He departed Haiti in 1986 aboard a U.S. Air Force plane, winging to stage-managed exile after weeks of pressure from the Reagan administration.
Haiti’s infamous “Baby Doc”, Jean Claude Duvalier, made a surprise reappearance in his homeland this weekend, and Washington’s planners had less than an hour to prepare.
“We were informed about an hour before the point that he landed this weekend,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “If I look at the list of challenges that Haiti faces today having a former dictator return to Haiti just adds to Haiti’s ongoing burden.”
It’s a burden that has direct implications for the Obama administration, which has staked considerable political capital on the faltering effort to get Haiti back on its feet following last year’s earthquake disaster and a political crisis caused by inconclusive elections in November.
Crowley said the French government informed the United States that Duvalier — who was aboard an Air France jet — was about to make landfall on the Caribbean island. “We were given a heads-up roughly an hour before he landed,” Crowley said, adding that he believed the French had passed along the information as soon as they had it.