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The War Nerd March 4, 2004
 
Haiti 2: the Rerun
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 3
 
Duvalier wasn't just woofing, though. He took two classic power-consolidating steps -- so any of you wannabe-dictators out there, get your Palm Pilots out and take notes. First, he set up a Presidential Guard, separate from the Army and packed it with his own men. Second, he started a second armed force, a counterweight to the army. Think Saddam's Republican Guard, Khomeini's Islamic Revolutionary Guard/Pasdaran, or Maoist Red Guard.

Duvalier's group was just as ruthless as any, but a lot more colorful, no pun intended. He'd done his homework in Haitian voodoo stories, and he organized a gang he called the "Tontons Makouts," which means "bogeyman." The Makouts fanned out through the cane fields, became something between a protection racket, a voodoo cult, and a Duvalier private army. They were the coolest, scariest thing to hit rural Haiti since...since ever. I mean, there weren't too many exciting career options out there: cut cane all day in the heat, come home to a one-room shed, catch a simple cold and die for lack of medicine. You can see why getting to be a voodoo disciple/ninja assassin kind of had appeal.

The Makouts kept the countryside terrified, and the Presidential guard rode herd on Port-au-Prince. And "Papa Doc" ruled over all of it, smiling for the cameras and killing anybody who even looked cross-eyed at him. He did away with at least 30,000 people -- and the peasants still loved him.

They gave him the ultimate compliment any dictator can get: he died in power. And the system he'd set up was so strong that even his idiot fat son, Jean-Claude, managed to survive in power for 15 years. He'd've died in office too, but he was so stupid he married a snotty mulatto girl the peasants hated, then spent $3 million on the wedding while sugar prices were falling through the dirt floor.

In 1986, it finally boiled over. A rising started, in...guess which city? Right: Gonaives. It spread south, right on cue. The Americans urged the President to leave...He fled the country...and a new regime came in, proud as punch, promising to "rid Haiti of corruption."

See what I mean? You don't need to write a new Haiti news story. Just take the old ones and change the dates.

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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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