PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian authorities want Jean-Claude Duvalier to leave the country, but the once-feared dictator will not go and could even choose to get involved in politics, one of his lawyers said Wednesday.
Defense attorney Reynold Georges told reporters that it is Duvalier's right to remain in Haiti but that he is also free to travel. He stressed that Haiti's government has not ordered Duvalier to return to France after his surprise arrival on Sunday.
"He is going to stay. It is his country," Georges said.
Duvalier stayed sequestered in his room at the upscale Hotel Karibe in the hills above downtown Port-au-Prince. At one point, he went out on his balcony and waved to a small group of supporters on the street.
Meanwhile, the man who helped topple Duvalier in 1986, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, called on the governments of South Africa and Haiti to allow him to return to his Caribbean homeland. Aristide, who was flown into African exile aboard a U.S. plane after being ousted in 2004, said in a statement Wednesday from South Africa that he is willing "to leave today, tomorrow, at any time."
There were many theories Wednesday about Duvalier's return. Is he a doddering dictator come home to die? Or a still-wily Baby Doc scheming to recover millions of looted dollars?
Duvalier, who assumed power in 1971 at age 19 after the death of his notorious father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, is believed to have stolen millions of dollars from the Haitian treasury during his 15-year rule. He certainly spent a great deal of money to sustain his French Riviera lifestyle, and he lost a great deal more in his 1990 divorce from the glamorous Michele.
An estimated $5 million to $6 million has long been frozen in a Swiss bank account and unavailable to Duvalier. A Swiss statute of limitations ran out last year, and a court ruled that the bank had to give the money to him.
The Swiss Parliament then passed what is known as the Duvalier law, allowing banking officials to give the money to the Haitian government, which has been seeking to obtain the funds for several years. The Duvalier law goes into effect Feb. 1.
One theory is that Duvalier hopes to claim those millions.
Information from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.