How evil was evil incarnate in a country where mysticism is so well entrenched? Papa Doc used voodoo to control an issue.
He sacrificed not only my family, but my wife, children, babies, mothers, grandmothers. It was a deliberate massacre. I had no idea that there were two sides to this man. I mean, he really fooled us all. Oh, God, we had no idea what it was going to be like, but it was murder.
In 1945, a young American trained doctor touches down on the tarmac, his home.
Haiti is where he was born and bred. His name is Francois Duvalier. You become better known by his nickname Papa Doc. You'll become the bloodiest dictator the country has ever seen and a constant thorn in the side of the United States and its allies.
It was a brutal dictatorship, there's no doubt about that. It was not just an authoritarian regime. It was a capricious dictatorship. You did not need to be in the position to be killed. Torture was pervasive. There were public executions, public hangings. Sometimes their bodies would be left in the street for days to decompose so that people would see what opposition entailed. There's always been an association in Haiti between voodoo and power. Both Haitians believe to this day that to have become president in the first place, you must have made some kind of pact with the devil or with a dark side of voodoo and Haitians.
So you can serve with a right hand. We can serve with the left hand. If you serve with the right hand, does using voodoo for good. If you serve with the left hand, that's it. For sinister purposes.
He was referred to as Papa Doc primarily because he was seen, first of all, as a paternal figure, but also as an effective doctor. And it's interesting that he came to view the Haitian people themselves as essentially children and he saw himself as their papa doc, in other words, their medical man and also their father, their national father. And he was once quoted as saying, the Haitian people are born to suffer. And unfortunately, that's proved to be the case and they've suffered greatly.
My name is Paul McGann and welcome to Real Dictators, the series that explores the hidden lives of tyrants such as Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao and Kim Jong Il. You'll be right there in their meeting rooms and private quarters on the battlefields and in their bunkers, up close and personal with some of history's most evil leaders watching on as they make the decisions that shape the world as we know it. We'll take you behind the curtain, beyond the propaganda and the mythmaking to hear the real stories of their totalitarian regimes.
In this episode, we travel to the tropical Caribbean nation of Haiti to tell the story of the man of medicine who convinced his people that he was a voodoo God. This is real dictators. Just a few hundred miles south of Florida, across the Caribbean Sea, lies Haiti in the capital city of Port au Prince. Two children are shown into the back of a car by their chauffeur. It's a peaceful spring day like any other April the 26th, 1963.
Accompanying the children are two tall stokeley built men, their eyes concealed behind aviator sunglasses as bodyguards. They must remain vigilant. But what they fail to recognize is that a lone sniper as the group in his crosshairs, a crack rings through the air. The chauffeur collapses dead, bleeding onto the sand that coats the road, another crack. One of the bodyguards has hit the other guards, throws himself into the front seat and hits the accelerator, driving the children to safety.
1000 meters from the seafront, Haiti's national palace looms over the bay, twice the size of the White House, its vast domes sit framed against a mountain range. One day, this palace will be leveled by a cataclysmic earthquake. But right now, in 1963, it seems indestructible, as does the man who lives here inside the building. At the end of a long corridor, the president's office, an arched high ceiling and Long Bay windows. A shiny mahogany desk on it, a crystal vase full of imported flowers, an inkwell, a pen, a rotary dial telephone and a 45 caliber handgun just within reach, the president sits at his desk.
Duvalier is a black man of African descent with short, graying hair and dark, emotionless eyes. They peer through a pair of square thick lensed glasses on Duvalier's head is perched. His trademark homburg felt hat clean shaven, is immaculately turned out in a tailored suit, white shirt and bow tie. His cufflinks clink on the wooden desk, hands shaking with anger because the man they call Papa Doc has just received the news that someone has attempted to kidnap his children.
Andrew Leak is a professor at University College London and an expert on Haitian history. Duvalier's children were almost kidnapped. Now their God and their driver were killed, were shot in an ambush. It absolutely outraged. Duvalier unsentimental, overjoyed.
Duvalier has a vice like grip over the island nation of Haiti. His mind is consumed with finding and punishing the perpetrator.
And he personally decided that because of the marksmanship that would have been required to pick off the driver and the guard, it must have been a top marksman who had carried out the attack. So he said, who are the best marksmen in the Haitian army? And his aides gave him the names. And one of those names was Benwell. Duvalier is convinced that a former Army officer, an elite sniper, confronts what Bengoa is behind the attack. Benowa is a known critic of Duvalier's regime.
