|Birth Day:||April 14, 1907|
|Death Date:||Apr 21, 1971 (age 64)|
As per our current Database, Francois Duvalier died on Apr 21, 1971 (age 64).
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After studying medicine at both the University of Haiti and the University of Michigan, he aided in efforts to prevent the spread of malaria, typhus, and other deadly diseases that were common among Haiti's poor.
Duvalier was born in Port-au-Prince in 1907, the son of Duval Duvalier, a justice of the peace, and baker Ulyssia Abraham. His aunt, Madame Florestal, raised him. He completed a degree in medicine from the University of Haiti in 1934, and served as staff physician at several local hospitals. He spent a year at the University of Michigan studying public health and in 1943, became active in a United States-sponsored campaign to control the spread of contagious tropical diseases, helping the poor to fight typhus, yaws, malaria and other tropical diseases that had ravaged Haiti for years. His patients affectionately called him "Papa Doc", a moniker that he used throughout his life.
The United States occupation of Haiti, which began in 1915, left a powerful impression on the young Duvalier. He was also aware of the latent political power of the poor black majority and their resentment against the tiny mulatto (black and white mixed-race) elite. Duvalier supported Pan-African ideals, and became involved in the négritude movement of Haitian author Jean Price-Mars, both of which led to his advocacy of Haitian Vodou, an ethnological study of which later paid enormous political dividends for him. In 1938, Duvalier co-founded the journal Les Griots. On 27 December 1939, he married Simone Duvalier (née Ovide), with whom he had four children: Marie‑Denise, Nicole, Simone, and Jean‑Claude.
In 1946, Duvalier aligned himself with President Dumarsais Estimé and was appointed Director General of the National Public Health Service. In 1949, he served as Minister of Health and Labor, but when Duvalier opposed Paul Magloire's 1950 coup d'état, he left the government and resumed practicing medicine. His practice included taking part in campaigns to prevent yaws and other diseases. In 1954, Duvalier abandoned medicine, hiding out in Haiti's countryside from the Magloire regime. In 1956, the Magloire government was failing, and although still in hiding, Duvalier announced his candidacy to replace him as president. By December 1956, an amnesty was issued and Duvalier emerged from hiding, and on 12 December 1956, Magloire conceded defeat.
The two frontrunners in the 1957 campaign for the presidency were Duvalier and Louis Déjoie, a landowner and industrialist from the north. During their campaigning, Haiti was ruled by five temporary administrations, none lasting longer than a few months. Duvalier promised to rebuild and renew the country and rural Haiti solidly supported him as did the military. He resorted to noiriste populism, stoking the majority Afro-Haitians' irritation at being governed by the few mulatto elite, which is how he described his opponent, Déjoie.
François Duvalier was elected president on 22 September 1957. Duvalier received 679,884 votes to Déjoie's 266,992. Even in this election, however, there are multiple first-person accounts of voter fraud and voter intimidation.
After being elected president in 1957, Duvalier exiled most of the major supporters of Déjoie. He had a new constitution adopted that year.
Duvalier promoted and installed members of the black majority in the civil service and the army. In July 1958, three exiled Haitian army officers and five American mercenaries landed in Haiti and tried to overthrow Duvalier; all were killed. Although the army and its leaders had quashed the coup attempt, the incident deepened Duvalier's distrust of the army, an important Haitian institution over which he did not have firm control. He replaced the chief-of-staff with a more reliable officer and then proceeded to create his own power base within the army by turning the Presidential Guard into an elite corps aimed at maintaining his power. After this, Duvalier dismissed the entire general staff and replaced it with officers who owed their positions, and their loyalty, to him.
In 1959, Duvalier created a rural militia, the Milice de Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (MVSN, English: Militia of National Security Volunteers)—commonly referred to as the Tonton Macoute after a Haitian Creole bogeyman—to extend and bolster support for the regime in the countryside. The Macoute, which by 1961 was twice as big as the army, never developed into a real military force but was more than just a secret police.
