Haiti bishop who married 'Baby Doc' Duvalier dies

AP News
Posted: Apr 08, 2013 8:52 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian Bishop Francois-Wolff Ligonde, who presided over the lavish wedding of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and was viewed as an ardent supporter of the regime, died on Monday, a local radio station reported. He was 85.

Radio Kiskeya, citing Bishop Louis Kebreau, reported that Ligonde died following an unspecified illness. He had earlier suffered from heart complications and diabetes.

Born in the southern coastal town of Les Cayes, Ligonde served as the archbishop of Port-au-Prince and retired from his post in 2008.

But he was best known as a supporter of the Duvalier regime that ruled over Haiti from 1957 to 1986, when "Baby Doc" Duvalier fled into exile, and after. Under Duvalier rule, his sermons were sympathetic to the strongman and his predecessor, his father Francois "Papa Doc."

Ligonde was also the uncle to Duvalier's now ex-wife, Michele Bennett, and he married the two in an opulent cathedral wedding in 1980 that was said to have fetched $5 million even though the country's budget was largely made up of foreign aid. The ceremony, broadcast live on television to the impoverished nation, came with imported champagne, fireworks and flowers.

The wedding caused a scandal among supporters of the regime, for Bennett was a mulatto and the arrangement ran counter to the Noirisme movement that Duvalier's father espoused.

Rifts followed between Ligonde and a rising political figure at the forefront of the 1986 ouster of Duvalier: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest who was later expelled from the Salesian order for preaching "class struggle" and became a two-time president known for his populist stance.

After Aristide was elected to his first term in December 1990, Ligonde vilified him as "Bolshevik" in a sermon. Aristide himself had called Ligonde a "zealous servant" of the Duvalier dictatorship. Angry Aristide supporters later burned down a historic church and threatened Ligonde.

There was no immediate word on Ligonde's survivors.