PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier died of a heart attack Saturday, according to his lawyer Reynold Georges. He was 63.
Duvalier inherited power from his father in 1971 when he was just 19, but he fled into exile in 1986 after a popular uprising. After spending 25 years in France, Duvalier returned to his impoverished Caribbean homeland in January 2011 and was briefly detained on charges of corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds.
A Haitian court in February ruled Duvalier could be charged with crimes against humanity under international law and that he could also be held responsible for abuses committed by the army and paramilitary forces under his rule. Duvlier consistently denied any responsibility for abuses committed while he was in office.
The dictator, who called himself president-for-life, was notorious for failing to address the illiteracy and poverty of Haitians, while he and his friends indulged in a luxurious lifestyle.
Duvalier relied on terror to keep his people at heel in the style of his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, a former country doctor who employed paramilitary secret police agents and exploited popular superstitions surrounding the native voodoo religion.
(Reporting by Amelie Baron; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Kevin Liffey)