Billboard in the suburb of Carrefour, 1985
Photo © Jean-Pierre Cloutier



Jean-Pierre Cloutier

Note : Published in Haiti Times, February 20, 1986.

Although it has been denied by United States officials, both in Port-au-Prince and in Washington, it is clear that the U.S. government had a lot to say in former President Jean-Claude Duvalier's departure. Jamaica and France both had supporting roles in the sequence of events, but the United States was the main actor.

The curtain opened on January 30 with the false report that Jean- Claude Duvalier had left the country. The official version on the blunder accounts rumours being transmitted by U.S. Ambassador in Port-au-Prince, Clayton McManaway, to the State Department as being just that: Rumours. But in the chain of transmission of information leading to President Reagan's staff, mention of "rumours" seems to have dropped, according to the official version. This led White House spokesman Larry Speakes to announce the departure of Duvalier while on Air Force One, the presidential plane, carrying Reagan to Houston for a ceremony commemorating the death of seven astronauts.

But sources wishing to remain anonymous confirmed that there actually was a plane that landed during the night of January 30 to 31, and that Duvalier went to the airport in the middle of the night. He would even have boarded the long-courier jet for a few minutes. From this point on, our sources diverge on the interpretation of what actually happened.

The first scenario presented to us indicates the Chiefs of Staff of the Volontaires pour la Sécurité Nationale, Duvalier's private militia, asked the former President to stay on. This is more than plausible in view of the events that followed the actual departure of Duvalier on February 7, where numerous "macoutes" were attacked, some killed, by the population in thirst of vengeance.

The second scenario shows a slightly more machiavelic Duvalier. He could have orchestrated the whole thing as a trap for anyone close to him who, upon the certainty of his leaving, could have stepped forward as the new leader, whereupon the ambitious one would be eliminated on the spot. We can confirm that a junta had already been formed, as several independent sources kept confirming the same six names. However, this first junta does not exactly match the one now in charge. It is our opinion that American authorities, who took part in arranging transportation facilities, went a bit fast in confirming news of the departure in this instance.

In any case, Duvalier did not leave until February 7. But it is undeniable that American diplomatic intervention was used, that strong persuasion was employed, along with (once more) transportation facilities. This has been denied by American officials in Haiti and stateside. Official comments state that the United States only supplied a plane for Duvalier to leave. The White House said it was happy about the Conseil National de Gouvernement's decision to proceed with holding elections as soon as feasible, and on the disbanding of the militia. Bernard Kalb, State Department spokesperson, said in an official statement : "We welcome the new Haitian government's abolition of the VSN, the suspension of the Duvalierist Constitution and Assembly. We applaud the statement of the new President clearly designating his government was an interim regime eager to hand over power to a democratically elected government".

We might remind the State Department that Lt. Gen. Henry Namphy is not the "new president" but presides over the Conseil National de Gouvernement, which is quite something else.


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