Fear of political rivals led Duvalier to declare several of them outlaws.
At his bidding, the legislature imposed a state of siege on May 2, 1958,
and on July 31 authorized him to rule by decree. In this period Duvalier
organized the Tontons Macoutes, an armed force under his personal control,
to intimidate opposition. He dissolved the bicameral legislature on April
8, 1961, to form a new unicameral legislature. All the candidates for the
new body elected on April 30 were Duvalier followers. On September 15 the
legislature granted him extensive economic powers. U.S. aid was suspended
in 1961 to demonstrate disapproval of Duvalier's policies.
On April 19, 1963, a military plot against Duvalier was uncovered and
crushed. Haitian police invaded the Dominican embassy to seize government
foes but withdrew when Dominican president Juan Bosch threatened to use
armed force against them. The refusal of the Haitian government to permit
the embassy refugees to leave the country safely led to a buildup of
Dominican troops on the Haitian border. The troops withdrew on May 13, but
Haitian exiles in the Dominican Republic made several unsuccessful
invasions of Haiti in August in the hope of triggering a popular uprising.
A severe hurricane on October 4, followed by a landslide on November 10,
caused about 5,500 deaths and much property damage.
A life term as president for Duvalier and a new red-and-black flag (to
symbolize the link between Haiti and Africa) were authorized by a new
constitution proclaimed in 1964. Rebel groups within the country remained
active, despite the oppressive tyranny of Duvalier and the Tontons
Macoutes. By 1967 the president had executed some 2,000 political enemies
and driven others into exile.
In January 1971 the legislature amended the constitution to permit
Duvalier to name his son, Jean Claude Duvalier, as his successor. The
19-year-old Duvalier became president after the death of his father on
April 21, 1971; the position was reaffirmed for life by a constitutional
revision in 1985.
In the early and mid-1970s Jean Claude Duvalier consolidated his power.
Advisers loyal to his father's regime still held important positions, and
his mother exercised considerable influence. An exodus of refugees to The
Bahamas and to the United States during the late 1970s and early 1980s, a
result of political oppression and deepening poverty, drew international
attention to the Duvalier regime. As a result of rising opposition
Duvalier fled Haiti in early 1986 and settled temporarily in France; a
junta succeeded him.