Jean-Claude Duvalier Leaves Haiti for France to Live in Forced Exile

In January 1986, the Reagan administration began to pressure Duvalier to renounce his rule and to leave Haiti.

Representatives appointed by Jamaican prime minister Edward Seaga served as intermediaries who carried out the negotiations. At this point a number of Duvalierists, and business leaders, met with the Duvaliers and pressed for their departure. The United States rejected a request to provide asylum for Duvalier, but offered to assist with the Duvaliers' departure. Duvalier had initially accepted on January 30, 1986 and President Reagan actually announced his departure, based on a report from the Haitian CIA Station Chief who saw Duvalier’s car head for the airport. En route, there was gunfire and Duvalier’s party returned to the palace unnoticed by the American intelligence team. Duvalier declared “we are as firm as a monkey tail.” He departed on February 7, 1986, flying to France in an American Air Force aircraft.

The Duvaliers settled in France. For a time they lived a luxurious life. Although he formally applied for political asylum, his request was denied by French authorities. Jean-Claude lost most of his wealth with his 1993 divorce from Michèle. While apparently living modestly in exile, Duvalier does have supporters, who founded the Francois Duvalier Foundation in 2006 to promote positive aspects of the Duvalier presidency, including the creation of most of Haiti's state institutions and improved access to education for the country's black majority.

A private citizen, Jacques Samyn, unsuccessfully sued to expel Duvalier as an illegal immigrant (the Duvaliers were never officially granted asylum in France). Then, in 1998, a Haitian-born photographer, Gerard Bloncourt, formed a committee in Paris to bring Duvalier to trial. At the time, the French Ministry of the Interior said that it could not verify whether Duvalier still remained in the country due to the recently enacted Schengen Agreement which had abolished systematic border controls between the participating countries. However, Duvalier's lawyer Sauveur Vaisse said that his client was still in France and denied that the exiled leader had fallen on hard times.

Following the resignation of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Duvalier announced his intention to return to Haiti. In 2004, he announced his intentions to run for president of Haiti in the 2006 elections for the Party of National Unity; however, he did not become a candidate.

On September 22–September 23, 2007, an address by Duvalier to Haitians was broadcast by radio. Although he said exile had "broken" him, he also said that what he described as the improving fortunes of the National Unity Party had "reinvigorated" him, and he urged readiness among his supporters, without saying whether he intended to return to Haiti. President René Préval rejected Duvalier's apology and, on September 28, he said that while Duvalier was constitutionally free to return to Haiti, he would face trial if he did so.

On January 16, 2010, Duvalier announced an estimated US$8m in aid donations to Haiti in light of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Duvalier reportedly lives modestly in Paris with Veronique Roy, his longtime companion and chief public-relations representative.

At this point, the military conspirators took direct action. Namphy, Regala, and others confronted the Duvaliers and demanded their departure. Left with no bases of support, Jean-Claude consented. After hastily naming a National Council of Government (Conseil National de Gouvernement--CNG) made up of Namphy, Regala, and three civilians, Jean-Claude and Michèle Duvalier departed from Haiti on February 7, 1986. They left behind them a country economically ravaged by their avarice, a country bereft of functional political institutions and devoid of any tradition of peaceful self-rule. Although the end of the Duvalier era provoked much popular rejoicing, the transitional period initiated under the CNG did not lead to any significant improvement in the lives of most Haitians. Although most citizens expressed a desire for democracy, they had no firm grasp of what the word meant or of how it might be achieved.