haiti to run for president in the 2006 elections for the National Unity Party; however, he did not become a candidate.
On September 22–23, 2007, an address by Duvalier to Haitians was broadcast by radio. Although he said exile had "broken" him, he also said that what he described as the improving fortunes of the National Unity Party had "reinvigorated" him, and he urged readiness among his supporters, without saying whether he intended to return to Haiti. President René Préval rejected Duvalier's apology and, on September 28, he said that, while Duvalier was constitutionally free to return to Haiti, he would face trial if he did so. Duvalier's radio broadcast address was given in French and not Haitian Creole, the language spoken by the majority of Haitians.
Duvalier lived in Paris with Véronique Roy, his longtime companion and chief public-relations representative, until his return to Haiti in late January 2011. Roy is the granddaughter of Paul Magloire, President of Haïti from 1950 to 1956.
On January 16, 2011, Duvalier returned to Haiti after 25 years during the presidential election campaign. Accompanied by Véronique Roy, he flew in from Paris, indicating that he wanted to help: "I'm not here for politics. I'm here for the reconstruction of Haiti", he said. However, many argued that Duvalier returned to Haiti to gain access to the $4 million frozen in the Swiss bank account. Haiti also claimed this money, arguing that the assets were of "criminal origin" and should not be returned to Duvalier. By virtue of Swiss law, however, states claiming money in Switzerland have to demonstrate that they have started criminal investigations against offenders holding money in the country. According to an article by Ginger Thompson in the New York Times, "if Mr. Duvalier had been able to slip into the country and then quietly leave without incident... he may have been able to argue that Haiti was no longer interested in prosecuting him—and that the money should be his." According to Mac McClelland of Mother Jones magazine:
The former dictator was greeted at the Port-au-Prince airport with cheering and celebratory chanting ... The word from Duvalier is that he's come to help his country. According to everyone on the street and on the radio, the Americans and the French conspired to bring him here to upset current president René Préval, who's been accused of fixing his country's recent elections.
On January 18, 2011, he was taken into custody at his hotel by Haitian authorities. He was charged with corruption, theft, and misappropriation of funds committed during his 15-year presidency. He was released but was subject to recall by the court.
By September 22, 2011, legal procedures against him appeared to have stalled. He was reported to be living under a loosely enforced house arrest, enjoying a life of luxury in a suburb of Port-au-Prince. By January 30, 2012, it was announced that the former president would face charges of corruption, but not for human right abuses. 
After the former president failed to appear for three previously scheduled court hearings, a Haitian judge issued a warrant ordering him to appear before the court February 28, 2013. Duvalier did so and for the first time pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption and human rights abuse.
Duvalier died in his home of a heart attack on October 4, 2014. He was 63 years old.
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- Véronique ROY
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- Jean-Claude Net Worth
- Jean-Claude Duvalier at the Internet Movie Database
- Jean-Claude Duvalier collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Works by or about Jean-Claude Duvalier in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Jean Claude Duvalier and Michele Bennet Wedding 25 May 1980 on YouTube
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- WikiLeaks cables: 'Baby Doc' Duvalier's possible return to Haiti concerned US, The Guardian, January 17, 2011
- Did Baby Doc Duvalier Return to Haiti to Pressure Préval in the Election?, video report, Democracy Now!, January 19, 2011
President of Haiti