PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - The life of Haiti’s former dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, will be celebrated at a private Mass on Saturday, his lawyer said, ending speculation about government plans for an official state funeral.
Duvalier died of a heart attack on Saturday aged 63, closing the book on a political dynasty notorious for corruption and human rights abuses in the western hemisphere’s poorest country.
No official announcement has been made, but the Miami Herald cited one anonymous official who said the government did not want to do anything to gloss the dictator’s image, and wished to respect victims of his regime.
Instead, a private Mass will be held on Saturday morning at Saint-Louis Gonzague, the country’s top Catholic high school, Duvalier’s lawyer Reynold Georges confirmed on Thursday. He did not say if, or where, Duvalier’s body would be buried.
A spokesman for Haiti President Michel Martelly initially said protocol required a state funeral for all heads of state, but the government might stop short of declaring a period of national mourning.
That prompted loud protests and an online petition opposing any state honors for Duvalier.
Martelly’s administration is seen as close to figures from the Duvalier era, and on Saturday the president paid tribute to Baby Doc on Twitter as “a true son of Haiti.”
Duvalier inherited power - and the title President for Life - from his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, aged just 19 in 1971, but fled into exile in 1986 during a popular uprising which ended 28 years of rule by the father-and-son dynasty.
After spending 25 years in France, he returned to his Caribbean homeland in January 2011 to face charges of corruption, as well as crimes against humanity for abuses by the army and paramilitary forces under his rule.
Duvalier consistently denied any responsibility for abuses committed while he was in office.
His death was lamented by many of his critics who had hoped to see him put on trial.
Plump and six feet tall, with long side whiskers, Baby Doc Duvalier became a portly poster-child for wanton misrule, failing to address the poverty and illiteracy of Haitians, while his family and friends indulged in a luxurious lifestyle.
Editing by David Adams and Richard Chang