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François Duvalier

François Duvalier known as "Papa Doc" (possibly April 14, 1907 - April 21, 1971 ) was the president of Haiti from 1957 and later dictator from 1964 until his death.

Raised in Port-au-Prince. He was trained as a doctor, serving in rural areas. He married Simone Ovide in late 1939. He became director general of the national health service in 1946 and later served as minister of health and also of labour in 1949. He opposed the coup of Paul Magloire[?] and was forced into hiding until an amnesty in 1956.

Backed by the army, Duvalier won the 1957 Haitian elections, he had campaigned as a populist leader - attacking the "noirist" elite. Duvalier revived the traditions of vodun and later used them to consolidate his power, claiming to be a hougan himself.

He worked to consolidate his rule, surviving a coup in mid-1958 he purged the army. He then rewrote the constitution and ran for reelection in 1961. He won that election with the official count being 1.32 million votes for Duvalier and none against. He established himself as president for life in 1964 and his rule assumed a more brutal and repressive character. Wary of the army he created a militia in 1959, known as the VSN (Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale) from 1962, to protect his power outside the capital. The VSN became better known as the Tonton Macoute[?] (or Makout), receiving no offical salary they had to make their living through crime and extortion. To protect his personal Duvalier used the Garde Présidentielle.

Duvalier came under pressure from the government of John F. Kennedy due to evidence of corruption over aid. Aid was officially suspended in 1962 but pressure eased following the death of Kennedy. The country assumed the mantle of an anti-communist presence to balance that of nearby Cuba.

In April 1963 Haiti almost came to war with the Dominican Republic. Only the lack of senior military support for Juan Bosch Gaviño[?] prevented the Dominicans invading and the conflict was mediated by the OAS.

By the mid 60's it was clear Duvalier had no intention of stepping down. In June of 1964 he was proclaimed president for life and began to create a grand personality cult around the image of himself as the physical embodiment of the Haitian nation.

Within the country Duvalier used both political murder and expulsion to suppress his opponents, estimates of those killed are as high as 30,000. Attacks on Duvalier from within the military were treated especially seriously, in 1967 bombs detonated near the Presidential Palace led to the execution of twenty Garde Présidentielle officers.

His reign of terror kept the country in his grip until his death in early 1971, after he had set his 19-year-old son Jean-Claude Duvalier to succeed him.

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