Having already felt the stampeding hooves of famine, pestilence, and death, Haiti welcomed the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse over the weekend, as Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier touched down in Port-au-Prince. If France is going to provide safe havens for the worst people in the world, they should at least have the presence of mind to keep them.
“I’m not here for politics. I’m here for the reconstruction of Haiti,” announced the former dictator, whose preferred construction materials are blood and bone. His secret police, the Tontoun Macoute, would have regarded the “Saw” movies as screwball comedies to lighten the mood before watching their training films.
“Baby Doc” left the island to enter French exile with promises of bloody retribution ringing in his ears, but times have changed. The horrifying mortality rate of Haiti leads to a young electorate with a short memory. The Associated Press quotes a young Haitian saying, “I don’t know much about Jean-Claude Duvalier, but I’ve heard he did good things for the country. I hope he will do good things again.” Maybe the United Nations should provide the Haitian populace with Ouija boards, so they can learn about Duvalier from his victims.
Desperation is fertile soil for dictatorship. Desperate people naturally gravitate to a strong voice promising authority, control, and relief. Dictatorship is hard to get rid of, because both its promises and threats are taken very seriously.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are asking the government of Haiti to arrest “Baby Doc” Duvalier and put him on trial for his crimes. There is no other way to purge his contagion from Haiti. No one should be able to think “he did good things for the country” and “hope he will do good things again.”
As long as the young and desperate population of this tormented island nation are allowed to entertain old horrors in new Parisian tailored suits, the international community will be spending billions to plant seeds of possibility in toxic soil. As long as the humanitarian West is Haiti’s life support, it also has a duty to serve as its memory, and conscience. We cannot sustain Haiti forever, and we cannot save it without changing it for the better.
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