When Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier made a surprising return to Haiti in 2011 after 25 years in exile, some hoped the aging dictator would finally have to answer for the abuses of his regime. During his 15-year rule, political leaders, journalists, human rights advocates — anyone seen as a threat to the self-proclaimed "president for life" — were detained, tortured and sometimes killed. He was accused of looting the nation's coffers and living like royalty in the hemisphere's poorest nation.
Instead, as one human rights activist said following news of Duvalier's death on Saturday, he "cheated justice."
Duvalier, 63, died of a heart attack at his home in Port-au-Prince. He had recently been discharged from a hospital after being bitten on the leg by a tarantula.
His death ends a brutal family political dynasty that began when his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who took power in 1957 and passed it to his 19-year-old son upon his death. As he grew into power, "Baby Doc'' resorted to violence to cow the opposition. His paramilitary force, the tonton macoutes, became synonymous with brutality.
In February 1986, following weeks of unrest, Duvalier and his family fled to France aboard a U.S. military aircraft. In Europe, his fight was with the courts in Geneva that blocked money he had stashed in Swiss bank accounts. The Haitian government accused him of stealing $120 million
Despite facing charges of crimes against humanity and illicit enrichment during his administration, Duvalier seemed to live a privileged existence during his final years in Haiti. He drove himself around town, was treated as a political celebrity and was often spotted at the city's posh restaurants.