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Opinion: Return of Jean-Claude Duvalier will hurt Haiti

For 25 years, Haitian ex-dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier lived in French exile. Now he's back. DW's Martin Polansky says that spells further trouble.

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There was something creepy about Jean-Claude Duvalier's return to Haiti. Supporters turned out at the airport in Port-au-Prince to cheer, and Baby Doc is said to have kissed the ground when he got off the plane. He's come, he says, to help.

Together with his father Francois, originally a country doctor, Jean-Claude Duvalier is responsible for one of the darkest chapters in Haitian history. The family dynasty ruled Haiti with an iron fist for decades. Ten of thousands were killed by the commando troops, the Tontons Macoutes, and other physicians were particularly prominent among the victims.

Jean-Claude reined in the death squads somewhat, but still thousands were killed under his regime. Meanwhile, he threw expensive parties and bought luxury cars, squandering huge sums while his country was impoverished. That continued even in French exile, after he was deposed in 1986.

Human rights organizations are correctly demanding that he be arrested and put on trial. But there's not even a warrant out for his arrest. The fact that Baby Doc can return to Haiti as a free man speaks volumes about the situation in that country. The international community is in severe jeopardy of completely losing control.

The UN has some 12,000 peacekeepers and police in Haiti. The goal of their mission is to stabilize the country. In addition, countless international aid workers are trying to rebuild Haitian infrastructure, which was largely destroyed in last year's earthquake. Billions of euros have been spent, but visible improvements are few and far between. The human suffering in Haiti continues to beggar description.

The UN seems to be unable to improve the situation, as became apparent with the first round of presidential elections in late November. Despite extensive logistical support and the presence of election monitors from the Organization of American States, fraud and intimidation were widespread. There has still been no official result, and the run-off election has been postponed indefinitely.

Current Haitian President Rene Preval, who wants to extend his time in office and then hand over power to a hand-picked successor, has been the one to profit. He simply rides out international pressure. The return of Baby Doc has only increased the political chaos and makes the UN mission seem more helpless than ever.

One year on from the earthquake, many foreign observers in Haiti are worried about an increase in violence and perhaps even full-fledged civil war. The UN and the international donor countries should rethink their strategy in order to prevent any further chaos. Unfortunately, no one seems to have a plan. The international mission in Haiti is on the verge of failure.

And Baby Doc? Despite the cheers of his supporters, he is hardly a savior. The former dictator is only another piece on the political chessboard. He and the irresponsible Haitian political elite should be checkmated.

Author: Martin Polansky (jc)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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