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January 18, 2015
Remembering My Interview With Jean-Claude Duvalier: On The Occasion Of His Demise
Until the final minute I did not imagine it might happen. As we wound our manner up the darkish, mountain street into the hills outside of Port-au-Prince, I did not know what to anticipate. I had learn that Baby Doc lived on Montagne Noir, but we weren’t headed in that course.
Wondering if we could be searched once we arrived at Duvalier’s house, my buddy Kate, who had agreed to accompany me to satisfy Baby Doc, eliminated a pocket knife from her purse and left it with our Haitian driver, just in case.
I, alternatively, was extra apprehensive extra about what I was sporting than the pending interview. It was simpler that way. I had ironed two outfits, but ended up sporting a knee-length plum skirt and sleeveless blouse only a shade lighter. I hung a striped silk scarf from India around my neck and carried a purple pouch purse from Bangkok over my shoulder–something small, but something to carry what I assumed could be the necessities–a notebook, pen, and digicam, one that refused to work correctly once i tried to document the occasion.
Perhaps this couture consciousness was a good distraction from the seriousness to come, but my consideration returned to the drive–our countless, winding experience–as our Toyota SUV rendezvoused with our buddy Richard and his buddy Fito in a white pick-up truck. This would be the ultimate leg of the journey.
We handed the home of Rene Preval, then the president of Haiti, and stopped just earlier than Duvalier’s road, so Fito could call forward to announce that we have been virtually there.
Passing a quite grand-trying, nicely-lit house on the left, we continued down the road a bit, before turning around and circling again to that same stone home, now on our right. This was it, we assumed, but there have been a lot of automobiles out front. Was there a get together in progress
We have been met on the gate and ushered in along the driveway, where two automobiles had been parked, one an SUV, the other, a Haitian State Police pick-up truck, but no officer in sight. As we approached the front door, we passed flooring-to-ceiling windows that regarded into the living room, the place a number of individuals had been gathered on two off-white couches that confronted one another. Duvalier’s Italian wife, Veronique Roy, cigarette in hand, answered the door once we knocked, welcomed us in, and escorted us onto a lined patio to the left, where she provided us one thing to drink, and after we declined, promptly left.
We were seated at an octagonal, picket desk with white wrought iron chairs, when Child Doc himself stepped out onto the patio, carrying a charcoal, double-breasted blazer over a cable knit, gray sweater that zipped on the neck. He seemed smaller, thinner, and more stiff-necked than I might anticipated.
Once introductions were made and we have been re-seated across the table, Richard did many of the speaking and functioned as translator, explaining to Duvalier that I used to be intrigued by the former president and had hoped to satisfy him before leaving Port-au-Prince and moving back to the U.S. the next Monday.
Child Doc, who spoke to us only in French, said he did not wish to speak about the current political scenario in Haiti. Instead he explained how blissful he was to be back in Haiti, how saddened he was by the deplorable circumstances his folks were living in, and the way shocked he was by the warm welcome he’d obtained, particularly from young individuals who hadn’t even been alive when he was president.
I requested the previous dictator how he thought the current Haitian suffering could possibly be alleviated.
Duvalier explained that there was no single or easy reply, but that “unity” was essential, unity between the rich and poor, between these who have a lot and people who have so little, that the federal government of Haiti wanted to offer the individuals “what they want,” and largely that involved not allowing them to stay in such inhumane situations.
Clearly, his was an easy reply–a rhetoric few might disagree with–but I didn’t press the difficulty additional. I knew my query was overly broad and understood why he’d answered in equally sweeping phrases.
But I might feel myself being pulled in. Baby Doc was feeding me what he knew I needed to listen to. He and i each knew it, however I could not help responding to what seemed like real care and concern–his whispered tone, his furrowed brow, his leaning nearer as he talked to me. I could virtually watch myself falling for this rhetoric, and I used to be reeling because of it.
Still dizzied, I asked the previous president what he thought made him unique, “Apart from your father having been stone island logo font president before you, when did you understand that you simply have been distinctive in and of your self, that you simply had one thing invaluable to offer the country “
Duvalier’s reply right here shocked me, as he insisted that he was not “distinctive,” that he had come to the palace at age 6, that he’d had an amazing schooling, that when his father told him at 18 he would ultimately be president, he had said, “No thanks!” He did not need to be president. He didn’t need that job.
So Kate requested what he thought his greatest accomplishment was as president. However Baby Doc said that when you are president, all accomplishments are equally vital, as a result of “every little thing you do is your job, your duty.” He went on to clarify that he had left the nation in 1986 and gone into exile willingly, to avoid bloodshed, that as he was leaving, he was more involved about his individuals than he was about himself.
At this point, Richard turned to me and requested, “Don’t you’ve got one other query, you came here hoping to ask “
“Yes,” I said looking intently at Duvalier across the desk. “A number of people have told me things had been more stable in Haiti, whenever you had been president, and things are decidedly unstable now. I read within the media, that you’ve returned to Haiti not eager to be president once more, but if issues were indeed extra stable underneath your administration, why would you not want to be president once more Do not you assume you would have something useful to offer your people “
To this Duvalier stated merely and matter-of-factly, “We’ll have to see what the people need.”
My conversation with Duvalier ended soon after that, however what the Haitian folks wanted at that time was far from clear. It was an unsettled time for Haiti. Things weren’t even close to calm, as later that same week the head of 1 Haitian political occasion was assassinated in his residence, former president Aristide, like Duvalier, returned to Haiti from exile in South Africa, and a remaining round of presidential elections were held.
But once i returned to the U.S. the week following my interview with Duvalier, when I discovered myself attempting to settle once more in middle America after a year in Port-au-Prince and a 12 months before that in Vietnam, I discovered myself still reeling from having met Baby Doc. The encounter whirl-winded and exhausted me. I felt depleted and confused by having preferred the version of Duvalier I met that night.
I didn’t like the truth that Baby Doc, the man, had intrigued me, that the small print round him had seemed so bizarre. The truth that his house, although perhaps the grandest on his street, was not as spectacular as I had suspected it can be. The couches in the living room appeared old and stone island logo font worn. There were no fancy fixtures. The wrought iron chairs on the patio needed paint.
But then again, that is what we all quantity to in the long run–the peeling paint, the nicks, the scars. The couches need recovering.
The story of Haiti is largely one in every of exile and variations on that theme–coerced comings and goings, arriving unwillingly on a tiny island, you then don’t desire to depart.
So it was for Jean-Claude Duvalier, made president for all times at age 19 when his father died, a job he didn’t need, a task he did not need to play. He ruled for 15 years, was exiled for 25, got here residence to Haiti again, and now, 3 years later, has died of a coronary heart assault at his dwelling in Port-au-Prince.
Though my associate Sara and that i went willingly to Haiti and now live in Ecuador, we weren’t at all ready to leave, and having left felt like a loss, an amputation. Haiti is the phantom limb, the one I dream about, the one which calls to me at night.
Eventually, we all get kicked off one island or another. A tribal council is convened. The votes are solid.
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