Remembering My Interview With Jean-Claude Duvalier: On The Occasion Of His Dying
Until the final minute I didn’t consider it could occur. As we wound our method up the darkish, mountain highway into the hills outside of Port-au-Prince, I didn’t know what to anticipate. I had learn that Baby Doc lived on Montagne Noir, but we weren’t headed in that course.
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, simply in case.
I, then again, was more anxious extra about what I was sporting than the pending interview. It was easier 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 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 essentials–a notebook, pen, and digital camera, one that refused to work properly when i tried to doc the occasion.
Perhaps this couture consciousness was a good distraction from the seriousness to return, however my attention returned to the drive–our countless, winding experience–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 passed 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 have been almost there.
Passing a quite grand-looking, nicely-lit home on the left, we continued down the road a bit, before turning around and circling again to that very same stone home, now on our right. This was it, we assumed, however there have been a variety of vehicles out front. Was there a party in progress
We have been met at 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, but no officer in sight. As we approached the front door, we passed ground-to-ceiling windows that looked 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, the place she offered us something to drink, and after we declined, promptly left.
We have been seated at an octagonal, picket 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 more stiff-necked than I would anticipated.
Once introductions had been 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 was intrigued by the previous president and had hoped to satisfy him before leaving Port-au-Prince and transferring back to the U.S. the following Monday.
Child Doc, who spoke to us solely in French, stated he did not want to speak about the present political stone island jeans china situation in Haiti. Instead he defined how comfortable he was to be again in Haiti, how saddened he was by the deplorable conditions his folks had been living in, and how shocked he was by the heat welcome he’d obtained, particularly from young individuals who hadn’t even been alive when he was president.
I requested the former dictator how he thought the current Haitian suffering could be alleviated.
Duvalier explained that there was no single or easy answer, but that “unity” was essential, unity between the rich and poor, between those who have a lot and those who’ve so little, that the government of Haiti needed to offer the folks “what they need,” and largely that involved not permitting them to reside in such inhumane conditions.
Clearly, his was an easy reply–a rhetoric few might disagree with–but I did not press the difficulty additional. I knew my question was overly broad and understood why he’d answered in equally sweeping phrases.
However I might really feel myself being pulled in. Baby Doc was feeding me what he knew I wished to hear. He and i both knew it, however I could not assist responding to what appeared like real care and concern–his whispered tone, his furrowed brow, his leaning closer as he talked to me. I may almost watch myself falling for this rhetoric, and I used to be reeling due to it.
Nonetheless dizzied, I requested the former president what he thought made him unique, “Apart from your father having been president earlier than you, when did you understand that you simply were distinctive in and of yourself, that you had one thing precious to offer the nation “
Duvalier’s reply here surprised 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 education, that when his father advised him at 18 he would finally be president, he had stated, “No thank you!” He didn’t wish to be president. He didn’t want that job.
So Kate requested what he thought his greatest accomplishment was as president. However Baby Doc stated that when you are president, all accomplishments are equally significant, as a result of “the whole lot you do is your job, your responsibility.” He went on to explain that he had left the nation in 1986 and gone into exile willingly, to keep away from bloodshed, that as he was leaving, he was extra involved about his individuals than he was about himself.
At this point, Richard turned to me and requested, “Do not you’ve gotten one other question, you came here hoping to ask “
“Sure,” I stated wanting intently at Duvalier across the table. “A quantity of people have told me things had been extra stable in Haiti, once you had been president, and issues are decidedly unstable now. I read in the media, that you’ve returned to Haiti not eager to be president once more, but if issues had been indeed extra stable under your administration, why would you not need to be president once more Do not you assume you’ll have something helpful to supply your people “
To this Duvalier said simply and matter-of-factly, “We’ll must see what the people need.”
My dialog with Duvalier ended soon after that, but what the Haitian folks wanted at that time was removed from clear. It was an unsettled time for Haiti. Things weren’t even near calm, as later that very same week the head of one Haitian political social gathering was assassinated in his residence, former president Aristide, like Duvalier, returned to Haiti from exile in South Africa, and a remaining spherical of presidential elections have been held.
But once i returned to the U.S. the week following my interview with Duvalier, when I found myself attempting to settle once more in middle America after a year in Port-au-Prince and a 12 months earlier than 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 model of Duvalier I met that night time.
I didn’t like the truth that Child Doc, the man, had intrigued me, that the small print round him had appeared so strange. The truth that his home, although perhaps the grandest on his street, was not as spectacular as I had suspected it can be. The couches within the residing room seemed outdated and worn. There were no fancy fixtures. The wrought iron chairs on the patio needed paint.
However then once more, that is what all of us amount to ultimately–the peeling paint, the nicks, the scars. The couches need recovering.
The story of Haiti is basically one among 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 role he didn’t want to play. He dominated for 15 years, was exiled for 25, got here residence to Haiti again, and now, 3 years later, has died of a heart attack at his home in Port-au-Prince.
Although my companion Sara and i went willingly to Haiti and now live in Ecuador, we were not at all 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 night time.
Eventually, we all get kicked off one island or one other. A tribal council is convened. The votes are forged.
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