From TIME's Archive: A Visit with Haiti's President-for-Life, age 20

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In set speeches he delivers grownup thoughts ("I accept the responsibility so that all true Haitians can move to better things"). But at press conferences he answers in monosyllables, which are endowed with flowery phrases by his interpreters. As one veteran Hai-tiologist in Port-au-Prince told TIME'S Jerry Hannifin: "Jean-Claude is learning fast, and as time goes by, maybe in five or six years, he'll be making his own decisions. Right now, he has little to say."

Jean-Claude is a necessary fixture to keep alive the myth of Duvalierism, which has helped to give Haiti one of the few peaceful turnovers of power in its bloody and voodoo-steeped history. The decisions in Haiti today are made by a Council of State, a fragile alliance comprising Papa Doc's frail-looking but steel-willed widow, Simone Ovide Duvalier; General Claude Raymond, army chief of staff; his brother Adrien, the Foreign Minister; and Luckner Cambronne, Minister of Interior and National Defense, the apparent first among equals.

Power Struggle. A case-hardened political intriguer and unscrupulous entrepreneur, Cambronne, 40, was one of the chief extortionists for Papa Doc's Tonton Macoutes and rose to prominence through such sentiments as "A good Duvalierist should be ready to kill his children, and good Duvalierist children should be ready to kill their parents for the sake of Duvalierism." He owns the country's biggest tourist agency, Ibo Tours, which specializes in packaged hurry-up divorces (85% of the divorce-court costs goes to his National Defense Fund). Among a number of other lucrative enterprises, he owns Air Haiti, which has only one operational aircraft, a lumbering World War II vintage C46 cargo plane.

Cambronne last August won a power struggle with Jean-Claude's shrewd and ambitious elder sister, Marie-Denise Dominique. She and her husband Max were allowed to depart peacefully to Paris, where Max is Haitian ambassador. Whether Cambronne might eventually move against the other Duvaliers remains to be seen. No one knows the real purpose of the elite corps, "Les Leopards," that he has formed. The stated purpose is to protect the country from invaders and Communists and protect the President.

Cheap Labor. For all the unease behind the throne, Haitians are enjoying the surface stability. Haiti has long presented a moral dilemma for the U.S. and international-development organizations who have wanted to raise the Haitian per capita income of $63 a year, but could not stomach Papa Doc's regime. Now they are looking favorably on Haiti's comparatively happier state of affairs. Typical of the enterprises that have been set up to take advantage of cheap Haitian labor (a decree signed by Jean-Claude raised the minimum daily wage from 700 to $1 only two months ago) is Tomar Industries, which employs 350 workers, mostly women, to hand stitch the horsehide coverings on 2,000,000 baseballs a year for export to the U.S.

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