WikiLeaked Cables Raise Question: Did the U.S. Green-Light Duvalier’s Return in 2011?

By Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)

Feb. 7, 2013 promises to be a
hot day in Haiti.
of Haitians are planning to march through Port-au-Prince to protest President
Michel Martelly’s patent corruption and drift toward a repressive
neo-Duvalierist dictatorship.
the same time, former President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier will
be personally appearing in the capital’s Appeals Court to answer a challenge by
his regime’s victims.
year ago, Investigating Judge Carves Jean ruled that Duvalier should not be
prosecuted for the many crimes against humanity committed under his 15-year
rule from 1971 to 1986, including extrajudicial executions and jailings. Human
rights groups like Amnesty International and its Haitian counterparts cried
foul, as did over a dozen of people who had filed human rights complaints
against Duvalier following his return to Haiti in January 2011. They appealed.  Ironically, Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun, the
head of the Appeals Court, set the hearing for final arguments against Judge
Carves Jean’s ruling for the 27th anniversary of the Duvalier
regime’s fall.

7, 1986 was the day when, after a three-month nationwide uprising against his
regime, the playboy dictator and his haughty bourgeois wife, Michelle, drove
their Mercedes-Benz through a cordon of journalists at the airport to board a
U.S.-provided C-130 that flew them, with her furs and his cars, into a golden
exile in France.
Duvaliers divorced but lived the good life off the some $800 million (according
to best estimates) that they and their cronies embezzled from the Haitian
treasury. In fact, Carves Jean did charge Duvalier for his “economic crimes,”
but the maximum sentence if he were ever found guilty (an unlikely event under
Martelly’s regime) would be only five years.
returned to Haiti on Jan. 16, 2011 thanks to a Haitian diplomatic passport
furnished to him five years earlier by one of his former Haitian Army generals,
Hérard Abraham. The former general, who was fired by President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide in 1991, had been resurrected in late 2005 as the Foreign Affairs
Minister under the de facto regime of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, installed
by Washington following the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against Aristide.
State Department cables provided to Haïti
by the media organization WikiLeaks in 2011 reveal that the U.S.
Embassy was very “concerned” about Duvalier’s return to Haiti in early 2006,
when the de facto regime was about to hold presidential elections on Feb. 7,
Santiago, Chile, for example, U.S. Ambassador Craig Kelly “expressed [U.S.]
concerns about the Interim Government of Haiti’s (IGOH) decision to approve the
issuance of a diplomatic passport for former president and dictator Jean-Claude
‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier,” Kelly wrote in a Jan. 11, 2006 Confidential cable.
He asked the Chilean government “to approach the IGOH to make clear that
Duvalier’s return would undermine efforts to assist Haiti in its transition to
a stable, democratic society.”
U.S. also talked to France, which “understood and shared our ‘political’ concern that Jean-Claude ‘Baby
Doc’ Duvalier might use a diplomatic passport to return to Haiti,” reported a Jan. 12, 2006 cable
from Paris.
a meeting with then Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, the U.S. Ambassador
“urged Fernandez not to allow Duvalier to obtain a visa for the Dominican
Republic so as to pass through en route to Haiti,” a Jan. 17, 2006
marked “Secret” reports.
the cables detail several meetings that U.S. Embassy officials held with
Latortue and his officials about Duvalier. What becomes clear in the diplomatic
record is that the U.S. Embassy was primarily concerned about appearances, and
the bad press Duvalier’s return would generate. “The visuals are bad,” argued
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Timothy Carney in a Jan. 17, 2006
from Port-au-Prince, and “Baby Doc is a risky, potentially divisive,
presence.” Carney was reporting on a meeting he’d had the day before with
Abraham, who “concluded by refusing to revoke the passport already issued to
Duvalier, but confirming that he would do everything in his power to transmit
the message to Duvalier that he should not to return to Haiti at this time.”
most telling bit of the cable is where Carney quotes Abraham as saying that
Duvalier “lacks appropriate guarantees, security and otherwise, to secure
his reentry into the country.”
forward exactly five years to Jan. 16, 2011. When Duvalier
arrived in Haiti
on that day, the U.S. acted as surprised as everybody else
and divulged nothing about its opposition to the diplomatic passport provided
to Duvalier five years earlier by the very coup regime it had installed in
Haiti cables that WikiLeaks obtained only covered a period from April 2003 to
February 2010, so we don’t know what the Embassy was saying in the days just
before Duvalier’s “surprise” return, which it surely knew was in the offing.
But, judging from the 2006 cables, one can reasonably assume that Duvalier
would only have returned to Haiti if he’d received the “appropriate guarantees,
security and otherwise, to secure his reentry into the country.”
“guarantees” could only have come from Washington. Then President René Préval,
a former anti-Duvalierist militant, surely didn’t give them. He launched a
“serious effort to put together a case against Duvalier” during the four months
that he remained in office, according to human rights lawyer Mario Joseph,
whose International Lawyers’ Bureau (BAI) helped build the prosecution’s
dossier. But Préval was replaced on May 14, 2011 by Martelly, and at that point
the prosecution against Duvalier “ground to a halt,” Joseph said.
new neo-Duvalierist president was installed through an illegal election in
which the U.S. brazenly intervened to bump out the candidate of Préval’s party,
Jude Celestin, who came in second-place in the first round, and replace him
with Martelly, who came in third.
the U.S. (and France) feel that the time was right for Duvalier to come back to
Haiti, as they were engineering the election of Martelly? Did they offer
Duvalier “guarantees” ?
thing is for sure: the U.S. and its allies did not fight to block Duvalier’s
return from France in 2011 the way they fought like hell to block Aristide’s
return from South Africa two months later, as Haïti Liberté revealed
when dissecting
WikiLeaked cables in 2011.
cables show how Washington actively colluded with the United Nations
leadership, France, and Canada to discourage or physically prevent Aristide’s
return to Haiti,” we wrote in our Jul. 28, 2011 edition. “The Vatican was a
reliable partner, blessing the coup and assisting in prolonging Aristide’s
history of the U.S. Embassy showing Duvalier the door in 1986 and then likely
opening it for him in 2011 makes one wonder what the U.S. will be doing behind
the scenes on Feb. 7, 2013. Whatever it is, the Embassy will be trying to avoid
one outcome: that “the visuals are bad.”
President Michel Martelly shaking hands with former
“President-for-Life” Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Did the U.S. offer
Duvalier “guarantees” on his return?