Haiti: A Destiny to Suffer

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Like any other voodoo mystic, Haitian Dictator François ("Papa Doc") Duvalier has his good-luck day: the 22nd. He was elected "President" on Sept. 22, 1957, inaugurated Oct. 22, then installed as "President for Life" on June 22, 1964. Some Haitians even credit his occult powers with the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, a longtime foe. But last Jan. 22, Duvalier's luck suddenly seemed to turn when one of his two DC-3s crashed on Haiti's southern peninsula, crippling his rickety little air force. Haitians hopefully spread the word that Duvalier might be in trouble with the spirits. Last week, however, he was still on top of his miserable land.

Terror & Submission. In eight ruthless years, Duvalier has terrorized his 4,500,000 people into numb submission. Life expectancy is 32.6 years. Per-capita income is $70 a year. Population density is the highest in the hemisphere. Illiteracy runs 90%. "Haitians," Duvalier says quietly, "have a destiny to suffer." Duvalier's 5,000-man Tonton Macoute (Creole for bogeymen) roam the country, soaking up blood money from businessmen, torturing and murdering suspected anti-Duvalieristes—sometimes even slaughtering whole families. Early this year, one mutilated corpse lay a whole day in the Port-au-Prince sun, as a grim lesson to Haitians.

Fully half of Haiti's $28 million yearly budget goes into the pockets of Papa Doc, his Tonton Macoute, and other loyal supporters. The other half goes to government operations, which have all but shut down. Phone service is nearly dead. Lights wink on and off fitfully. Main waterfront roads are pot-holed or sometimes buried in six inches of muddy ooze. Business is grinding to a halt in the same way—partly owing to stiff taxes and partly to the emergence of a new, uneducated and sadly unprepared black elite that is replacing the bright, well-trained mulattoes who long ran Haiti's commercial life.

To help lure back some of the country's moneywise mulattoes—as well as other investors and tourists—Papa Doc called a rare press conference last month in his palace in Port-au-Prince. "It is urgent," he said, "for every Haitian—wherever he is—to come home and work with the President and Cabinet and with every foreign investor that Haiti needs for its development. The Haitian soil belongs to every Haitian." The "explosive stage" of his revolution was over, Papa Doc promised, and now Haiti was entering the more humane "administrative stage."

And sure enough, last week both soldiers and Tonton Macoute were indeed less visible in Port-au-Prince. Cars traveling through the city were not stopped and searched. What's more, Papa Doc had even expressed an interest in visiting Argentina next August—a rare risk for any dictator afraid of losing his job.

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