On 24 May 1959, Duvalier suffered a massive heart attack, possibly due to an insulin overdose; he had been a diabetic since early adulthood and also suffered from heart disease and associated circulatory problems. During the heart attack, he was comatose for nine hours. His physician believed that he had suffered neurological damage during these events, harming his mental health and perhaps explaining his subsequent actions.
In 1961, Duvalier began violating the provisions of the 1957 constitution. First, he replaced the bicameral legislature with a unicameral body. Then he called a new presidential election in which he was the sole candidate, though his term was to expire in 1963 and the constitution prohibited re-election. The election was flagrantly rigged; the official tally showed a total of 1,320,748 "yes" votes for another term for Duvalier, with none opposed. Upon hearing the results, he proclaimed, "I accept the people's will. ... As a revolutionary, I have no right to disregard the will of the people". The New York Times commented, "Latin America has witnessed many fraudulent elections throughout its history but none has been more outrageous than the one which has just taken place in Haiti". On 14 June 1964, a constitutional referendum made Duvalier "President for Life", a title previously held by seven Haitian presidents. This referendum was also blatantly rigged; an implausible 99.9% voted in favor, which should have come as no surprise since all the ballots were premarked "yes". The new document granted Duvalier—or Le Souverain, as he was called—absolute powers as well as the right to name his successor.
While recovering, Duvalier left power in the hands of Clément Barbot, leader of the Tonton Macoute. Upon his return to work, Duvalier accused Barbot of trying to supplant him as president and had him imprisoned. In April 1963, Barbot was released and began plotting to remove Duvalier from office by kidnapping his children. The plot failed and Duvalier then ordered a nationwide search for Barbot and his fellow conspirators. During the search, Duvalier was told that Barbot had transformed himself into a black dog, which prompted Duvalier to order that all black dogs in Haiti be put to death. The Tonton Macoute captured and killed Barbot in July 1963. In other incidents, Duvalier ordered the head of an executed rebel packed in ice and brought to him so he could commune with the dead man's spirit. Peepholes were carved into the walls of the interrogation chambers, through which Duvalier watched Haitian detainees being tortured and submerged in baths of sulfuric acid; sometimes, he was in the room during the torture.
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, which Duvalier later claimed resulted from a curse that he had placed on Kennedy, the U.S. eased its pressure on Duvalier, grudgingly accepting him as a bulwark against communism. Duvalier attempted to exploit tensions between the U.S. and Cuba, emphasizing his anti-communist credentials and Haiti's strategic location as a means of winning U.S. support:
Duvalier's relationship with the neighboring Dominican Republic was always tense: in his early years, Duvalier emphasized the differences between the two countries. In April 1963, relations were brought to the edge of war by the political enmity between Duvalier and Dominican president Juan Bosch. Bosch, a leftist, provided asylum and support to Haitian exiles who had plotted against the Duvalier regime. Duvalier ordered his Presidential Guard to occupy the Dominican Embassy in Pétion-Ville, with the goal of arresting a Haitian army officer believed to have been involved in Barbot's plot to kidnap Duvalier's children. The Dominican president reacted with outrage, publicly threatened to invade Haiti, and ordered army units to the border. However, as Dominican military commanders expressed little support for an invasion of Haiti, Bosch refrained from the invasion and sought mediation through the OAS.
Duvalier also held in his closet the head of former opponent Blucher Philogenes, who tried to overthrow him in 1963. He believed another political enemy, Clément Barbot, was able to change into a black dog at will and had the militia begin killing black dogs on sight in the capital.
