Does Sweet Micky’s election mean Baby Doc is off the hook?

When Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier was arrested shortly after returning to Haiti in January, it seemed to suggest that the former dictator would finally face justice for the corruption and economic crimes committed under his reign, if not the human rights violations. But as the Miami Herald‘s Jacqueline Charles reports, Duvalier certainly doesn’t seem like ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

When Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier was arrested shortly after returning to Haiti in January, it seemed to suggest that the former dictator would finally face justice for the corruption and economic crimes committed under his reign, if not the human rights violations. But as the Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles reports, Duvalier certainly doesn't seem like a man living in fear of prosecution:

His once gaunt frame has filled out. His round-face, robust. And he is standing tall, moving about like a man with a purpose — not an accused criminal possibly facing prison.

A one-time despot driven from his homeland in disgrace, Duvalier, 59, has been acting like a president who left at the pinnacle of his popularity. He’s holding court at tony restaurants, hobnobbing with powerful players and greeting guests at his borrowed home high in the pleasant hills above the congested capital.

When Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier was arrested shortly after returning to Haiti in January, it seemed to suggest that the former dictator would finally face justice for the corruption and economic crimes committed under his reign, if not the human rights violations. But as the Miami Herald‘s Jacqueline Charles reports, Duvalier certainly doesn’t seem like a man living in fear of prosecution:

His once gaunt frame has filled out. His round-face, robust. And he is standing tall, moving about like a man with a purpose — not an accused criminal possibly facing prison.

A one-time despot driven from his homeland in disgrace, Duvalier, 59, has been acting like a president who left at the pinnacle of his popularity. He’s holding court at tony restaurants, hobnobbing with powerful players and greeting guests at his borrowed home high in the pleasant hills above the congested capital.

“The phone is ringing all of the time and I’m receiving a lot of visitors,’’ Duvalier told The Miami Herald, describing a typical day in the life of Haiti’s former president-for-life.[…]

Carves Jean, the judge investigating the case, said Duvalier is under house arrest. Duvalier and his attorney Fritzo Canto say no such thing exists under Haitian law. They punch holes in the government’s 25-year-old legal case, challenging it on procedural grounds and argue the statue of limitations has run out. Duvalier himself laughs at the state’s claims that he and his supporters pillaged the national treasury, and he spirited away $120 million in public money when he fled to France on Feb. 7, 1986.

The election of pop star Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly was good news for Duvalier. Some of his former ministers were staunch Martelly supporters during the campaign, and the new president has suggested amnesty for Duvalier.

The beaches of southern France and hotels of the Persian Gulf may be swarming with former strongmen living off their ill-gotten gains, but it would be a particularly sad end to the Baby Doc saga if he were able to live out the end of his life in quiet comfort in the very country he and his father did so much to immiserate.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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