Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, ousted Haitian dictator, dies at 63

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, a former dictator of Haiti whose brutal regime triggered a popular uprising that freed the country from one-family rule but resolved none of its endemic issues of poverty and underdevelopment, has died.

Duvalier died Saturday of a heart attack at the age of 63 in Port-au-Prince, the capital, Haitian President Michel Martelly said on his Twitter account.


Duvalier was sent into exile in 1986, ending a murderous family dynasty for whom Haiti was little more than a personal plantation. The family did little to end Haiti's status as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere while pocketing aid money and any income from the exports of sugar and other raw materials. "Baby Doc," at the tender age of 19, succeeded his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

The younger Duvalier spent his exile on the French Riviera.

Suddenly and with little advance warning, he returned to the Caribbean island in 2011 as the country was still reeling from an earthquake a year earlier that killed a quarter-million people and destroyed the few institutions it had. Many in Haiti thought Duvalier was coming home to launch a new political career.

But even then, he was ill; he seemed addled as he sat in a courtroom that attempted to bring numerous human rights charges against him. The trial never progressed, nor did the political comeback.

His return from exile, though, was a circus-like event for a desperate country looking for some kind of leadership, even a dictator. Thousands of Haitians lined the roads and followed every movement of his caravan as it went from his luxury hotel in the verdant hills above the capital to the courthouse. Prosecutors questioned him about killings and other egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by his regime.

"I've come to help," was one of the rare quotes attributed to the former dictator upon his return.

But the many victims of the dual Duvalier regimes quickly came to the front, remembering the torture and extrajudicial executions carried out by government goons known as the Tonton Macoute. History, and ill health, defeated Duvalier's attempt at redemption.