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Former Duvalierist Leader Returns to Haiti

July 8, 1990

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ The former head of a dreaded paramilitary force under the deposed Duvalier regime returned to the country from voluntary exile Saturday, a radio report said.

The announcement heightened the fears of some presidential candidates that the ex-minister of defense and the interior, Roger Lafontant, intends to disrupt upcoming elections.

Lafontant arrived on a regularly scheduled flight from the Dominican Republic, according to Radio Haiti-Inter. He had been living in exile there since 1986.

Government prosecutor Bayard Vincent said in an interview with the independent radio station that police were ordered to arrest Lafontant.

But airport authorities countermanded the order, said Defense and Interior Minister Joseph Maxi. He said it was unconstitutional to deport a Haitian citizen.

″Lafontant’s return is part of a concerted Duvalierist offensive to spoil the electoral process and seize the reins of power,″ said presidential candidate Sylvio Claude, leader of the Haitian Christian Democrat Party.

In a telephone interview with independent Radio-Antilles, Lafontant said his re-entry was legal and denied he had returned to interfere with the electoral process. ″There is no place like home,″ he said.

Elections are tentatively set for Nov. 4. There has been an upsurge in political violence in this Caribbean country since the Independent Electoral Council was established May 2 to prepare for free elections.

The last elections, held on Nov. 29, 1987, failed when army-supported squads shot and hacked to death at least 34 voters. If successful, the new elections would be the first free balloting since Haiti won independence from France in 1804.

Lafontant led a dreaded paramilitary group called the Tonton Macoutes. He was considered the power behind ruler Jean-Claude ″Baby Doc″ Duvalier before the dictator’s ouster in February 1986.

On Friday, the Independent Electoral Council denounced the re-emergence in public the day before of ex-Brig. Gen. Williams Regala, who allegedly masterminded the 1987 voter massacre when he was defense and interior minister.

The Electoral Council called Regala’s return a grave danger to the electoral process. Human-rights groups, popular organizations, labor unions and political parties also expressed worry.

Regala was seen on television Friday at the funeral of former Lt. Col. Paul Rosny Casimir, who was shot to death by unknown assailants June 28.

Regala was retired from the army in 1988 and had lived in Haiti and the United States since then.

Haiti is ruled by a caretaker government led by former judge Ertha Pascal- Trouillot, who shares power with the 19-member Council of State. She took over in March after a popular uprising toppled Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril.

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