The Duvalier Dictatorship
The catastrophe: After a period of instability in the mid-20th century following a bloody war with the Dominican Republic and the temporary U.S. military occupation of the island, Haiti had a glimmer of hope when François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, a popular health minister, was elected president (in a military-rigged election). But Duvalier was not exactly the humanitarian ruler Haitians had hoped for. Duvalier quickly set about consolidating his power over the state and security services, enriching himself and his cronies through bribery and extortion, and building his own personality cult. He lined his coffers with millions in U.S. aid money during his early years in power. An estimated 30,000 Haitians were killed during Duvalier's reign of terror and many more fled into exile.
After his death in 1971, he was succeeded by his 19-year-old son Jean-Claude, known as "Baby Doc." After continuing his father's policies of repression and corruption, Baby Doc finally abdicated and fled the country under pressure from the Reagan administration in 1986. But the Duvalier dynasty left Haiti with a legacy of corruption and poverty from which it has never recovered.