Former Haitian "president for life" Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") Duvalier (1971-1986) died suddenly of a heart attack the night of Oct. 3 at a friend's home in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Pétionville, according to his lawyer, Reynold Georges. He was 63. Duvalier succeeded his father, François ("Papa Doc") Duvalier, at the age of 19. The older Duvalier had built and maintained a brutal dictatorship from 1957 until his death in 1971. The brutality continued under his son; an estimated 30,000 people were killed during the family's 29 years in power. Massive demonstrations and the withdrawal of US support forced Duvalier to flee to France on Feb. 7, 1986, reportedly carrying off millions of dollars looted from the national treasury. He returned to Haiti on Jan. 16, 2011. Despite facing corruption charges, Duvalier never came to trial; he also never came to trial for human rights abuses committed by his regime, although a court finally ruled on Feb. 20, 2014 that the human rights cases against him could proceed.
On Oct. 1 the National Security Archive, a Washington, DC-based research organization, published declassified US government documents about secret contingency plans that the administration of former US president Gerald Ford (1974-1977) made in 1976 for a possible military attack on Cuba. Then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger called for the plans in response to Cuba's decision in late 1975 to send troops to support the left-leaning government of Angola against rebels funded by South Africa and the US; he was furious that Cuba had defied the US after a round of secret negotiations he had sponsored in 1975 aimed at normalizing relations between the two countries.
Some 30 Haitian women held a protest in front of the Ministry for the Feminine Condition and Women's Rights (MCFDF) in Port-au-Prince on Sept. 26 to demand the decriminalization of abortion. Under Article 262 of Haiti's Criminal Code, in effect since 1835, the sentence for a woman having an abortion and for anyone who helps her is life in prison. The law is apparently never enforced, but because of it all abortions in Haiti are clandestine and unregulated. The country has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the Americas, with 530 deaths for each 100,000 births; 100 of these deaths follow abortions. In a 2012 survey of 352 women who had abortions since 2007, 40% reported having complications. "Criminalization isn't a solution," the protesters, mostly young women, chanted. "We want to be educated sexually to be able to decide." The demonstration was sponsored by a number of women's rights organizations, including the Initiative for an Equitable Development in Haiti (Ideh), Kay Fanm ("Women's House") and Haitian Women's Solidarity (SOFA).
United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon plans to continue the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) one more year but wishes to cut it significantly, according to a report that the military and police mission's current head, the Trinidadian diplomat Sandra Honoré, presented to the UN Security Council on Sept. 11. Secretary General Ban recommended extending MINUSTAH for another year when its mandate ends on Oct. 15. However, the military component would be reduced to 2,370 soldiers by June 2015; currently the mission has 5,021 soldiers and 2,601 police agents, along with nearly 2,000 civilian employees and volunteers. Honoré said the Haitian National Police (PNH), which now has 10,963 agents, would be able to take over many of MINUSTAH's functions. She admitted that "[t[he reinforcement of the national police needs to be accompanied by measures for accelerating the reform of the justice system to support the construction of institutions and to improve local governance." (AlterPresse, Haiti, Sept. 12)
On Aug. 27 Haitian investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire ordered the arrests of four people—two brothers, a well-known lawyer and a police agent—for the Oct. 18, 2010 murder of the student Frantzy Duverseau at his Port-au-Prince home. The judge's action immediately sparked accusations of political interference by the government of Haitian president Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky"). The two brothers charged in the killing, Enold and Josué Florestal, are plaintiffs in a suit accusing Martelly's wife, Sophia Martelly, and his son, Olivier Martelly, of corruption; the Florestal brothers have already been in prison for about a year. Their attorney, André Michel, is also charged in the murder case. Judge Bélizaire—whose other cases include the inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004)—is said to be close to Martelly's government.
Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge's Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide's Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire's summons. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Aug. 23)
Venezuela has scored a win in its ongoing diplomatic and propaganda war with Uncle Sam. The most recent flare-up started July 24, when authorities in Aruba arrested Gen. Hugo Carvajal, a top Venezuelan official wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges. Carvajal had been military intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and was accused by the US Treasury Department of using his position to protect cocaine shipments for Colombia's FARC guerillas. He had just arrived in Aruba after being appointed Venezuela's consul there—and was promptly detained at Washington's behest. Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro called the detention a "kidnapping," and demanded Carvajal's immediate release. And three days later, a judge on the island found that since Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, his arrest was illegal. He was sprung and quickly made the short flight back to Venezuela. "He's returning free and victorious. It's a triumph for sovereignty and legality," president Maduro said, praising the "bravery" of the Dutch government. (The Guardian, July 28; BBC News, July 27; Maduradas, July 24)
At a July 25 meeting in Port-au-Prince, some 28 Haitian organizations expressed their interest in joining a movement to oppose plans under way for open-pit mining in the north of the country, with a focus on gold mining operations by the Vancouver-based Eurasian Minerals company. The meeting was organized by the Collective Against Mining, which was formed a year ago by Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen ("Small Haitian Peasants Unity"), the Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA) and Batay Ouvriye ("Workers' Struggle").