Ex-dictator "Baby Doc" makes surprise return to Haiti

Exiled former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier returned unexpectedly to his Caribbean homeland on Sunday for the first time since he was driven from power by a popular uprising in 1986.

It was not immediately clear why he returned. But Duvalier is back in Haiti as the impoverished country grapples with a disputed presidential election and a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,750 people.

Here are some facts about Duvalier:

* Duvalier, 59, is popularly known as "Baby Doc" and is the son of Haiti's former authoritarian leader Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. He took power after his father's death in 1971, becoming one of the world's youngest heads-of-state at age 19.

* "Baby Doc" Duvalier ruled Haiti with an iron fist for 15 years, calling himself "president-for-life" before fleeing the country after an outbreak of popular protests. He lived in exile in France before his surprise return to Haiti.

* Together, the Duvaliers ruled Haiti for 28 years, using a sinister secret police force known as the Tonton Macoutes whose members wore dark sunglasses and carried pistols to suppress opposition. Critics accused the Duvaliers of living lavishly and doing little to alleviate poverty in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

* More than 100,000 Haitians fled the country under the younger Duvalier, many of them escaping on barely seaworthy rafts to seek asylum in the United States.

* Facing demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands of Haitians take to the streets, Duvalier abandoned the presidency under pressure from the United States, handing over power to a six-man military and civilian commission in Haiti.

[Source: Reuters, London, 16Jan11]

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