‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier returns to Haiti from exile

The former president of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier, has returned to the country, 25 years after he was overthrown by a popular revolt.Mr Duvalier, 59, also known as “Baby Doc”, arrived on a flight from France where he had been living in exile.It was not clear what prompted his return, though he said he wanted “to help the people of Haiti” following last year’s devastating earthquake.He arrives amid political uncertainty after disputed presidential elections.Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said there was no reason to believe Mr Duvalier’s return would destabilise the country.”He is a Haitian and, as such, is free to return home,” said Mr Bellerive.Wearing a dark suit and tie, Mr Duvalier was greeted by a small group of supporters when he stepped off an Air France flight at Port-au-Prince airport.Jean-Claude Duvalier was just 19 when he inherited the title of “president-for-life” from his father, the notorious Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who had ruled Haiti since 1957.

He is accused of massive corruption, repression and human rights abuses during his 1971-1986 rule. Critics allege he embezzled millions of dollars from the impoverished Caribbean nation, a charge he denies.Like his father, he relied on a brutal private militia known as the “Tontons Macoutes”, which controlled Haiti through violence and intimidation.”Papa Doc” reinforced his power with a fearsome personality cult based on Haiti’s traditional voodoo religion, but “Baby Doc” was regarded as more of a playboy.In 1986 he was forced to flee into exile by a popular uprising, as well as diplomatic pressure from the US.Since then, he has lived in France, although he was never granted formal political asylum.In a radio interview in 2007, he asked the Haitian people for forgiveness for “errors” made during his rule.A small group of Duvalier loyalists have been campaigning to bring him home from exile.His return to Haiti came on the day the country was supposed to hold the second round of elections to choose a successor to outgoing president Rene Preval.But the vote has been postponed because of a dispute over which candidates should be on the ballot paper.Provisional results of the 28 November first round provoked violent demonstrations when they were announced in December, and most observers said there was widespread fraud and intimidation.Haiti is also struggling to recover from a massive earthquake a year ago which killed more than 250,000 people and left the capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruinsm – BBC