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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

‘Papa Doc’strongman Luckner Cambronne, 77, dies in Miami

By Jacqueline Charles

 He was one of the most feared men in Haiti, a reigning symbol of Duvalierism who eventually fell victim to Haiti’s turbulent politics before he, too, was forced to pack his bags and flee.But even in exile, Luckner James Cambronne never gave up on returning to Haiti and the pinnacle of power he lavishly enjoyed during the 14-year dictatorship of Francois ”Papa Doc” Duvalier.Cambronne died Sunday at Baptist Hospital of pneumonia following a three-year bout with kidney disease and diabetes. He was 77.”He watched every occasion in Haiti, always trying to put something on track,” said longtime friend and author, Anthony Georges-Pierre. “Luckner was a cornerstone, and many people will find themselves missing a wing.”For Duvalierists—borne out of Haiti’s 1946 revolutionary movement aimed at having the black middle-class seize power—Cambronne will be missed. Among the last of an aging breed, he routinely held strategy meetings at his South Miami-Dade home focused, at first, on returning himself and Jean-Claude ”Baby Doc” Duvalier to power. Later, they were focused on others to lead.CHIEF `MACOUTE’Cambronne was a ”Duvalierist,” a devoted disciple of the country doctor who in 1964 declared himself Haiti’s President-for-Life, and engineered a 29-year family dictatorship. Upon Papa Doc’s death in 1971, Cambronne played a pivotal role in the transition of power from father to son.A poor preacher’s son, Cambronne went from bank teller to presidential confidante and power broker. He developed a reputation as Papa Doc’s chief extortionist, or head ”Macoute” who, wearing dark glasses, shook down and jailed Haitian businessmen. The funds were to be used to build public projects, but critics say they were used to line Cambronne’s and Duvalier’s pockets.”He was into everything,” Bernard Diederich told The Miami Herald. Diederich, who lives in Miami, penned the book Papa Doc and wrote about Cambronne’s December 1972 exile from Haiti for Time Magazine in the article, “The Fall of a Shark.”After Papa Doc’s death, Cambronne was known as ”Vampire of the Caribbean,” for his program of supplying Haitian cadavers to U.S. medical schools, and selling Haitian blood at a profit.”He was not a bad guy,” said Georges-Pierre, noting that both schemes were legal. “He was misunderstood.”Georges-Pierre, who devoted several passages to Cambronne in the biography, Francois Duvalier: Titan or Tyrant, said Cambronne was loyal and ”a valiant servant” who did a lot to help Haiti. As minister of public works, he introduced a toll system, which allowed the government to build roads, schools and airports.Accused of stealing millions of dollars from Haitian government coffers, Cambronne, who was born in the coastal town of Arcahaie outside of Port-au-Prince, told The Miami Herald in 1989 that he was not a bagman.”They say I have millions and millions of dollars, but it’s not true. I am not a millionaire,” said Cambronne, who ran a coffee business in Miami. “I am a Duvalierist for life. If you call a partisan of Jean-Claude Duvalier a Tonton Macoute, then, yes, I am a Macoute.”LOYAL FAMILY MANNadine Patrice, Cambronne’s daughter and a Haitian-American activist, said a lot of ”misinformation” has been written about her father.”As a family man, he was really great,” she said. “He is a very loyal person and dedicated. If he tells you he’s going to do this, he’s going to do this. He’s a person of action. Passionate and very loyal.”He was also forgiving.Several years ago, he and his wife took in Marie Denise Duvalier, the broke and divorced sister of Baby Doc. She and her ex-husband Max Dominique have long been accused of orchestrating Cambronne’s exile during a power struggle with Baby Doc. It is said it was payback against Cambronne, who months earlier had allegedly convinced Baby Doc to oust his sister and brother-in-law. Marie Denise Duvalier, who still lives with the Cambronne family, declined to be interviewed.”His love for his friends and his family is deep,” said friend Georges-Pierre. “I believe he left in peace.”In addition to daughter Nadine Patrice, Cambronne is survived by his wife, Ina Gousse Cambronne; daughters, Myrlande Constant, Marie Franc¸oise, Martine Cambronne, Guerda Prezeau and Josette Baptichon Julmelus; and sons Luckner Francillon and Anael Francillon.Viewing is from 5 to midnight tonight at Woodland Funeral Home, 11655 SW 117th Ave. The funeral service is 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 11291 SW 142nd Ave. NoteThis article was first published in the Miami Herald. See also Haiti : https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20061002I286

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