Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, responsible for the death of thousands and the theft of millions, who moved openly in the society of Haitian elites protected by the government, died on October 4 a free man. He reportedly suffered a heart attack at the home of an associate in a wealthy enclave above Port-au-Prince.
Meanwhile former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who helped build the movement to drive Duvalier from power in 1986, who was twice elected president with huge majorities only to be overthrown by US backed coups, and who as president created more schools in a decade than had been created in all of Haiti’s previous 200 year history, is now forced to live under “house arrest,” a concept unknown in Haitian law, with his home surrounded by heavily armed police wearing black ski masks. He’s falsely accused of “corruption,” charges levied and dismissed for the past 10 years in Haitian and Miami courts.
Baby Doc may be dead, but Duvalierism is embedded in this upside down Haiti of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their presidential puppet, Michel Martelly.
Duvalierism is embedded in the Royal Oasis Hotel, partially funded by the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a “symbol of the new Haïti” that now provides tourists, NGO and foreign officials an “oasis” to shield them from the lives of the overwhelming majority of Haitians.
It lives in the increasing rule by decree without parliamentary input, and federal government appointments to replace locally elected officials.
It’s embedded in a Martelly administration filled with Duvalierists including former Haitian army officer David Bazile the Interior Minister, and Magalie Racine, daughter of former Tonton Macoute militia chief Madame Max Adolphe, the Youth and Sports Minister. Public Works Secretary of State Philippe Cinéas is the son of longtime Duvalierist figure Alix Cinéas. In addition Duvalier’s son, Nicolas, is a close Martelly advisor.
Duvalierism is embedded in a corrupt legal system that allows Martelly to appoint Lamarre Belizaire as a judge although he was not qualified, and despite the fact the Port-au-Prince bar has banned Belizaire from practicing law for 10 years for collaboration in the arrest of attorney Andre Michel, who brought corruption charges against Martelly’s wife and son. It was Belizaire who issued the house arrest warrant for Aristide and the recent warrant for Jean Nadal Aristide, arrested on October 4th, one of the outspoken leaders of the march on September 30th held to commemorate the 1991 coup against Aristide and to protest his house arrest.
It lives in the corruption of a $1.50 tax on money transfers and a 5 cent per minute tax on phone calls to Haiti to support “education,” never ratified by or presented to Haiti’s Parliament making them illegal, as most Haitians continue to face unaffordable school fees, and most Haitian teachers have not been paid for months.
It lives in Martelly’s travel per diem of $20,000 a day, as his wife receives $10,000, his children $7,500, and others in his inner circle get $4,000 daily.
It lives in the destruction of encampments of tens of thousands of still homeless earthquake survivors, condemning them to a purgatory of barren land far from any basic services.
It lives in the dubious use of “eminent domain” to seize homes and properties of downtown Port-au-Prince residents under the guise of “redevelopment,” to benefit Martelly cronies.
It survives in the illegal seizure of property rights of those who have lived for generations on the island of Ile a Vache, plowing down beautiful forest land to build an airport and roads to develop luxury resorts.
It’s embedded in the Caracol sweatshop free trade zone, partially funded by the Clinton Foundation, constructed in the north with earthquake funds, although the earthquake didn’t affect the north.
It’s embedded in the creation of a new army being trained to replace the United Nations MINUSTAH occupation force – an army of dictatorship that will be used to terrorize its own people, like those men now standing in black ski masks outside the home of President Aristide. One of the most popular acts of Aristide’s first administration was to disband the predatory army in 1995.
Haitians have worked tirelessly to purge their country of Duvalierism since they forced Baby Doc to flee in 1986, but like a zombie that just won’t stay dead, he returned in 2011 with the blessing of Michel Martelly. Duvalierism won’t die because it’s embedded in an economic system controlled by international capital and imposed by an international military force, whose driving imperative is to create massive individual wealth and power for the few at the expense of the many. The gross excesses of the Duvaliers are but one example.
But Haitians do not forget the great accomplishments of the Aristide and Lavalas governments, and they’re not willing to go back to the torture, murder, and rape of the Duvalier days. They protest in the streets almost daily and watch over the Aristide home in driving rain.
And from his home, Aristide continues to do exactly what he promised he would do when he returned – educate. UNIFA, the University of the Aristide Foundation, just opened for its third year with over 1000 students. The original Medical school has grown to include schools in Nursing, Law and Physical Therapy.
During the 2004 coup, the United States army closed the school and seized the grounds to make it their military headquarters. Aristide and his wife, Mildred, reopened it upon their return from forced exile. UNIFA and the Aristide Foundation headquarters serve as vibrant community centers for education and organizing. As such they present a challenge to Martelly’s corrupt administration, whose brutality and vengefulness threaten not only Aristide’s person and the institutions he’s founded, but the essence of democracy in Haiti.