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Professor: Former Haitian Dictator Can’t Steal Now

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Jean-Claude Duvalier

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has returned to his native country. (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) – A University of Chicago specialist in Haiti says the best that can be said about former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s return is he probably won’t be able to steal much, if he does navigate from court to some leadership position.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports, assistant social sciences professor Greg Beckett says there is over $1 billion in redevelopment dollars pledged to Haitian earthquake reconstruction, but funds will be tracked very carefully.

“They’re going to be managed by an international trust fund of sorts, set up by the world bank and the international community, with Haitian and non-Haitian advisers on it,” Beckett said. “So it’s, I think, impossible, for any person in Haiti – let alone Jean-Claude Duvalier – to get access to that kind of money.”

Beckett says the focus in Haiti should be not Duvalier, but controlling cholera, then earthquake reconstruction. Progress on reconstruction is so slow that only 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared from the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

But Beckett says a continued Duvalier presence in Haiti could bring Jean Bertrand Aristide out of his exile in South Africa, and reignite long smoldering political tensions.

Duvalier’s brutal, corrupt regime chased him out of Haiti in 1986, to a comfortable, if not lavish, exile in France. But he returned to his native country this past weekend.

Duvalier is now charged with corruption, theft, misappropriation of funds and other alleged crimes for pilfering the treasury before his ouster. A judge is now deciding whether there is enough evidence to go to trial.

Beckett was focusing on crisis in Haiti well before the January 2010 earthquake. His 2008 dissertation, “The End of Haiti: History under Conditions of Impossibility,” focused on the underlying cultural, political and social issues surrounding the problems in Haiti and its government.

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