Also seizing the moment were veterans of the old Lavalas party of Aristide, a leftist former priest. They broadcast calls urging followers to rally to demand Aristide's return. The first democratically elected president in Haiti, Aristide was deposed in a military coup in 1991, reinstated by U.S. forces in 1994 and toppled again in 2004 by a quasi-military rebellion that Aristide blamed on the U.S. He has spent much of his exile in South Africa, but associates say he is keen to return.
Duvalier's arrival could derail efforts to resolve Haiti's electoral impasse, a delay that many say also stalls desperately needed relief and reconstruction aid.
Flawed elections Nov. 28 have left Haiti without a new president, and Preval's term ends Feb. 7. He has vowed to stay on while mulling recommendations from the Organization of American States on how to stage a runoff. The OAS has recommended eliminating Preval's handpicked candidate because of fraud and allowing first-place finisher Mirlande Manigat to face off against popular musician Michel Martelly.
Duvalier's visit "adds unpredictability at an uncertain time in Haiti's election process," State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said, adding that Washington was surprised at the timing of his return.