He's part of a group of army officers that the president is certain are trying to topple him blind with anger, Papa Doc summons the head of his palace guard. He demands the perpetrator be brought to justice at the barrel of a gun. In reality, Benmore has nothing to do with the attempted abduction of the president's children, the failed kidnapping was actually the brainchild of an entirely different military clique. But Papa Doc doesn't operate based on facts. He rules on instinct, fomenting chaos.
He's wracked with paranoia. If Benway isn't responsible, that hardly matters anyway. Teaching him a lesson will warn of other plotters. Ben was about to discover this first hand in the most gruesome possible way, hearing that the president is after him, Ben, while hunkered down in the Dominican embassy, Wyatt remembers the events as they unfolded.
So the event started at eight o'clock on April 26, 1963. At that time had already been granted political asylum, the American embassy. The next morning, when those events took place, Disvalue said his henchmen to the embassy and entered penetrated the grounds of the embassy and searched every single room of that embassy in trying to find me by sending troops into a foreign embassy, Duvalier has thrown diplomatic protocol out of the window as the president's men stormed the building.
Francois Benwell managed to slip out of the compound before he could be arrested. From there, he's taken to the house of the Dominican ambassador. Here, Benowa is personally safe from Duvalier's goons, but his family, including his father, a retired judge and his wife and infant son, remain in harm's way.
Bernard Diederik was a journalist and Time magazine bureau chief and author of the book Haiti and Its Dictator. Back in 1963, he's editor of The Haiti Sun newspaper. He heads to the Ben was house to Judge Benowa and his wife had just come back from church. They were at the house with the baby and with the maid and with the visitors. I saw the truck full of presidential guard and they went right before the house and the anybody in the vicinity was in trouble.
The presidential guard stormed into the grounds of the Benwell abode. They kicked down the doors inside. Rapid gunfire rings out. It's a massacre. Everyone inside the house is killed and then the house is set ablaze, watching on Diedrich is shell shocked. The couple came forward to the door and the machine gun for the machine gunned them. Then they set fire to the place. It was a terrible day. Benwell himself is nowhere to be seen. It hardly matters to Duvalier's men.
Andrew Leak, it doesn't stop them from killing everybody in the house, the family that are there, including a baby who was reportedly burned to death in its cause, they burned down that house. They burned down the house next door. They went on a killing spree. They killed everyone they could lay their hands on. At one point, a black dog emerges from this conflagration and takes flight family pet. In most societies, the sight of a scurrying dog would be unremarkable, but in local Haitian mythology, the black dog carries profound significance in Haiti.
There's a kind of folkloric belief in things called look level. It's the French word for a werewolf, but they're not werewolves, shapeshifters. So it's people that can transform themselves into different animals and fly around at night and do mischief. It's decided that this black dog was, in fact, Banwell. Whether or not, again, this is true, whether it was myth, urban myth, you know, there was a couple of black dogs ghadar moment from the attempted bungled kidnap of the children.
That was the period an unleashing of a great deal of violence. 1960 was probably the culmination of public violence. The Duvalier regime. Duvalier has annihilated Benmont family, but the bloodbath doesn't stop there. Over the next few hours, hundreds of people across Haiti are murdered or disappeared. The violence isn't targeted. It's a demonic free for all. It sends the message that if anyone tries to take out the president, the whole of Haiti will be punished. Roadblocks are set up.
Death squads roam freely through the streets. Corpses are left to rot on the roadsides. The stench fills the nostrils of the locals for weeks to come. Raymond Joseph is the former Haitian ambassador to the USA, for years he campaigned against Duvalier, he ran for president in 2010 and now runs a Haitian newspaper out of Brooklyn, New York. He also happens to be the uncle of rapper Wyclef Jean.
Back in April 1963, in the chaos, rumors start to spread that Ben was infant son, actually survived the blaze and has been taken to devalue himself. Duvalier's son in law was seen coming out with that boy, little boy, about two years old, and they took him to the rally. And Duvalier is said to have closeted himself with the boy to query him about what he knew about his father. Nobody knows till this day what happened to François.
Ben was a little boy. Some people said he was sacrificed by Duvalier. Other people said they don't know. Sheltered at the Dominican ambassador's residence, the awful news is delivered to the boy's father. Emotionally, that was a very, very big, big blow to me. I think I tried to regain control of my emotions and I was very calm and I would not either cry or complain. Anybody who was close to me, anybody who was associated with me was either arrested or killed.
