From Stalin in Russia to Pinochet in Chile, there’s at least one thing we’ve learned about dictators: Despite the terrible things they often do, people’s memories of them can be fond as well as frightening.
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier – who ruled from 1971 to 1986 and died on Saturday in Portu-au-Prince at age 63 from a heart attack brought on in part by a tarantula bite – was no exception.
WLRN spent the weekend listening to the divided opinion on Baby Doc in Miami’s Haitian community.
The prison breakout in Haiti last weekend was one of the impoverished country’s worst. More than 300 inmates escaped – and many are alleged violent offenders. But the getaway highlights larger problems.
The recently built penitentiary in Croix-des-Bouquets, outside Port-au-Prince, was funded by Canada and was hailed as a modern facility. But the breakout may well have had more to do with Haiti’s justice culture than with its jail security.
Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492 on a ship called the Santa Maria. The vessel ran aground that Christmas Eve, off Haiti’s north shore near what is now Cap Haitien. Using historical records, underwater archeologist Barry Clifford says he recently located remnants of the ship.
The job of confirming the blockbuster find falls to Charles Beeker, the director of Indiana University’s underwater science program. Beeker says the evidence he’s seen so far, including wrought iron guns, is strong.
The Haitian Revolution in 1791 was the first (and only) successful slave rebellion against a crushing colonist regime. And the revolt didn’t only result in a new state, it was also achieved with the edge of a machete.
The short film “Papa Machete” opens somberly, telling how Haitians developed a martial art called Tire Machèt during that bloody, turbulent period. A versatile agricultural tool in dense tropical climates, the machete makes a valuable weapon.
When Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, a local writer who developed “Papa Machete,” first read about it, he was floored.
Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), also known as the Haitian Women of Miami, will celebrate its 21st anniversary on Saturday. The organization, founded by Marleine Bastien, continues to be an influential organization within the Haitian community in Miami. Its work, though, includes advocacy efforts on behalf of Haitians far beyond Miami.
After last Thursday's new court decision against him – a ruling that he can be tried for crimes against humanity – is Baby Doc discovering that you can’t go home again?
When Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier made his stunning return to Haiti in 2011 after 25 years in exile, he probably figured the country was in such a shambles that it wouldn’t have the time, energy or resources to bother with him.