Remembering My Interview With Jean-Claude Duvalier: On The Occasion Of His Dying
Till the final minute I did not imagine it could happen. As we wound our manner up the dark, mountain highway into the hills outside of Port-au-Prince, I didn’t know what to anticipate. I had learn that Child Doc lived on Montagne Noir, however we weren’t headed in that path.
Wondering if we would be searched after we arrived at Duvalier’s house, my buddy Kate, who had agreed to accompany me to fulfill Child Doc, eliminated a pocket knife from her purse and left it with our Haitian driver, just in case.
I, alternatively, was more worried more about what I was wearing than the pending interview. It was simpler that approach. I had ironed two outfits, however ended up carrying a knee-size 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 hold what I assumed would be the essentials–a notebook, pen, and camera, one that refused to work correctly when i tried to document the event.
Maybe this couture consciousness was a decent distraction from the seriousness to come, but my attention returned to the drive–our endless, winding ride–as our Toyota SUV rendezvoused with our buddy Richard and his buddy Fito in a white pick-up truck. This can be the final leg of the journey.
We passed the home of Rene Preval, then the president of Haiti, and stopped just before Duvalier’s road, so Fito could call ahead to announce that we were nearly there.
Passing a reasonably grand-trying, effectively-lit home on the left, we continued down the road a bit, before turning around and circling back to that same stone house, now on our right. This was it, we assumed, but there were a lot of cars out front. Was there a celebration in progress
We were met at the gate and ushered in along the driveway, where two vehicles were parked, one an SUV, the other, a Haitian State Police pick-up truck, but no officer in sight. As we approached the entrance door, we handed ground-to-ceiling home windows that regarded into the dwelling room, the place a quantity of individuals were gathered on two off-white couches that faced one another. Duvalier’s Italian wife, Veronique Roy, cigarette in hand, answered the door after we knocked, welcomed us in, and escorted us onto a coated patio to the left, the place she provided us one thing to drink, and when 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 at the neck. He seemed smaller, thinner, and more stiff-necked than I’d expected.
Once introductions were made and we had been re-seated across the table, Richard did a lot of the talking and functioned as translator, explaining to Duvalier that I was intrigued by the former president and had hoped to meet him before leaving Port-au-Prince and shifting back to the U.S. the following Monday.
Baby Doc, who spoke to us only in French, said he did not need to discuss the present political scenario in Haiti. As a substitute he defined how completely happy he was to be back in Haiti, how saddened he was by the deplorable conditions his folks had been living in, and how shocked he was by the warm welcome he’d acquired, particularly from younger individuals who hadn’t even been alive when he was president.
I asked the former dictator how he thought the current Haitian suffering could possibly be alleviated.
Duvalier explained that there was no single or easy reply, however that “unity” was important, unity between the rich and poor, between those who have much and those who’ve so little, that the federal government of Haiti needed to offer the people “what they want,” and largely that involved not allowing them to dwell in such inhumane circumstances.
Clearly, his was a simple answer–a rhetoric few may disagree with–but I didn’t press the difficulty further. I knew my question was overly broad and understood why he’d answered in equally sweeping terms.
But I could feel myself being pulled in. Baby Doc was feeding me what he knew I needed to hear. He and that i each knew it, but I couldn’t assist responding to what appeared like genuine care and concern–his whispered tone, his furrowed brow, his leaning closer as he talked to me. I could stone island cargo pants almost watch myself falling for this rhetoric, and I was reeling because of it.
Still dizzied, I asked the former president what he thought made him distinctive, “Apart out of your father having been president earlier than you, when did you understand that you just were unique in and of yourself, that you had something valuable 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 awesome education, that when his father told him at 18 he would eventually be president, he had said, “No thank you!” He didn’t need to be president. He didn’t want that job.
So Kate requested what he thought his greatest accomplishment was as president. However Child Doc mentioned that when you’re president, all accomplishments are equally significant, because “everything you do is your job, your responsibility.” 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 concerned about his people than he was about himself.
At this point, Richard turned to me and asked, “Don’t you have got one other query, you got here right here hoping to ask “
“Sure,” I stated trying intently at Duvalier throughout the desk. “A quantity of individuals have advised me things were more stable in Haiti, once you had been president, and things are decidedly unstable now. I learn within the media, that you’ve got returned to Haiti not eager to be president once more, but when issues had been certainly more stable below your administration, why would you not need to be president again Don’t you assume you’d have something precious to supply your individuals “
To this Duvalier mentioned merely and matter-of-factly, “We’ll need to see what the people want.”
My conversation with Duvalier ended soon after that, but what the Haitian people wanted at that point was far from clear. It was an unsettled time for Haiti. Issues weren’t even near calm, as later that very same week the pinnacle of 1 Haitian political get together was assassinated in his dwelling, former president Aristide, like Duvalier, returned to Haiti from exile in South Africa, and a closing round of presidential elections had been held.
However after 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 found myself still reeling from having met Baby Doc. The encounter whirl-winded and exhausted me. I felt depleted and confused by having appreciated the version of Duvalier I met that evening.
I did not like the truth that Child Doc, the man, had intrigued me, that the details around him had seemed so bizarre. The fact that his house, though perhaps the grandest on his avenue, was not as spectacular as I had suspected it can be. The couches within the dwelling room seemed outdated and worn. There were no fancy fixtures. The wrought iron chairs on the patio needed paint.
But then again, that’s what we all amount to in the long run–the peeling paint, the nicks, the scars. The couches want recovering.
The story of Haiti is basically considered one of exile and variations on that theme–coerced comings and goings, arriving unwillingly on a tiny island, you then don’t want to depart.
So it was for Jean-Claude Duvalier, made president for life at age 19 when his father died, a job he didn’t want, a job he did not need to play. He dominated for 15 years, was exiled for 25, got here house to Haiti once more, and now, 3 years later, has died of a heart attack at his dwelling in Port-au-Prince.
Though my partner Sara and i went willingly to Haiti and now live in Ecuador, we weren’t in any respect ready to depart, and having left felt like a loss, an amputation. Haiti is the phantom limb, the one I dream about, the one that calls to me at evening.
Eventually, we all get kicked off one island or another. A tribal council is convened. The votes are cast.
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