Remembering My Interview With Jean-Claude Duvalier: On The Occasion Of His Loss of life
Until the last minute I didn’t imagine it might occur. As we wound our way up the dark, mountain highway into the hills exterior of Port-au-Prince, I did not know what to expect. I had learn that Child Doc lived on Montagne Noir, however we weren’t headed in that path.
Questioning if we could be searched after we arrived at Duvalier’s home, my friend 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, however, was more anxious extra about what I used to be sporting than the pending interview. It was simpler that means. I had ironed two outfits, but ended up carrying a knee-size plum skirt and sleeveless blouse only a shade lighter. I hung a striped silk scarf from India round my neck and carried a purple pouch purse from Bangkok over my shoulder–something small, but one thing to carry what I assumed can be the essentials–a notebook, pen, and digicam, one that refused to work properly after i tried to doc the occasion.
Maybe this couture consciousness was a decent distraction from the seriousness to return, however my attention returned to the drive–our infinite, winding journey–as our Toyota SUV rendezvoused with our buddy Richard and his friend 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 name forward to announce that we had been almost there.
Passing a relatively grand-looking, nicely-lit home on the left, we continued down the road a bit, before turning around and circling again to that same stone house, now on our right. This was it, we assumed, however there have been plenty of automobiles out front. Was there a party in progress
We had been met on the gate and ushered in along the driveway, where two autos were parked, one an SUV, the other, a Haitian State Police choose-up truck, however no officer in sight. As we approached the entrance door, we passed flooring-to-ceiling home windows that looked into the living room, the place a quantity of individuals were gathered on two off-white couches that confronted 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 offered us something to drink, and after we declined, promptly left.
We have been seated at an octagonal, wooden desk with white wrought iron chairs, when Child Doc himself stepped out onto the patio, wearing a charcoal, double-breasted blazer over a cable knit, grey sweater that zipped on the neck. He seemed smaller, thinner, and extra stiff-necked than I’d anticipated.
Once introductions were made and we had been re-seated across the table, Richard did most of the speaking and functioned as translator, explaining to Duvalier that I used to be intrigued by the previous president and had hoped to fulfill him before leaving Port-au-Prince and shifting back to the U.S. the following Monday.
Child Doc, who spoke to us solely in French, stated he did not want to discuss the present political state of affairs in Haiti. As a substitute he defined how pleased he was to be again in Haiti, how saddened he was by the deplorable conditions his people had been residing in, and the way surprised he was by the heat welcome he’d received, particularly from young individuals who hadn’t even been alive when he was president.
I requested the former dictator how he thought the present Haitian suffering may very well be alleviated.
Duvalier defined that there was no single or simple answer, however that “unity” was important, unity between the rich and poor, between those who have a lot and those who’ve so little, that the federal government of Haiti wanted to offer the individuals “what they need,” and largely that concerned not permitting them to reside in such inhumane situations.
Clearly, his was a simple answer–a rhetoric few could disagree with–however I didn’t press the difficulty additional. I knew my question was overly broad and understood why he’d answered in equally sweeping terms.
But I could really feel myself being pulled in. Child Doc was feeding me what he knew I needed to hear. He and i each knew it, however I couldn’t assist responding to what appeared like genuine care and concern–his whispered tone, his furrowed brow, his leaning nearer as he talked to me. I could nearly watch myself falling for this rhetoric, and I was reeling due to it.
Nonetheless dizzied, I requested the previous president what he thought made him distinctive, “Apart out of your father having been president before you, when did you perceive that you have been distinctive in and of yourself, that you had one thing invaluable to offer the nation “
Duvalier’s reply 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 important education, that when his father advised him at 18 he would ultimately be president, he had stated, “No thank you!” He did not want to be president. He didn’t want that job.
So Kate asked what he thought his largest accomplishment was as president. However Baby Doc said that when you’re president, all accomplishments are equally significant, because “every little thing you do is your job, your responsibility.” He went on to clarify that he had left the country in 1986 and gone into exile willingly, to keep away from 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, “Do not you’ve got one other question, you came here hoping to ask “
“Sure,” I mentioned wanting intently at Duvalier throughout the table. “A number of people have told me things had been extra stable in Haiti, once you have been president, and things are decidedly unstable now. I learn in the media, that you have returned to Haiti not desirous to be president again, but when things were indeed extra stable under your administration, why would you not need to be president once more Do not you think you would have one thing helpful to offer your folks “
To this Duvalier stated simply and matter-of-factly, “We’ll must see what the individuals want.”
My conversation with Duvalier ended quickly after that, but what the Haitian individuals wished at that point was removed from clear. It was an unsettled time for Haiti. Things weren’t even close to calm, as later that very same week the top of stone island down jacket red one Haitian political celebration was assassinated in his home, former president Aristide, like Duvalier, returned to Haiti from exile in South Africa, and a ultimate round of presidential elections have been held.
But after i returned to the U.S. the week following my interview with Duvalier, when I discovered myself making an attempt to settle again in center America after a yr in Port-au-Prince and a year before that in Vietnam, I discovered myself nonetheless reeling from having met Child Doc. The encounter whirl-winded and exhausted me. I felt depleted and confused by having liked the version of Duvalier I met that night time.
I did not like the fact that Baby Doc, the man, had intrigued me, that the details around him had seemed so bizarre. The truth that his house, though maybe the grandest on his road, was not as spectacular as I had suspected it can be. The couches in the residing room seemed previous and worn. There were no fancy fixtures. The wrought iron chairs on the patio needed paint.
But then again, that is what all of us quantity to ultimately–the peeling paint, the nicks, the scars. The couches want recovering.
The story of Haiti is largely one in all 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 life at age 19 when his father died, a job he did not want, a task he didn’t need to play. He ruled for 15 years, was exiled for 25, got here residence to Haiti once more, and now, 3 years later, has died of a heart attack at his dwelling in Port-au-Prince.
Although my accomplice Sara and i went willingly to Haiti and now dwell 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 that calls to me at night time.
Ultimately, we all get kicked off one island or another. A tribal council is convened. The votes are solid.
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