Wednesday 30 May 2012


Tyrants have been with Mankind for many, many centuries. Caligula, a Roman emperor comes to mind. The people hated him so much; his own soldiers slashed him to death. Nero was also hated. He committed suicide rather than be whipped to death by his own people. Hitler committed suicide rather than end up being put on display by the Soviets. It is unfortunate that even in this modern age, a number of countries have or had tyrants running them. Their motives? Staying in power. This second article is going to describe a number of the tyrants in the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries who ruled some of the countries.

Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvallier

This tyrant who was nicknamed Baby Doc (he was born on July 3, 1951), was the President of Haiti from 1971 until his overthrow by a popular uprising in 1986. He succeeded his father, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier, as the ruler of Haiti upon his father's death in 1971.                                                                                             

After assuming power, he introduced what appeared to be cosmetic changes to his father's regime and delegated much of his authority to his advisors. Under his rule, thousands of Haitians were killed or tortured, and hundreds of thousands fled the country. He maintained a notoriously lavish lifestyle (including a state-sponsored US$3 million wedding in 1980  It is strongly suspected that he made millions from involvement in the drug trade and from selling body parts from dead Haitians while poverty among his people remained the most widespread for any country in the Americas. I can’t imagine why he sold body parts from the bodies of dead people unless it was for those practicing in witchcraft. Of course, if the body parts were removed from the deceased before their bodies were cold, the parts could be used in transplants. In any case, his involvement in that practice is grotesque.

A revolt began in the provinces in 1985. The city of Gonaives was the first to have street demonstrations and raids on food-distribution warehouses. From October 1985 to January 1986, the protests spread to six other cities, including Cap Haitien. By the end of that month, Haitians in the south of Haiti had revolted. The most significant rioting there broke out in the town of Les Cayes. 

Jean-Claude responded to the unrest with a 10 percent cut in staple food prices, the closing of independent radio stations, a cabinet reshuffle, and a crackdown by police and army units, but these moves failed to dampen the momentum of the popular uprising against the dynastic dictatorship. Jean-Claude's wife and advisers, intent on maintaining their grip on power, urged him to put down the rebellion and remain in office.

The Duvaliers finally realized that they would have to flee the wrath of the people of Haiti so they flew out of Haiti and settled in France. Although he formally applied for political asylum, his request was denied by French authorities. People who are given political asylum are called refugees however he and his wife were not refugees in the sense of that word because they were not fleeing tyranny in Haiti since he was the one who was the tyrant. He was fleeing the people who probably wanted to lynch him. Nevertheless, he was permitted to live in France.

For a time they lived a luxurious life but Jean-Claude lost most of his wealth as a direct result of his 1993 divorce from his wife. He then apparently began living modestly while he was in France during his exile.

Soon after the hurricane devastated Haiti, Duvalier foolishly and unexpectedly returned to Haiti on the 16th of January 2011 after two decades in self-imposed exile in France. The following day, he was arrested by Haitian National Police, facing charges for embezzlement. On the 18th of January 2011, Duvalier was charged with corruption,  and is expected to be held before a judge in Port-au-Prince for trial.                

Raoul Cédras

This tyrant was (born Jérémie, in Haiti on July 9th, 1949 and is a former military officer, and was the de facto ruler of Haiti from 1991 to 1994. Cédras was a Lieutenant General in the Forces Armées d'Haïti (the Haitian army) and was responsible for the 1991genocide and crimes against humanity along with three other former generals. 

During the court hearing, he refused to comment on the accusations brought against him. The court released him on bail, but placed him under house arrest pending commencement of his trial. On March 1st, 2012, a Guatemalan judge declined to grant Ríos Montt amnesty from genocide charges, paving the way for his trial.  He is currently still under house arrest pending trial for crimes against humanity and genocide in GuatemalaWhen I and my wife visited Guatemala in this current century, it was quite peaceful then.   

The US State department said in 1995 that in the three years following the coup international observers estimated that more than 3,000 men, women and children were murdered by or with the complicity of Haiti's then-coup regime.

A massacre took place during a dawn raid on the shantytown of Raboteau, in the port of Gonaives, where soldiers and paramilitaries rounded up residents.  Some of the people there were tortured and then they were forced to lie in open sewers so that their wounds would be infected. Others were shot as they tried to flee into the sea. Prosecutors have claimed that the massacre was part of a broad plan to crush opposition to Raoul Cedras' 1991 military coup.

In 2000, a court in Haiti had given life sentences to 12 former soldiers and paramilitaries for the massacre of at least six people in the seaside slum in 1994. Another 38 people including the exiled former military ruler Raoul Cedras were tried in absentia charged with masterminding the killings. Cedras was convicted by the court and given a life sentence.

