News Release

Haiti: “Duvalier is Dead; Duvalierism Lives on”

Left, Michel Martelly; right, François Duvalier

Left, Michel Martelly; right, François Duvalier

The New York Times reports: “Jean-Claude Duvalier, a former president of Haiti known as Baby Doc who ruled the country with a bloody brutality and then shocked it anew with a sudden return from a 25-year exile in 2011, died on Saturday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was 63. The cause was a heart attack, his lawyer told The Associated Press. President Michel J. Martelly announced the death on Twitter.”

BRIAN CONCANNON, Brian at IJDH.org, @HaitiJustice
Executive director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Concannon said today: “The victims are insisting that the fight for justice continues. Duvalierism was a system. The others involved in massive corruption and political violence who are still alive need to be pursued. Although the Martelly regime deserves criticism for blocking the prosecution for two years, we need to remember that France sheltered him for 25 years, and that the U.S. refused to even acknowledge Haiti’s international law obligation to prosecute Duvalier, or otherwise support the prosecution.”

AMY WILENTZ, awilentz at uci.edu, @amywilentz
Professor at the University of California at Irvine, Wilentz is author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier and, most recently, Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti, which won this year’s National Book Critics Circle award. She just wrote the piece “Bringing Down Baby,” which states: “It’s easy to imagine that Duvalier’s death marks the end of an era.

“But the corruption he and his father encouraged, and their political toolbox — authoritarianism, trumped up elections, distrust of free speech, corruption of the forces of order, and no justice — are the methods by which Haiti’s ruler still controls the country. The U.S. government has supported Martelly. Only yesterday, [U.S. ambassador to the United Nations] Samantha Power attacked the Haitian opposition for standing in the way of elections. But the opposition has had good reasons for putting obstacles in Martelly’s way, not least the concern that the elections he hopes to organize will not include all parties, and will be overseen by an electoral council that is neither honest nor objective.

“Duvalier is dead; Duvalierism lives on.”

Wilentz appeared this morning on “Democracy Now!” with the Haitian writer Jean Saint-Vil.