In early 1957, Francois Duvalier
was a country doctor
, holding a purely honorary position
in the ruling mulatto government
of Haiti. Nobody really knew who he was; he was a short
man, the local 'Doc', who had worked tirelessly to cure a rampant disease
there (a relative of malaria
, IIRC). The elite did not fear him; they only laugh
ed. But then he successfully campaigned for the Haitian Presidency
(a relatively easy task, a black
man in a 9/10ths black country
going after a wildly unpopular
U.S.-backed mulatto government
) and was elected successfully.
Duvalier was seen at the time as a relative godsend for Haiti. Since the U.S. Marine Corps had moved in and installed the mulattos in power, revolt had been the rule, not the exception. So maybe this Duvalier character would finally calm the constant hurricane of Haitian life? He was a doctor, a healer, and a successful one at that. Surely he could?
Hardly. Maybe he could, but he would not.
Starting early in 1958, the mulattos (still in control of the military to some degree) started trying to overthrow Duvalier. This prompted the creation of the Tonton Macoutes, his personal force of unpaid volunteers, the men who would from here on out enforce his every word.
The Haitian constitution was rewritten, banning Presidential elections, which I believe was a move made by Duvalier to keep himself in power. Even then, he had to prove himself to the world, so in 1960, an election was run, with Francois Duvalier as the clear winner; 1,320,748 votes to zero. In 1964, he declared himself President-For-Life.
And sometime after he first entered office, the killings started.
First, the mulattos were persecuted, but anyone who spoke ill of the President found the Tonton Macoutes at his or her door. And more and more people found reason to hate Duvalier - the sham election, the shameless grabs for power, the corruption. Especially the corruption.
You see, the U.S. was willing to give anyone close to newly Communist Cuba truckloads of money to be part of the 'free world'. Duvalier took the money and spread it around to people he wanted to control. Kickbacks, bribes, out-and-out cash payments, you name it. The former mulatto elites, or what were left of them, benefitted from this just as much as anyone else. And, as more and more people spoke up against the regime, more and more people died. And the tortures had started by this time.
One favorite tactic of the Tonton Macoutes was to nail a person's scrotum to a wall, and then unshackle them, daring them to rip away their manhood to escape.
The myth of Duvalier as voodoo priest rose up. He encouraged this, prescribing specific tortures to victims that had significant meaning in voodoo. People saw him engaging in various voodoo rituals. This upped the fear factor by magnitudes, and was maybe the most Machiavellian move by Duvalier.
The Papa Doc, Francois Duvalier, died in 1971 of natural causes. By that time, 50,000 people suspected of not being the utmost supporters of his regime had been brutally tortured and killed - an insanely high percentage of the population of this small island. His son, the none-too-bright Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, was given the reins of power, and Haiti's dark days would continue.