He sacrificed the people whom for any reason he suspected of not being lawful or faithful to him. He would in the blink of an eye and just send them to death. That was his way of creating fear amongst the whole population. He sacrificed not only my family, but my wife's family, shot children, babies, mothers, grandmothers. It was a deliberate massacre. Benowa is under no doubt as to the character of the man who would do this.
A man who seemingly random violence is, in fact, calculated to inspire the utmost fear in his people.
Well, if you talk to a psychologist, they would classify him as a psychopath. When somebody is so turned to evil, somebody is so respectful of human rights, of human life. When somebody enjoys inflicting pain and suffering to other people and enjoying it, apparently something is wrong with that personality, that personality. So was he crazy? No. But was he evil? The answer is yes.
So who is the man they call Papa Doc? And how did he rise to this position of terrible supremacy? Let's find out. Francois Duvalier is born into a modest middle class Haitian family in 1907, the beautiful Caribbean state of Haiti occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola. Back in the seventeen hundreds, it was called Santo Domingo and belong to the French. John Markee is author of Papa Doc Portrait of a Haitian Tyrant. Hispaniola was, of course, the most prosperous colony in the world at the time, turning out a huge number of crops which were keeping the perfumed elite in Paris.
Very well fed indeed.
But in 1791, the slaves of Haiti rose up in revolution against the French colonial system. Under the leadership of Tucson, Louverture and Jean-Jacques Desalegn, they fought against all the odds to liberate their country. You had a situation where the French were determined to hold onto this colony at all costs, but where the the slaves quite rightly felt that they were not sharing in the revolutionary ideals which had been set down in 1789 during the French Revolution. And it's interesting that the fraternity and the quality that was very much part and parcel of the French Revolution was never intended to extend to the slaves because, of course, the slaves were the bedrock of the colonial economy.
In 1884, the slave to San Domingo finally won their independence and the nation of Haiti was born. They actually expelled the French army when it was at its height. This was an absolutely incredible situation because they pretty well set the land on fire and defeated the French army. France was a highly significant power at the time, and yet the Haitian slaves rose up and defeated them, expelled them.
So it ain't no force. Sunderman changed its name to Haiti and became the first free black Republican who voted only the second republic in the new world.
Of course, in Western Hemisphere, America being the first, Haiti became the first slave colony to win independence. From its inception, Haiti was a beacon of progress and possibility for civil rights activists in America.
It's a very proud nation because, of course, it was the first slave republic. And of course, this became a signature event for later movement, civil rights movement, for instance. I mean, Toussaint Louverture was cited all the time as being one of the original heroes. I mean, even people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, referred repeatedly back to the Haitian revolution as being a kind of an ideal. And it was it was a fantastic achievement by people who had come from extremely humble backgrounds.
But despite the real optimism, this fledgling nation was not without its own internal divisions. The divisions that were present when Haiti became independent in 1884 were crucial. So you had two, essentially three sections of Haitian society that were important. You had the record in Haiti, the mulattoes, the case of the light skinned elites. So they were the most educated sector of the population. They spoke French, which was really important. Then you had the generals from this successful slave owners.
There were a lot of generals in that army then. They were rewarded during the revolution and also after 1894 with land. Those are the groups with power. And then you had the mass of the population. So 95 percent of the population, 90 percent of the population upwards. You were peasants. The president wanted nothing to do, nothing more than just be peasants and become subsistence farmers. And that didn't fit in with the economic plans of the new elites because they needed to earn foreign currency.
Therefore, they need to convert the economy into an export economy. And to do that, the best way is to reinstate plantations. So large scale farming of one sort or another land to the peasants then look too much like slavery under another name if they were forced back by successive leaders after the fall onto these lands, despite these profound rifts at is unified by its independence and its escape from colonial rule. It's into this country that Francois Duvalier, the future voodoo tyrant, is born.
But when Duvalier is just eight years old, Haiti loses its treasured autonomy. In July 1915, with the First World War underway, the United States occupied the country, there are rumors Germany is eyeing up the Caribbean as a potential sphere of influence. America is making sure to get in there first for black Haitians like the value. This is a catastrophe. James Ferguson is author of the book Papa Doc Baby Doc, well, Duvalier would have been, I think, about eight years old when the Marines arrived in Poland, has the occupation was surprisingly severe, harsh, profoundly racist.