The United States had previously given Cedras a million-dollar-plus ‘golden parachute’ to resign and go into exile in Panama including the rental income of three of his houses. Requests to Panama for his extradition have been rejected. However, if he is foolish enough to leave Panama and is caught elsewhere, he will face changes in the International Criminal Court unless he is extradited to Haiti where he will then begin serving his life sentence.

Basillo Lami Dozo

This tyrant was born on the 1st of February 1929 and later eventually became a general in the Argentine Air Force.  He participated in the military dictatorship known as the National Re-organization (1976–1983) and, along with Generals Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri and Jorge Isaac Anaya, and was a member of the Third Military Junta that ruled Argentina  between 1981 and 1982. During the 1985 during the trial of the members of the juntas, he was charged with, and acquitted of, acts of torture, making false declarations, and kidnappings. 

On March 24th 1976, a military junta had overthrown the Argentine government and seized control of the country.  A rigidly conservative regime, the Junta took military control of the press, universities and labor unions, reintroduced the death penalty, and sanctioned the kidnap and torture of thousands of citizens seen as potential ideological opponents. As many as 30,000 people were murdered by the Junta.

In 2003, the Spanish justice system sought Basillo Lami Dozo’s extradition in order to stand trial in Spain for crimes against humanity committed against Spaniards in Argentina during the dictatorship of the Junta in Argentina. Initially the government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznarruled the extradition inadmissible but, in 2005, the Supreme Court overturned that decision and ordered extradition proceedings to go ahead.

As an aside, in 1980 while I and others attending a UN conference in Caracas were in the palace of the president of Venezuela having cocktails with him, three senior civil officials from the Argentine government spoke with me and asked me to consider going to Argentina to see for myself as to whether or not the accusation of Amnesty International and the Organization of American States was valid when they stated that the Argentine military was murdering thousands of their citizens. I sent in my proposal as to how I would conduct the investigation but the military officials in Argentina knew that I would not find the 25 persons I would be seeking because they had been murdered by the armed forces. Subsequently, they withdrew their invitation. It is just as well. I could have ended up as one of the thousands of people who disappeared in that country and whose bodies were dumped into the River Platte from planes.

Efrain Rios Montt

This tyrant was born on June 16th 1926 and is a former de facto President of Guatemala dictator, army general and former president of that nation’s Congress. 

Indigenous Mayans suffered greatly under his rule, and it is documented that his government deliberately targeted thousands of them since many of them in the countryside were suspected of harboring sympathies for the guerrilla movement. The UN-backed official Truth Commission (the Historical Clarification Commission) concluded that this was a campaign of deliberate genocide against the population. According to the 1999 United Nations Truth Commission, resulted in the annihilation of nearly 600 villages. One example of this atrocity was the planned de Sanchez Massacre in Rabinal and Baja Verapaz, in July 1982, which brought about the deaths of over 250 people. The Montt administration established special military courts that had the power to impose death penalties against people they accused of being criminals and suspected guerrillas.

In 1982, an Amnesty International report estimated that over 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans and peasant farmers were killed from March to July of that year, and that 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes. According to more recent estimates, tens of thousands of non-combatants were killed by the regime's death squads in the following eighteen months. At the height of the bloodshed under Ríos Montt, reports put the number of killings and disappearances at more than 3,000 per month. Based on the number of people killed per capita, Ríos Montt was probably the most violent dictator in Latin America's recent history, more so than even other notorious dictators such as Chile's Augusto Pinochet, Argentina's Jorge Rafael Videla, and Bolivia's Hugo Banzar. 

On January 17, 2007, Ríos Montt announced that he would run for a seat in Congress in in the election to be held later in the year. As a member of Congress he would again be immune from prosecution unless a court suspended him from office. He won his seat in the election, which was held on September 9th 2007, and led the FRG's 15-member congressional delegation in the new legislature.

His immunity ended on January 14th, 2012, when his term in office ran out. On January 26th 2012, Ríos Montt appeared in court in Guatemala and was formally indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity along with three other former generals. During the court hearing, he refused to comment on the accusations brought against him. The court released him on bail, but placed him under house arrest pending commencement of his trial. On March 1st, 2012, a Guatemalan judge declined to grant Ríos Montt amnesty from genocide charges, paving the way for his trial.  He is currently still under house arrest pending trial for crimes against humanity and genocide in GuatemalaWhen I and my wife visited Guatemala in this current century, it was quite peaceful then.

I will describe more modern-day tyrants in another article in the future. 

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