By EVENS SANON and TRENTON DANIEL, AP
Duvalier died Saturday from a heart attack at the home of a friend in Port-au-Prince where he had been staying, said his lawyer, Reynold Georges, and several officials in the impoverished nation.
The former leader, known as “Baby Doc,” made a surprise return to Haiti in 2011, allowing victims of his regime to pursue legal claims against him in Haitian courts and prompting some old allies to rally around him. Neither side gained much traction, however, and a frail Duvalier spent his final years quietly in the leafy hills above the Haitian capital.
Haitian President Michel Martelly expressed his condolences to the former dictator’s family, making no mention of the widespread human rights abuses that occurred under Duvalier and his more notorious predecessor and father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier.
“On behalf of the entire government and people of Haiti, I take this sad occasion to extend my sincere sympathies to his family, his relatives and his supporters across the country,” Martelly said.
The elder Duvalier was a medical doctor-turned-dictator who promoted “Noirisme,” a movement that sought to highlight Haiti’s African roots over its European ones while uniting the black majority against the mulatto elite in a country divided by class and color.
“Papa Doc” tortured and killed political opponents, relying on a dreaded civilian militia known as the Tonton Macoutes.
In 1971, Francois Duvalier suddenly died of an illness after naming his son to succeed him. At 19, Jean-Claude Duvalier became the world’s youngest president.
Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled for 15 years, retaining the Tonton Macoutes and the brutality of his father’s regime, though to a lesser extent. The son’s administration was seen as less violent and repressive than that of the father, though it perhaps was more corrupt.
Wisps of press freedom and personal criticism, something never tolerated under the elder Duvalier, emerged sporadically during the reign of “Baby Doc” because of international pressure. Still, human rights groups documented abuses and political persecution. A trio of prisons known as the “Triangle of Death,” which included the much-feared Fort Dimanche for long-term inmates, symbolized the brutality of his regime.