Duvalier Regime

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.