It is unclear why Duvalier chose to return to Haiti now, a year after a devastating earthquake and in the midst of a deadly cholera outbreak and political deadlock. Many observers speculated that the former dictator hoped to exploit the instability and the millions of Haitians too young to remember his brutal regime.
"I'm not here for politics," Duvalier told Radio Caraibes Sunday after arriving at the airport. "I'm here for the reconstruction of Haiti."
With more than 1 million people left homeless after the earthquake and another 3,500 recently dead from cholera, some Haitians may be nostalgic for the stability that Duvalier brought the country; even if that reliability came with death squads and reckless corruption.
"Average Haitians who weren't intellectuals or political figures might be nostalgic for the life they knew under Duvalier. They knew what was up and what was down," said Amy Wilentz author of the definitive book on Duvalier, "The Rainy Season." "There was law and order imposed, for better or worse."
But that law and order came with a steep price. Duvalier's Haiti came with prison camps, torture, the absence of due process and the constant threat of the dictator's paramilitary goon squad, the Tonton Macoutes.
The Macoutes -- Creole for boogeymen -- were kidnappers and killers who carried out the president's orders and used that power to intimidate even the poorest people.
"The Macoutes were like the Gestapo; not just police but abusive at every level," Wilentz said. "They abused power as taxation officers, stealing money from even the lady selling mangoes from the smallest stand in the market.