Duvalier fostered his cult of personality and claimed that he was the physical embodiment of the island nation. He also revived the traditions of Vodou, later using them to consolidate his power with his claim of being a Vodou priest, himself. In an effort to make himself even more imposing, Duvalier deliberately modeled his image on that of Baron Samedi, one of the loa, or spirits, of Haitian Vodou. He often donned sunglasses in order to hide his eyes and talked with the strong nasal tone associated with the loa. The regime's propaganda stated that "Papa Doc was one with the loa, Jesus Christ and God himself". The most celebrated image from the time shows a standing Jesus Christ with a hand on the shoulder of a seated Papa Doc, captioned, "I have chosen him". Duvalier declared himself an "immaterial being" as well as "the Haitian flag" soon after his first election. In 1964, he published a catechism in which the Lord's Prayer was reworded to pay tribute to Duvalier instead of God.
In the name of nationalism, Duvalier expelled almost all of Haiti's foreign-born bishops, an act that earned him excommunication from the Catholic Church. In 1966, he persuaded the Holy See to allow him permission to nominate the Catholic hierarchy for Haiti. Duvalier now exercised more power in Haiti than ever.
In 1966, Duvalier hosted the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, in what would be the only visit of a foreign head of state to Haiti under Duvalier. During the visit, Duvalier awarded Haile Selassie the Necklace of the Order of Jean-Jacques Dessalines the Great, and the emperor, in turn, bestowed upon Duvalier the Great Necklace of the Order of the Queen of Sheba.
Duvalier's government was one of the most repressive in the Western Hemisphere. Within the country he murdered and exiled his opponents; estimates of those killed are as high as 60,000. Attacks on Duvalier from within the military were treated as especially serious. When bombs were detonated near the Presidential Palace in 1967, Duvalier had nineteen officers of the Presidential Guard executed in Fort Dimanche. A few days later Duvalier had a public speech during which he read the attendance sheet with names of all 19 officers killed. After each name, he said "absent". After reading the whole list, Duvalier remarked that "all were shot".
Haitian communists and even suspected communists bore the brunt of the government's repression. Duvalier targeted them as a means to secure U.S. support in addition to the principle: Duvalier was exposed to communist and leftist ideas early in his life and rejected them. On 28 April 1969, Duvalier instituted a campaign to rid Haiti of all communists. A new law declared that "Communist activities, no matter what their form, are hereby declared crimes against the security of the State." Those convicted of Communist activity were subject to execution, and faced having their property confiscated.
Alan Whicker featured Duvalier in a 1969 episode of Whicker's World, which includes an interview with the president. Made by Yorkshire Television, the documentary is deeply revealing of Duvalier's character as well as being deeply revealing of the state of Haiti in 1969.
The first authoritative book on the subject was Papa Doc: Haiti and its Dictator by Al Burt and Bernard Diederich, published in 1969, though several others by Haitian scholars and historians have appeared since Duvalier's death in 1971. One of the most informative, Patrick Lemoine's Fort‑Dimanche: Dungeon of Death, dealt specifically with victims of Fort Dimanche, the prison which Duvalier used for the torture and murder of his political opponents.
François Duvalier died of heart disease and diabetes on 21 April 1971, seven days after his 64th birthday. His 19-year-old son Jean-Claude Duvalier, nicknamed "Baby Doc", succeeded him as president.
Duvalier enraged Castro by voting against the country in an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting and subsequently at the United Nations, where a trade embargo was imposed on Cuba. Cuba answered by breaking off diplomatic relations and Duvalier subsequently instituted a campaign to rid Haiti of communists. This move severed Haitian relations with Cuba for 38 years until the two countries re-established relations in 1997.
In 2007, John Marquis wrote Papa Doc: Portrait of a Haitian Tyrant, which relied in part on records from a 1968 espionage trial in Haiti to detail numerous attempts on Duvalier's life. The trial's defendant, David Knox, was a Bahamian director of information. Knox lost and was sentenced to death, but he was later granted amnesty.
Currently, Francois Duvalier is 115 years, 5 months and 12 days old. Francois Duvalier will celebrate 116th birthday on a Friday 14th of April 2023.
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