BBC Home
Explore the BBC
22 April  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1971: Haitian dictator dies
Haiti's ruler, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, has died after 14 years in power.

President Duvalier, who declared himself "president for life" in 1964, died at the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince.

He is believed to have been seriously ill for some time - his ailments included prostate cancer, heart trouble and diabetes.

During his time as Haiti's absolute ruler Mr Duvalier, 64, survived at least six assassination attempts.

A doctor by profession, Francois Duvalier was elected as president in 1956.

He then set about consolidating his power by means of force and playing on the superstitious nature of many Haitians.

He destroyed the power of the Roman Catholic Church by expelling its archbishop in 1969 and encouraging the pagan cult of voodoo.

His safety was ensured by his personal militia, the feared Tontons Macoutes - Haitian slang for "bogeymen".

President Duvalier made sure the Tontons Macoutes vastly outnumbered the Haitian army, reducing the chance of a successful coup.

Lucky 22nd

He was as superstitious as many of those he ruled and, in later years, would only venture outside the presidential palace on the 22nd of each month.

He believed that on the 22nd he was guarded by his voodoo spirits and organised many significant events of his life for that date.

He was delighted when US President John F Kennedy, on whom he had placed a curse, was assassinated on 22 November 1963 - a fact which enhanced the reputation of his alleged voodoo powers.

President Duvalier is believed to have left orders for his death to be announced on the 22nd although it is thought he may have died several days ago.

He is expected to be succeeded by his son Jean-Claude, known as "Baby Doc".

The 20-year-old student was publicly declared his father's heir last year.

 E-mail this story to a friend


Francois Duvalier
'President for life' Duvalier survived several assassination attempts


In Context
Jean-Claude Duvalier succeeded his father but fled Haiti in 1986 in the wake of mounting popular discontent.

A period of instability followed with two presidents ousted by military coups in 1988 and 1991.

In 1993 the UN imposed sanctions on Haiti after the military regime rejected an agreement to allow Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resume his role as president.

Mr Aristide was finally reinstated in 1994 after US forces entered Haiti to oversee a transition to civilian government.

In February 2004 US forces were back in Haiti, this time to airlift President Aristide out of the country after rebels had taken over most of the country. Boniface Alexandre, chief justice at the country's Supreme Court, was sworn in as interim president.

Stories From 22 Apr


 
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy