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Ex-Dictator 'Baby Doc' Back in Haiti for First Time in 25 Years


A man holds a poster of former Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier during a demonstration in Port-au-Prince in 2010. Ousted strongman "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti on Sunday after some 25 years in exile as the country wrestled with a post-election crisis. (AFP/File/Thony Belizaire)

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Ex-dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti Sunday for the first time since 1986, raising speculation about his motives at a time of great political uncertainty.

Duvalier arrived in Port-au-Prince on an Air France flight into the political vacuum left by the wake of disputed presidential elections that are threatening further instability in the earthquake-ravaged country.

An AFP journalist saw the former dictator enter the passport control at Port-au-Prince airport wearing a blue suit and accompanied by his wife Veronique Roy shortly after their flight landed.

A delegation of former officials who had served as cabinet ministers under Duvalier awaited his arrival at the airport and a few dozen supporters were gathered outside the complex, the AFP reporter said.

The 59-year-old Duvalier was ousted by a popular revolt in the 1986 after his family and supporters were accused of plundering tens of millions of dollars of state funds during his 15-year reign.

He arrives just one year after a catastrophic earthquake flattened the western hemisphere's poorest country, killing nearly a quarter of a million people and leaving much of the capital Port-au-Prince in ruins.

Duvalier's unexpected return also came as the country wrestled with the results of a November 28 election that sparked deadly riots over allegations of vote-rigging by the current ruling party.

The head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, was to arrive in Haiti Monday to discuss his regional group's report that evaluated the election results, his office said.

A draft of the report leaked last week said the international monitors would suggest that Jude Celestin, the hand-picked candidate of President Rene Preval, should step aside ahead of a second round run-off.

Violent protests flared in the Caribbean nation when December's first round results revealed popular singer Michel Martelly had failed to win a place in the run-off, falling slightly behind Celestin.

According to the contested first round results, former first lady Mirlande Manigat took first place with 31 percent, with Celestin winning 22 percent and Martelly winning 21 percent of the votes.

Duvalier, who has been living in exile in France for most of the last 25 years, had earlier told a Florida radio station he was not returning as a presidential candidate, saying: "This is not the order of the day."

In 2007, Duvalier called on Haitians to forgive him for the "mistakes" committed during his reign, but Preval dismissed his remarks at the time.

Haitian authorities have accused Duvalier of diverting more than 100 million dollars out of the desperately poor country under the guise of social work during his reign, which began after he succeeded his father Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier in 1971. The older Duvalier had ruled since 1957.

France accepted Duvalier after he was ousted by massive anti-government demonstrations in which dozens of Haitians were killed.

Like Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was driven from power in 2004, Duvalier was urged to step down by the United States and left the country on a US Air Force plane.

Since then he has been involved in a long legal battle to keep millions of dollars held in Swiss bank accounts, as Haiti has sought to repatriate the funds with help from Swiss authorities.

In February the Swiss government said it would keep Duvalier's assets frozen after its bid to return some 4.6 million dollars of allegedly embezzled funds to Haiti was blocked by the Supreme Court.

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