Francois Duvalier Reign in Haiti

Francois Duvalier, 40th President of Haiti, began life in Port-au-Prince. Born to a well-to-do family, he earned a medical degree from the University of Haiti. After serving as a political appointee under President Estimé, he ran for the presidency under a populist platform that won support from the Afro-Haitian electorate. He won and began his rule of tyranny, manipulating the Constitution to declare himself "President for Life".


Francois Duvalier tolerated no opposition to his repressive policies. He intimidated his enemies, routinely ordering assassinations, an estimated 30,000 of them. Many educated Haitians fled Haiti, and the island has never recovered its intelligentsia.

While in office Duvalier created the Para-military group, Tonton Macoutes, to strengthen his hold on power. He was cruel and relishing, first-hand, the heinous torture of political prisoners.

Francois Duvalier cunningly manipulated the U.S. government, voicing his anti-Communist sentiments, especially against Cuba, a major U.S. enemy. He mis-used U.S. aid in the millions, putting the money into his own accounts. His hostile foreign-policy agenda nearly caused the Dominican Republic to invade Haiti.

Despite seizing land from farming communities, leading to starvation and deteriorating health, he retained his power over the dominant black-peasant class. They viewed Duvalier as a defender of their oppression under the ruling mulatto élite.

To the end, Francois Duvalier held sway over the country through manipulation of Voodoo iconography, insisting he was the Loa, a major Voodoo god. He ensured through a constitutional referendum that his son, Jean-Claude would succeed him.

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