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Duvalier's Death Causes Mixed Reactions In Miami's Little Haiti


People with ties to Haiti are remembering one of that country's former dictators. Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier died over the weekend. The old saying goes, speak nothing but good of the dead, but that is hard for Patrick Gaspard to do. He's a U.S. diplomat and a Haitian-American. And after Duvalier's death, he tweeted, I'm thinking of the look in my mother's eyes when she talks about her brother Joel, who was disappeared by that dictator. Duvalier and his father before him ran one of the most repressive regimes in the western hemisphere. Many Haitians fled to South Florida to start new lives, and some of them spoke with Nadege Green of our member station WLRN.

NADEGE GREEN, BYLINE: Father Jean-Mary Reginald asked his mostly Haitian congregation to remember Duvalier, whose 15-year rule was marked by constant allegations of human rights violations and corruption.


FATHER JEAN-MARY REGINALD: Despite all the feelings - the positions we may have - a human being is dead. A family is mourning. And today, I ask you to bow your heads as we remember the spirit of Jean-Claude Duvalier, former president de la Republique d'Haiti.

GREEN: Most parishioners bow their heads in silence. A few defiantly shook their heads in response. Jean Souffrant is a parishioner at the church. He says, Duvalier's legacy will largely be remembered for its violence against the Haitian people.

JEAN SOUFFRANT: From that he took power, he was a criminal because that's all he was. That's what he was taught, that's what he knew, and that's how he governed.

GREEN: But there are some who remember a different Duvalier. Alex Bourciquot, another parishioner at the church, says, under Duvalier's rule, Haiti prospered.

ALEX BOURCIQUOT: As a president - he was the president. They should respect him and give him a national funeral.

GREEN: In the Haitian community, it's not surprising that some celebrate the former dictator, while others decry his 15-year rule. Darline Jean-Charles explains.

DARLINE JEAN-CHARLES: If you are in good with the regime, you pretty much had a pretty cozy, cushy life - prosperity. However, enemies of them were totally - were killed, or their families were killed or whatever. They used their - the Tonton Macoute and all that

GREEN: The Tonton Macoute were Duvalier's militiamen, named after a Haitian mythological character who kidnaps children and eats them. On this Sunday, Father Reginald asked the parishioners at Notre Dame not to address the politics of Duvalier. He told them to simply ask God to forgive the former president's sins. For NPR News, I'm the Nadege Green in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nadege Greencovers social justice issues for WLRN.