Duvalier Flees to France; Army-Led Panel to Rule Haiti : U.S. C-141 Takes ‘Baby Doc’ to Exile; Violence Follows Jubilation in Capital

Times Staff Writer

Stepping down as Haiti’s “president for life,” Jean-Claude Duvalier handed power to a military-led government council Friday and fled to France, setting off scenes of rejoicing and later of looting in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Duvalier, 34, said he quit after nearly 15 years to end “a nightmare of blood” brought on by a wave of mass protests against his authoritarian rule.

The abrupt departure ended Haiti’s infamous Duvalier era, 28 years of often-harsh repression under a father and then a son. President-for-Life Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier held power from 1957 until he died in 1971, leaving Jean-Claude in charge at age 19.


With members of his family and close associates, Duvalier abandoned the impoverished Caribbean country before dawn Friday, flying to France aboard a U.S. Air Force C-141 transport.

As the news spread in Port-au-Prince, jubilant crowds danced in the streets and cheered.

‘Long Live Liberty’

“He flew away!” “No more Duvalier!” and “Long live liberty!” they chanted.

The newly formed National Council of three army officers and two civilians waved to a large gathering in front of the National Palace, Haiti’s government headquarters.

Later in the day, after outbreaks of mob violence and looting, the new government imposed a curfew from 2 p.m. to 6 a.m. By mid-afternoon, Port-au-Prince streets were deserted.

The Francois Duvalier International Airport was shut down all day.

Hours after Duvalier left, the national radio network broadcast a taped farewell message in which he referred to anti-government protests and disturbances that resulted in dozens of deaths at the end of January.

‘Nightmare of Blood’

“After thoroughly considering the situation, I have been unable to detect a sign that would encourage hope that this nightmare of blood would spare my people,” he said.

He announced that he had decided “to entrust the destiny of the nation and power to the armed forces.”

The new government council is headed by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, 53, who was chief of the armed forces general staff under Duvalier.

Amid Friday’s public jubilation, a crowd tore up the tomb of Francois Duvalier in the central cemetery and destroyed a monument to him at a downtown intersection. Reuters news agency reported that the mob dug out Duvalier’s coffin and trampled and scattered the remains.

Several hundred people mobbed a downtown prison, calling for the release of political prisoners.

Stores Looted

Mobs looted some stores and set fire to several buildings. Troops used tear gas to clear downtown streets.

According to unconfirmed reports, the crowds beat and possibly killed some members of Duvalier’s repressive militia, formally called the Volunteers for National Security but popularly known as the Tontons Macoutes, or “bogeymen” in the Creole dialect spoken by most Haitians.

In the Delmas section of the capital, mobs ransacked the government’s information and public relations office and looted an automobile agency owned by Duvalier’s father-in-law, Ernest Bennett.

The growth of Bennett’s wealth and influence under Duvalier’s government was widely resented. He is a member of the light-skinned, mixed-race elite that dominated Haiti before the elder Duvalier came to power representing blacks, the vast majority of Haiti’s population.

Accompanied by Family

Duvalier’s wife, the former Michele Bennett, 26, was among the 24 people who left with the fallen president on a U.S. Air Force transport plane, provided for the trip to France by the U.S. government. Others in the party included Duvalier’s mother, Simone, his son and two of his wife’s children from a previous marriage, U.S. Embassy spokesman Jerry Lite said.

The party landed in Grenoble, a French mountain resort. French authorities said Duvalier would remain in the country only temporarily but did not say where he would go after that.

Several other countries are reported to have turned down requests on behalf of Duvalier for political asylum. Gabon and Morocco both denied that they would offer refuge to the ousted dictator. Moroccan government sources called refuge there “out of the question,” and Switzerland, Greece and Spain announced that he is unacceptable.

The State Department said that the United States furnished the C-141 at Duvalier’s request.

“The governments of the United States and France cooperated in facilitating the peaceful departure from Haiti of President Jean-Claude Duvalier in order to ease the transition in Haiti and reduce the possibility of bloodshed,” said Joseph Reap, a State Department spokesman. He said that the United States believes Duvalier made the “correct decision.”

‘It Became Obvious. . . . ‘

“It became obvious to him in the last few days that he could no longer sustain his government except through the use of force,” Reap said.

Gen. Namphy, head of the new governing council, said in a statement that strife under Duvalier hurt innocent people and paralyzed national life.

