3 Top Duvalier Aides Living in Splendor in U.S.

Times Staff Writer

At least three top associates of exiled Haitian President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier have quietly entered the United States and are living in anonymous splendor in expensive hotels and hideaways, Haitian activists and other experts said Wednesday.

The three, including Duvalier's father-in-law and his former interior and foreign ministers, arrived here shortly before the strongman known as "Baby Doc" flew to temporary asylum in France last Friday aboard a U.S. Air Force plane.

Word of their presence has outraged some Haitian leaders in the United States, who say American tolerance implies continued support for Duvalier and his allies, some of whom hold key posts in Haiti's new government.

"They're the same people who have been carrying out Baby Doc's orders," said Ray Josef, an official of the Haitian Committee on Unity, a New York-based activists' umbrella group. "They see eye-to-eye. These people who got rich while the people of Haiti were becoming the poorest in the hemisphere are now free to roam around this country and spend millions. It's unconscionable."

Valid Visas Used

A State Department spokesman, Jim Callahan, said the department was unaware that Duvalier's associates are in the United States but added that it is unlikely they would have been denied entry anyway. American officials in Port-au-Prince and Washington said the three Haitians apparently hold valid visas that give them the right to enter the United States at will.

A self-described friend of former Foreign Minister Jean-Robert Estime said that Estime "is going back as soon as there are planes flying back" to Haiti. Air service to and from the United States was to resume today.

Meanwhile, Estime was staying at Washington's expensive Four Seasons Hotel, where he apparently has lived since arriving here only hours before Duvalier's government toppled.

Estime, is one of the four members of Duvalier's "super-Cabinet" who were given overseas assignments in a Dec. 31 shake-up aimed at staving off unrest. He was named ambassador to the Organization of American States and the United States, but American officials never formally accepted his appointment.

On OAS Business

Estime's friend, who insisted on anonymity, said that the former foreign minister is in Washington on OAS business and claimed that his departure from Haiti last Thursday was totally unrelated to Duvalier's downfall.

A second "super-Cabinet" member, Interior and Defense Minister Jean-Marie Chanoine, was named ambassador to Canada but also never assumed the post. Haitian activists spotted him last Thursday arriving at New York's Kennedy International Airport and followed him to New Jersey.

Josef said his group believes Chanoine is now staying in a luxury apartment in Manhattan that Josef said was bought for Duvalier. But officials of the apartment complex refused to comment on the matter. American officials who asked not to be named said Chanoine is believed to own considerable land in Canada and could be traveling there.

Chanoine has served as Duvalier's right-hand man and was in charge of the police last fall when an attack by Haitian troops on college students started the chain of events that led to the dictator's exile.

Kin in New York

The third man, Ernest Bennett, Duvalier's father-in-law, was said by Estime's friend to have gone about 10 days ago from Haiti to a New York apartment that he owns. American officials said Bennett's wife was among the more than 20 people who accompanied Duvalier to his temporary haven at a French Alpine resort.

Bennett was reported on the verge of bankruptcy until his daughter, Michele, married Duvalier. Since, he has become one of the wealthiest men in Haiti. His Port-au-Prince auto dealership was ravaged by rioters after Duvalier fled the country.

Like other Duvalier aides, the three have been accused of using their power to amass great wealth from kickbacks and theft of American and international aid money.

Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reported from Zurich, Switzerland, that Duvalier has said he is not interested in going into exile in the West African state of Liberia. A spokesman for Duvalier, identified only as Mr. Vesse, said the former Haitian strongman "is not interested in going there (Liberia). He is only interested in staying in France or going back to Haiti."

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