François Duvalier

Duvalier, François (fräNswäˈ düvälyāˈ) [key], 1907–71, dictator of Haiti (1957–71). A physician, he became director-general of the national public health service in 1946 and subsequently served as minister of health and of labor. After opposing Paul Magloire's coup in 1950, he hid in the interior, practicing medicine, until a general political amnesty was granted in 1956. In 1957, with army backing, "Papa Doc," as he was known, was overwhelmingly elected president. Reelected in a sham election in 1961, he declared himself "president for life" in 1964. His regime, the longest in Haiti's history, was a brutal reign of terror; political opponents were summarily executed, and the populace was kept in a state of abject fear by the notorious Tonton Macoutes. Under Duvalier, the economy of Haiti continued to deteriorate, and the illiteracy rate remained at about 90%. Duvalier nevertheless maintained his hold over Haiti. His practice of voodooism encouraged rumors among the people that he possessed supernatural powers. He died in Apr., 1971, after arranging for his son, Jean-Claude, to succeed him.

See J.-P. Gingras, Duvalier: Caribbean Cyclone (1967); A. Burt and B. Diederich, Papa Doc (1969, repr. 1990); J. Ferguson, Papa Doc-Baby Doc (1987).

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