“For months, the country has known an exceptionally serious situation which had to be improved,” Namphy said.

The other military officers in the council are Col. Williams Regala, 48, inspector general of the armed forces, and Col. Max Vales, 45, head of the army’s elite presidential guard. Civilian council members are Alix Cineas, 52, minister of public works in Duvalier’s Cabinet, and Gerard Gourgue, 50, chairman of the Haitian League of Human Rights and owner of a private school.

2 Duvalier Allies

Cineas was regarded as a firm political ally of Duvalier. Another pro-Duvalier official, Col. Prosper Avril, was named as an adviser to the new council.

Some Haitians who had been active in the anti-Duvalier protest movement were upset that the new government included known Duvalier supporters. There were unconfirmed reports of protests in the provincial city of Gonaives, where an intermittent series of protest demonstrations and disturbances that finally ended with Duvalier’s flight began last November.

The culminating wave of violence also started in Gonaives, about 80 miles north of Port-au-Prince, on Jan. 26, and quickly spread to other provincial cities around the country. The leaders of the demonstrations invariably were youths and young men.

Port-au-Prince awakened on Friday, Jan. 31, to rumors that Duvalier had fled the country. The rumors spread to the United States, where White House spokesman Larry Speakes mistakenly announced that Duvalier was out.

Denounced Rumors

Denouncing the rumors, Duvalier imposed a nationwide state of siege.

“The president is here--strong, firm as a monkey’s tail,” he said that day in Creole as he made a morning tour of downtown Port-au-Prince.

Then disturbances broke out for the first time in the capital. Troops and militiamen skirmished with groups of young men in downtown streets. Unrest and bloodshed were ominously close to the National Palace, Duvalier’s headquarters.

No official death toll was given, but hospital employes and human rights workers estimated that more than 50 civilians were killed by capital security forces.

The rest of the weekend was quiet in the capital, except for unexplained outbursts of gunfire at night, while demonstrations continued in the provinces.

By Monday, the provincial demonstrations had stopped. It appeared that Duvalier’s crisis had eased, at least for the moment. By the middle of Tuesday afternoon, however, an estimated 90% of the stores in downtown Port-au-Prince were closed, either in fear of new disturbances or in secret sympathy with the anti-Duvalier movement.

Most stores reopened Wednesday and Thursday under government pressure, but businessmen remained uneasy.

Departure a Secret

The timing of Duvalier’s departure before dawn Friday was almost wholly unexpected. The city, whose inhabitants had been staying off the streets during the state of siege, was all but deserted during the night, and hardly anyone could have known that Duvalier and his family were pulling out.

When he did so, the scene at the airport on the outskirts of the capital, as reported by Reuters, was a bizarre, silent end to the years of uninterrupted rule by the Duvalier dynasty.

Only a group of foreign journalists and cameramen saw the family drive through a side gate onto the tarmac, Reuters reported. Haitians, whose recent protests had sped his departure, were apparently totally unaware of the fact.

Family members arrived in a motorcade of half a dozen cars and four military pick-up trucks, which carried baggage and armed soldiers. Baggage was also crammed into one small taxi, driven by a lone chauffeur.

Duvalier drove himself in his BMW limousine. Beside him in the front seat was his wife, who had come under increasing criticism for her extravagance while many Haitians barely survive.

She looked relaxed and smoked a cigarette as the motorcade slowed to ease through the tarmac gate as camera lights provided an eerie spotlight to the otherwise pitch-dark scene.

The car did not stop, and Duvalier did not roll down the window as he drove by.

Out of the car, Duvalier walked across the tarmac accompanied by his wife, who wore a cream-colored scarf.

Duvalier did not speak to reporters.

People Jam Square

As news of Duvalier’s departure began spreading through the capital, a cheering crowd of about 5,000 jammed the square in front of the National Palace, site of the presidential offices. It has been illegal for Haitians to even walk on the sidewalk in front of the palace since 1974.

United Press International reported that they reached over the spiked iron fence and shook hands and hugged the army guards, who smiled and laughed as some in the crowd shouted, “Long life the army!”

Women in brightly colored clothing jumped up and down and held hands, men waved their shirts and rum bottles over their heads, and motorists sped through the city honking their horns, UPI reported.

“Everybody is very satisfied. I have already taken my cocktails,” said Moethal Edely, an auto mechanic.