Decades of Haitian Dictatorship

Francois Duvalier, later known as “Papa Doc” became president in 1957. After surviving an attempted coup, he refilled the key positions in government, military, and economy with persons of his trust. Besides this, he secured his power by creating a ‘secret police’ which brutally suppressed the people. The “tonton macoutes” murdered over 30,000 Haitians. Victims were generals as well as farmers who didn’t fit into the dictator’s vision of Haiti. Because the members of this militia were paid almost nothing, many of them secured their survival by crime. Papa Doc also took advantage of the population’s beliefs by claiming to be “Baron Samedi”, one of the most powerful gods in the Haitian Voodoo religion. He officially became a lifetime president in 1964.

After his father’s death, nineteen-year-old Jean-Claude became a lifetime president. The new dictator, “Baby Doc” had a yearly income of over 100 million U.S. dollars due to his nefarious economic activities. While the population suffered, he concentrated on his jet-set playboy lifestyle more than he did on politics. Nevertheless, he decreased the suppression of the people and the political violence compared to his father.

After the pope visited Haiti and publicly criticized the dictatorship in 1983, the Haitians started revolting against “Baby Doc”. Due to pressure from the Haitian people and the United States, Jean-Claude Duvalier had to leave for France. According to the Global Transparency Report, he was one of the world’s most corrupt leaders.

Click here to watch a video with testimonies of the victims during the dictatorship in Haiti, put together by Amnesty International.

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