"When Baron Samedi comes: The Death of Jean-Claude Duvalier" by Patrick Delices
Patrick Delices | 10/9/2014, 1:05 p.m.Special to the AmNews
"Saturday, Oct. 4, one of the most brutal dictators of Haiti, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was dying of a heart attack at his home in Thomassin, a Port-au-Prince mountaintop suburb, as an old, familiar friend, dressed in a top hat, black suit and dark glasses, paid him a final visit. Duvalier’s friend who visited him on that day as he clung to his life while facing death was Baron Samedi.
In the philosophy and science of Haitian vodou, Samedi is the lwa (god or master) of the dead. Samedi is also the master and giver of life within the worldview and spiritual reality of Haitian vodou. In the hopes of giving the people of Haiti life again, Samedi decided to visit Duvalier as he was having a heart attack. In his unwelcome visit to Duvalier’s home, Samedi, with his imposing and puissant mien, happily greeted Duvalier with his strange but convincing, nasal-toned voice by saying, “Come with me!”
Even though that was the last time Duvalier heard the words, “Come with me,” it certainly was not the first. Duvalier had known Samedi since his birth, July 3, 1951, when he probably heard the words “come with me” or “follow me” from a man who closely resembled Samedi in stature, appearance, voice and actions, especially regarding the countless deaths of Haitians who opposed him.
A Samedi impersonator would often appear to Duvalier and the people of Haiti as he was preparing for the mass funeral of the people of Haiti while giving his son, Duvalier, life. Unlike the real Samedi, this impersonator, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, would only bring death and destruction to the people of Haiti and riches and good fortune to his son Jean-Claude.
Often dressed as Samedi, Francois Duvalier ruled Haiti with an iron death grip from Oct. 22, 1957, until his death April 21, 1971. During his oppressive reign, Francois Duvalier would order an unwilling Jean-Claude Duvalier to come with him to witness Haitian political prisoners being tortured by way of sulfuric acid baths.
Before his death in 1971, Francois Duvalier established a ruling oligarchy in Haiti. Moreover, by 1971, Francois Duvalier established a hereditary dictatorship in Haiti as he named Jean-Claude as his successor. Hence, one day after his father’s death, at the tender age of 19 years, the unprecocious Jean-Claude Duvalier unwillingly followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming the world’s youngest head of state as the president of Haiti.
Jean-Claude Duvalier was, at first, unwilling and uninterested in becoming president of Haiti, perhaps because of his early experience with his father as he tagged along to witness the most repugnant forms of torture on the people of Haiti. As such, Jean-Claude Duvalier motioned for his older sibling Marie-Denise Duvalier to succeed their dad as president.
However, Jean-Claude Duvalier’s nightmarish experience with his father did not alleviate the pain or suffering perpetrated on the people of Haiti as exhibited by the elder Duvalier—it only exacerbated the pain and suffering under his brutish style of rule. Unfortunately, like father, like son. Jean-Claude Duvalier followed in his father’s footstep as an evil, mean-spirited, brutal dictator who simply served the avaricious interest of the European-American world while oppressing the people of Haiti.
In partnership with the invisible hands of the Western empire, both father and son wreaked havoc on the economics, politics and culture of Haiti. Financially, both father and son misappropriated millions of foreign aid dollars, as they would transfer the aid money into their own personal accounts while the people and economy of Haiti remained impecunious. This impecunious economic reality in Haiti was also a result of the fact that foreign investors were exempted from paying taxes, as wages for Haitian workers reached only $2.50 dollars not per hour, but per day.
Financially, Jean-Claude Duvalier also engaged in using Haiti as a major port for international drug trafficking, along with the lucrative business of selling the body parts and organs of deceased Haitians. Moreover, with the “strong influence” of the World Bank, IMF and NGOs, Haiti engaged in an open market economy as tariffs were liberalized and governmental services became privatized. As such, local Haitian industries were devastated by diminishing revenues from Haitian exports.
Politically, land was confiscated from the peasants; extortion was at an all-time high; opposing voices were suppressed; political opponents were either imprisoned, tortured or killed in Jean-Claude Duvalier’s network of prisons called the “Triangle of Death”; fear and terror ran amuck under the constant threat of the Haitian rural militia known as Tonton Macoute; freedom of the press was virtually nonexistent; and human rights, abuses escalated, along with poverty, disease, malnutrition and corruption.
Culturally, the public image of Haiti was further falsified, as evident with the AIDS epidemic and the “boat people” crisis. Western press would frequently associate, in a negative manner, AIDS with the people of Haiti without identifying the role of Western governments and NGOs in the development and spread of AIDS in Haiti. Similarly, in terms of the “boat people” crisis in Haiti, the Western press rarely reported the role played by NGOs, such as CARE and USAID, along with the United States in “nudging” Jean-Claude Duvalier to bypass key investments in education, health care and rural development. Interestingly, after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s dictatorship, Haiti had the second most NGOs, roughly 10,000, meddling in its economic, political and cultural affairs.
Upset with his brutal dictatorship and failed leadership, the people of Haiti sent Jean-Claude Duvalier into exile in France Feb. 7, 1986. However, after 25 years, Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti Jan. 16, 2011, only to die at the age of 63 on Oct. 4. While some people feel that Jean-Claude Duvalier cheated justice, he was nonetheless unable to cheat death.
As the Haitian government and the global community delayed in bringing Jean-Claude Duvalier to justice, Samedi took justice upon himself by telling Jean-Claude Duvalier to “come with me!” For many Haitians, that particular day of justice couldn’t come soon enough.
Jean-Claude Duvalier is survived by two children, Nicolas and Anya Duvalier."
Source: Special to the AmNews