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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
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Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.
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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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Automotive Section
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