The American occupying forces immediately allied themselves with the very small, prosperous, pale skin elite that ran Haiti at that point. But for the majority black Haitians, the occupation was very unpleasant indeed. They were taxed. They were made to do unpaid labor. They were routinely abused. But psychologically and culturally, I think that's where the impact was. But they felt that this was an alien, racist occupying force. Duvalier, as an aspiring intellectual, was profoundly affected by this and what he saw as the authentic Haiti with being crushed, colonized and humiliated.
For the young Duvalier, there's lack of respect for the Haitian people, fosters a hatred of the United States and all it stands for. In years to come, Duvalier will delight in tormenting successive US administrations. His hatred for the American way of life is born right here.
In the years under the US occupation, he grew up in a very cultured, articulate, black, middle class environment in poor Prince. And this is precisely the class and the group that felt most aggrieved by the American occupation.
Its long occupation is nearly 20 years. The Marines were very present, especially in protest in the capital where Duvalier was was growing up. They rule the roost and their contempt wasn't veiled in in any way. If you're if you're growing up in Port-Au-Prince under a white occupation, then, you know, you're going to get certain of your prejudices are going to be confirmed, shall we say. At the very least, we said that the Marines that that were chosen of the occupying force were chosen specifically from the southern states of the USA to be as racist as possible.
But I don't think they were necessarily any more racist than your average Marine in 1915. And that was that was really important because the group, the social group that dominated Haiti at that time were the light skinned elite, the mulattoes. And they thought when the Americans arrived that they'd be in a privileged position vis a vis the Americans because they were lighter skinned, because they were less barbaric, as they like to put it, than their black compatriots did for the Marines.
They were just as black. And that was a big blow to their prestige. And it was the first time, really, that the other than the rest of the Haitians saw the mulattos dealt such a blow to their prestige, to their pride, to their arrogance and the rest of it.
Finally, in 1934, the US military leaves Haiti and the country becomes independent once again. 1934 is also the year in which the young Disvalue completes his degree in medicine. He begins a promising career as a doctor serving the people of Port au Prince.
Becoming a doctor in Haiti is actually quite a big thing. You have to realize that the term intellectual in Haiti often refers to anybody who can read already to. To have an education of any kind is a huge thing in Haiti, and it's even more so at that period than that now. But to become a doctor, to be here to one of the professions, doctor, lawyer, essentially you had it made because of the prestige that accrues to it even more than than the money that you might earn from practicing the profession.
Education was and still is a lottery in Haiti who gets education? And he doesn't say it was a big thing. But the very real passion, a legacy of the US occupation is black nationalist politics. He throws himself into a movement called noir ism. Essentially what dualism was was the reaffirmation with pride of the African roots, the racial origins of the Haitian people, where African anarchism really took off after the end of the American occupation in 1934, reaffirming African tea, if you like, the dignity of the African roots and disvalue himself, like probably most young, educated blacks of that period, that was the thing to be this a politically where it was that it was a reaffirmation of your own class, of your own people.
Duvalier is fascinated by his and Haiti's African heritage. When slaves were shipped in their millions from Africa to the New World, they brought with them cultural practices and spiritual beliefs from their homelands. Some of these beliefs fell by the wayside on a long crossing. Others survived. Those fragments of home that made it to the plantations, changed ancient African religion, fused with Christianity and with the beliefs of the indigenous populations of the Caribbean. They morphed into what is called Creole.
As a young doctor, Francois Duvalier is fascinated by Haiti's own Creole religion. Voodoo. John Maki Voodoo is a belief system which does have a central God, but is heavily based on the spiritual life, and it's the spirits that are really the motivating force within the voodoo belief system. And it's said that in Haiti, the French brought Catholicism, of course, and there was an element of Protestants there as well. And people say that Haiti is 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, but 100 percent voodoo.
So even those who go to the cathedral and practice in the conventional sense, still have strong beliefs in the whole business of voodoo. So you've got varieties of voodoo across the Caribbean and the differences between these kinds of voodoo or to do with where the people originally came from in Africa. But he didn't come as a piece from Africa. It was adopted when he got from Europe. That's why he's referred to as a Creole religion, because he was born in the new world.
Voodoo was obviously something that was deeply entrenched in the African civilization, and it was transported across the Atlantic Ocean on the slave ships in Haiti, probably because of the social and political circumstances in Haiti. Voodoo retained its power, if you like, much more than it did elsewhere in the Caribbean.
