"Castro Connection"; Treasury Drained after Baby Doc fled
Just what Haiti needs Port-au-Prince, Haiti — On a small, dusty farm beside a gravel road on the outskirts of the city, I discovered the rarest of all political animals: a leader who doesn't want to lead, a ruler without political ambition, a military strongman who wants to hand his power over to civilians. State Department officials told me about this unique person; they said Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy didn't seek political power doesn't want it and assumed it only out of a sense of duty. Our outgoing ambasador to Haiti, Clayton McManaway, confirmed that the chairman of Haiti's military Junta is driven by duty, not ambition. Without exception, people who know Namphy describe him as a patriot of uncommon integrity, who is as honest as he is blunt. Still, I didn't believe them until I met Namphy for myself. I found him still living on the modest farm he owned before he took over the Haitian government. He declined to move into the presidential palace; the opulence of its former occupant, ousted dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, disgusted him. "I was aware of Duvalier's excesses," Namphy told me, "but it was much worse than I had imagined." Face to face, the military strongman is disarming. Of medium phyusical proportions and stocky build, he seems through some knack of carriage to be larger and more powerful than he is. He has an arresting face, with pleasant, amiable lines yet an intimation of ruggedness. His whole personality lights up every time he smiles. He displays an athletic conditioning yet he talks enthusiastically about books and asked knowledgeable questions about my own latest book. I spent an evening with Nam- phy, three informal hours, while his small daughter tugged at him, struggled into his lap, hugged his neck and begged for snacks. I questioned him 10 different ways about his political ambitions. The answer was always the same; he had none. At last he became exasperated with the subject. "I am military man, and I have no interest in civilian office," he said in his native French, speaking through an interpreter. "But even if I were a civilian and burned with political ambition, I would not want to be pesident of Haiti." . The nation's problems, he explained, are too overwhelming. He spoke gravely about Haiti's terrible misery. The treasury has been drained; the economy is close to collapse; the land has been sapped; the population is impoverished. He has made repeated trips into the hinterlands to visit with the people and find out for himself what their needs are. Once he drove a pickup truck, unaccompanied by aides, bodyguards and presidential trappings. He asked questions, without revealing his identity, until someone recognized him. Clearly, Namphy is tormented by what he learned. As he talked about the needs of the people, he broke into English. "These are good people," he said. Then he turned to me, his eyes moist. "Yes," he repeated, "they are good people." Associates told me he anguishes over the plight of the people. Said Foreign Minister Jean-Baptist Hilaire: "I know this man. I know how he has suffered. The United States seems preoccupied, Namphy said, with elections. "Washington is in a hurry for us to become a democracy," he said. "The people don't want democracy. They want jobs." He is eager, nevertheless, to turn the country over to civilian rule, but he is worried about the presidential candidates. Some are demagogues who might become dictators if they gain power; others are crooks who want to strip the treasury of what little is left, Namphy fears. He said most Haitians are naive, trusting people who can be fooledk by a demagogue. He has scheduled presidential elctions in 1987. During the interim, he hopes to educate the people by introducing democracy at the local level. But he is willing to rush the process and hold earlier elections - if the United States will take responsibility for the consequences. I never thought I would ever advocate keeping a military junta in power. But in my opinion, the longer Namphy can be persuaded to remain at the Haitian helm, the better off Haita will be and the more likely he will be succeeded by a true democracy. CASTRO CONNECTION: Across the waters in neighbor- big Cuba, Fidel Castro is watching Haiti with a hungry eye. Intelligence sources say he hopes to exploit Haiti's deepin- ing poverty. Haitian revolutionaries have been trained in Cuba to sabotage the economy, hasten Haiti's economic collapse and form a communist state out of the wreckage. BABY DOC'S LEGACY: Before ex-dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier fled Haiti a few steps ahead of an angry mob, he turned over the government's bank account to his successor, Lt. Gen Henri Namphy. According to one report, there was less than $2 million left in the national treasury. After the bookkeeping was straightened out, a source said, Namphy had only $500,000 to run the government. Duvalier and his cronies absconded with billions. Nam- phy has retained lawyers and accountants to figure out exactly how much, to trace where it has gone and to try to get it back.