Former Strongmen of Impoverished Haiti Live Well With AM-Haiti, Bjt
Undated (AP) _ Take the money and run. For Haiti’s former dictators, that was the easy part. Making it last was another story.
Since 1986, three ex-strongmen have left the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country for lives of luxury abroad - at least for a while.
With a U.S. invasion of Haiti looming, there is speculation about where Haiti’s current military leader, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, will end up if he chooses to leave rather than resist.
In Washington, the State Department indicated Friday that efforts were made to find a country for Cedras and his friends where they need not fear extradition back to Haiti.
Panama said it would grant political asylum to Cedras if that would prevent an invasion. President Ernesto Perez Balladares said he had not discussed his offer with Cedras.
Cedras wouldn’t be the first Haitian dictator to wind up living the good life in comfortable exile. The best known is Jean-Claude ″Baby Doc″ Duvalier, who ruled Haiti for 15 years.
Duvalier fled to France in 1986 after he was ousted by a popular uprising tolerated by the military. He had taken over as president-for-life after the 1971 death of his father, Francois ″Papa Doc″ Duvalier, whose notorious rule began in 1957.
Many Haitians suspect their former leaders amassed their fortunes robbing the public till, though none ever was convicted of embezzlement. ″Baby Doc″ was accused of stealing $120 million.
Yet Duvalier, 43, moved out of a villa on the French Riviera in February, apparently because he could no longer afford the rent, reportedly $140,000 a year. He also left behind some unpaid bills in local shops.
Duvalier’s love life suffered along with his pocketbook. He and his wife Michele were divorced in spring 1993, and she gained custody of their two children. News reports at the time alluded to child support payments that further pinched his budget.
His whereabouts lately haven’t been made public.
Sources say he was enlisted as an intermediary by Haiti’s current military junta to try to negotiate a compromise that would stave off a U.S. invasion.
His last public statement was on Feb. 6, 1992, the sixth year of his exile and less than five months after Haiti’s first elected president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted in a military coup.
Duvalier called then on the Haitian people for ″reconciliation and unity,″ adding that the nation’s survival was at stake. He also said that his ″heart remained in (his) country.″
Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy seized power in 1988 and governed for a few months. Under his brief rule, army-encouraged goons massacred worshipers and burned down Aristide’s church because of his popularity with the urban poor.
Namphy now lives in a costly villa in the seaside resort town of La Romana in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has vacationed in the area, and Michael Jackson stayed there when he wed Lisa Marie Presley earlier this year.
Namphy, 62, who lives with his wife and two children, has declined to give interviews, claiming Haitian politics no longer interest him.
Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril, who seized power from Namphy in 1988, was himself removed from power by yet another uprising 20 months later. He fled to a mansion in Boca Raton, Fla.
However, a group of Haitians sued him in federal court in Miami over his regime’s human rights violations. Avril was convicted this year and fined $20 million.
The former strongman wasn’t around for the verdict. He returned to Haiti last year, and no attempt has been made to extradite him.
Avril, 53, now lives in a walled home among other modern mansions in the exclusive Juvenal neighborhood of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and occasionally is spotted driving around town.
He recently became a Seventh-day Adventist, a denomination that believes the second coming of Christ and the end of the world are near. He published a two-volume work, ″Truth and Revelation,″ defending himself against his critics.