At its heart, voodoo belief has a single creator deity called Bongsoo. The word comes from the French for good God. Bundu is all powerful but does not get involved with this world as a human being. You can't communicate with Bundu. Instead, powerful demigods and spirits called lower interact with humanity on bonders behalf. It's these lower at voodoo worshippers pray to former U.S. Ambassador to the United States Raymond Joseph explains.
Noir's the spirits of the gods that the Haitians pray to, just as a Catholic would pray to a saint that has passed on from generation to generation still exists in Haiti. The superstitions that go with voodoo is very strong. It is strong even among some intellectuals. It is strong even among some officials.
So you've got the Africans coming over from Africa, brought over as slaves with their religion and with their folklore, with their gods, and prevented on the plantations from worshiping openly those gods. However, they were often forced into conversion to Catholicism. So what you deal with in voodoo are the intermediaries. And these intermediaries, the voodoo spirits or semi divinities are called Loha, and there are hundreds of even thousands of them. It must have seemed to the slaves that the Catholic saints were something rather similar.
So you go to a Catholic church, you see the iconography of Saint Christopher's. And Patrick in their mind is these are sort of semi divinities as well. The very often when they were prevented from practicing their own religion, they would outwardly be worshipping one or the Saints. But that saint secretly for them was one of their lewa. So for each of the lewa, there's a corresponding Catholic saint. For example, there's a snake Le Cordon Bleu in voodoo, and he's represented to St.
Patrick because of the iconography of St. Patrick casting snakes out of Ireland. So it was a we could call a syncretic religion.
It took a different belief systems and melded them into something new and a Creole religion. Fresh from medical school, Duvalier studies voodoo rituals, he gains a better understanding of how the religion dominates the lives of his country folk, especially in the rural interior. On an island where many people cannot read or write and scientific knowledge is confined to universities and elite institutions, magic and superstition are powerful forces indeed. On one hand, Duvalier is fascinated by Haiti's mystical, spiritual past.
On the other is a man of science engaged in medicine and politics. These two halves to his character, the mystical and the modern, might seem opposed, but in the heat of the 1940s, there is no contradiction here. On the contrary. There's always been an association in Haiti between voodoo and power. Most Haitians believe to this day that to have become president in the first place, you must have made some kind of pact with the devil or with a dark side of voodoo.
Voodoo itself is morally neutral. And Haitians say you can serve with a right hand. We can serve with the left hand. If you serve with the right hand, that's using voodoo for good. If you serve with the left hand, that's using it for sinister purposes.
Duvalier's fascination with voodoo is growing and will continue to grow as he ascends to the pinnacle of power in 1944.
Duvalier leaves Haiti for the United States. He wins a scholarship to study public health medicine at the University of Michigan. There's little hint of his tyrannical future as the dictator Debbie spends a year in Ann Arbor mixing with other postgraduate students, his time in the US puts Duvalier into a position of extreme privilege. When he returns home to Haiti, he has a head full of knowledge as well as medical skills that are far beyond the comprehension of many of his countrymen and women, his American studies also set him up with a job that will ultimately lead him into the world of politics.
Duvalier is appointed the head of a US sponsored public health program, bringing modern medicine to the Haitian peasants. Thousands of rural Haitians are suffering from a crippling skin disease called yours, it's a chronic bacterial infection that manifest in painful lesions all over the body. Untreated, it leads to permanent disability and disfigurement in the developed world. It's pretty straightforward to treat, but you need antibiotics.
Yours was a disease of the skin. It was really contagious and was throughout the country. People were suffering from it. And Papa Doc came in and says, I'm going to send that.
And using penicillin, he changed the disvalue travels from village to village. This well turned out young man bearing miraculous cures. It's a striking image, an inspiring one. It was a devastating disease that took its toll on the rural people in particular, and it was a life threatening disease and I think also deforming disease. So it was one that needed to be tackled because it was taking a heavy toll in the rural communities. And the valley actually set out walking great distances on foot because a lot of these people lived in mountainous regions where there were there was no road to get to them.
So he had to walk over rough tracks and through forests. He had to subject himself to hardship to actually deliver his medical expertise to these people. Disvalue becomes widely known as he tours the island, bringing his penicillin cure to the remotest parts of Haiti. Rates of infection from yours begin to decline. It's win win.
James Ferguson, I think the campaign introduced you who you must remember was a poor class. He was an urban intellectual, really from fairly modest background, but he was certainly an urban Haitian, introduced him to the reality of the Haitian countryside, which for him was a complete out in the Haitian countryside. Life was entirely different. And in treating people with yours, this very unpleasant but highly treatable tropical disease, he not only established a reputation as a kind man, a good man, a man who could literally come into the community and make people well.
