Latin America & Caribbean

Former Haiti president Duvalier dies

Media captionJean-Claude Duvalier was a controversial figure, as Tom Esslemont explains

Haiti's former ruler Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has died of a heart attack in the capital Port-au-Prince aged 63, official sources say.

Duvalier was just 19 when in 1971 he inherited the title of "president-for-life" from his father, the notorious Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

He was accused of corruption, human rights abuses and repression in his rule, which ended in a 1986 uprising.

After years of exile in France, he returned to Haiti in 2011.

His death was announced by Haiti's health minister, and the ex-leader's attorney Reynold Georges confirmed he died at home on Saturday.

Lavish wedding

At the time of his swearing in, Jean-Claude Duvalier was the youngest president in the world.

Initially it seemed that there could be a significant move away from his father's harsh regime, underpinned as it was by Haiti's notorious secret police, the Tontons Macoutes, says BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge.

Image caption For some time, Jean-Claude Duvalier was the youngest president in the world

He moved closer to the Americans, from whom his father had been estranged. US businesses moved in and he allowed limited press freedom.

But Jean-Claude Duvalier lived lavishly. His state-sponsored wedding reportedly cost $5m in 1980, while most of the people in his ravaged nation endured the worst poverty in the Western hemisphere.

Repression continued, too, and amid massive unrest in 1986 he fled to France.

Human rights groups say thousands of political prisoners were tortured or killed under his rule, and he was accused of massive corruption.

He described his return to Haiti - a year after it was devastated by a major earthquake, as a gesture of solidarity to the nation.

Image caption His unexpected return to Haiti saw him arrested and charged, but the case against him stalled

But he was arrested and charged, and although released he finally appeared in court in February 2013, where in an emotionally-charged hearing in front of some of his alleged victims, he denied responsibility for abuses carried out during his time as president.

Judges ruled he could face crimes against humanity charges, but the case had stalled some time before he died.

Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier

Image caption Jean-Claude Duvalier, pictured here in 1980, ruled Haiti with an iron fist for 15 years
  • Took over presidency aged just 19 when his father, Haiti's authoritarian leader Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, died in 1971
  • Called himself "president-for-life" and ruled with an iron fist, aided by a brutal private militia known as the Tontons Macoutes
  • Accused of corruption and human rights abuses that prompted more than 100,000 Haitians to flee the country during his presidency
  • Ruled for 15 years before outbreak of popular protests led him to flee to France in 1986
  • Asked Haitian people for forgiveness for "errors" made during his rule in a 2007 radio interview
  • Returned to Haiti in 2011 as it was supposed to hold run-off elections to choose successor to outgoing President Rene Preval

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