President Jean-Claude Duvalier fired eight of his 14 Cabinet ministers late Tuesday in a shakeup that brought loyalists of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, back into government.
No reason was given for the reshuffle, which included the addition of generals to the Cabinet for the first time. It came four days after a meeting of the Haitian Human Rights League was broken up violently, sparking protests from four foreign embassies, including the United States, that had personnel injured.
Duvalier, 28, who replaced his father following the elder Duvalier's death in 1971, briefly flirted with liberalizing his family's 20-year autocratic rule. But recently he has clamped down on dissent, instituting a stiff press law and bringing the Volunteers for National Security, an outgrowth of his father's "Ton-Ton Macoutes" secret police, to the streets in repressive law enforcement.
Those actions, as well as the new Cabinet appointments, may affect a recent U.S. federal court order barring the Immigration and Naturalization Service from near-automatic deportation of Haitian refugees claiming political asylum.
Immigration authorities argued that approximately 8,000 Haitian "boat people" in Florida came to the United States for economic reasons, and that there was little evidence of political persecution in Haiti. Lawyers for the refugees successfully charged discrimination. The Justice Department has appealed the ruling.