Papa Doc Duvalier

In 1957, Francois Duvalier, a U.S.-trained doctor with a reputation for honesty and lack of political ambition, was selected by the Haitian elite as their candidate. He won the elections by a large majority against a mulatto candidate (Duvalier, who was black, was seen by the population at large as a man of the people). The transformation that followed has led some Initiates to believe that the man was possessed by a Mayombe spirit, perhaps the very one that was summoned in 1791 (see sidebar, p. 21). During the elections, Duvalier was sympathetic to a number of Voodoo houn-gans, which led the Haitian Catholic church to accuse him of being a "Voodoo candidate" despite his hot denials. In spite of (or perhaps because of) these accusations, Duvalier won the elections.

Whatever his convictions before assuming the presidency, "Papa Doc" (as his Voudounista supporters nicknamed him) quickly became a staunch supporter of Voodoo. Duvalier started dressing in black and wearing "shades," a clear symbol of the dreaded loa Baron Samedi. Many houngans joined his private security force, the Tontons Makouts, although it is said that most of these houn-gans were actually Bokkor — secret servants of the Mayombe. Given that the Tontons Makouts became a force of political terrorism, the charge seems likely. Over the decade and a half of the first Duvalier regime, the group murdered dozens of people every week, leaving their bodies on the streets as reminder of the dangers of subversion. Suspected rebels and random victims were picked up, beaten and tortured. The lucky ones were dumped back on the streets. The rest disappeared, or were found dead the next morning. Using violence and Voodoo curses, the Tontons Makouts quickly killed most Haitian intellectuals or forced them to flee.

Among other things, Papa Doc destroyed health services in Haiti, exiling or killing most doctors, to the point that in 1982 the country had fewer than 1,000 physicians to take care of over 6,000,000 people! Disease remains rampant in Haiti; the efforts of houngans are not enough to stop it without the support of a decent health system.

Besides engaging in political terrorism to remain in power, Duvalier, his cronies and later his son Jean-Claude (alias "Baby Doc") looted the nation. The Duvalier system has been known as "the Kleptocracy." Everybody who had any authority robbed, cheated or extorted as much money as he could and put it in foreign banks, with the result that Haiti is now the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Most bizongue members (those who were not allied with Duvalier, that is) believe that the man was a low-level Initiate who made a pact with the Corruptors for enormous power in return for his services as both a butcher and a despoiler.

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