But he was also introduced himself to the everyday life as the Haitian peasants, and that included voodoo. It included the poverty, the extreme poverty in which they lived, and it included a real understanding of their political culture.
Now, whether or not he did this out of humanity or out of pure benevolence is another matter. No mean he was getting paid for this and it was, you know, contact with the Americans was also a good thing to have. It certainly was extremely useful to him in the future. In the course of the medical campaign, not only did he meet a whole series of village elders, important local power brokers, but he learned something about the mentality, I think, of the Haitian majority, which is very different from the mentality of the minority who lived in the capital to the largely illiterate population steeped in magical superstitions with no knowledge of bacteria and antibiotics.
Papa Doc isn't curing them of medicine alone. Many believe he must have mysterious voodoo abilities.
It's a little God that has come into their community because they see that his medicine heals and heals quickly.
The people couldn't believe it was just the medicine doing it. They believe that Papa Doc had a special power in his. Devalued national medicine, too, is a transformative moment, he realizes that he can use his newly earned reputation as a doctor to pursue a much larger long term ambition for total political power is efforts in the countryside.
And his effectiveness as a doctor did contribute to the aura that he eventually created for himself. He was referred to as Papa Doc primarily because he was seen, first of all, as a paternal figure, but also as an effective doctor. And it's interesting that he came to view the Haitian people themselves as essentially children, and he saw himself as their papa doc, in other words, their medical man and also their father, their national father. And he was once quoted as saying, the Haitian people are born to suffer.
And unfortunately, that's proved to be the case and they've suffered greatly.
It's time to fully focus his energies on politics.
In 1946, Papa Doc begins to climb the political ladder in Port-Au-Prince, charismatic, sharp and with an inspiring backstory. It's not long before he becomes minister for health under a and worst president doomsday estimate. At this stage, Papa Doc still seems to be a force for good. But the cracks are beginning to show in his kindly public image, one of the really interesting things about Papa Doc is how this transformation took place from the seemingly benign country doctor into the rampaging dictator he ultimately became.
The first sign of it was when he was giving a public speech and he started yelling racist abuse at the mulattos. His jacket was hitched up on one side and there was a revolver in his belt, which was the first indicator that I'm aware of, that the benign father figure was not all, but he seemed to be his hell, raising speeches, castigating the light skinned elite.
See Duvalier go. The real momentum of Haitian politics is pretty turbulent and you can't take anything for granted. Just four years later, the army overthrows President Estimate's regime, forcing Papa Doc out of political office. For now, you'll have to watch from the sidelines. Duvalier goes into hiding. He takes the opportunity to study political writings from Marx to Machiavelli.
He took this time to study the great masters and the great masters. For him was Machiavelli, was Karl Marx, was Mao Zedong in reading Machiavelli Papadopoulou. And one thing he said in politics, gratefulness is weakness is better to be feared than to be laughed.
In 1956, Duvalier's enemies in the government are themselves overthrown by the army. Now Haiti is on the brink of civil war. An interim government struggles to maintain law and order. There's only one thing for it. Amidst the chaos, elections for president are called. Duvalier knows this is a golden opportunity to make his name. The young doctor emerges from hiding. He wants to throw his fur felt hat in the ring in a way that gets him maximum publicity.
So one day he turns up at the newspaper office of journalist and editor Bernard Dietrick.
He arrived in my office and then I'll be OK, he said to me. I took him into my office and he kept his hat on. He told me he liked my newspaper. And then he said, Could I ask you a question? I said, What? I have a lot of questions.
Can I interview you to know this is just to announce my candidacy, not forthcoming election in Dietrich's office, Disvalue announces he will be standing as a champion of the impoverished black majority. At this stage, Papa Doc is an opportunist keen to advance himself, but he also believes he can turn the country around.
I think the valley became corrupted by power. I think he went in as the quietly spoken country doctor who had done good things for the people of Haiti in the past. And he probably was an idealist and he probably felt that he could do good things in power. For years, Haiti has been governed by a tiny minority of career politicians, they tend to be drawn from the country's mixed race professional class.
On his medical tours around the island nation, Papa Doc has grasped that there's a lot of resentment out there. People want change. He's a relative novice when it comes to politics. But Papa Doc has a gripping election message and a voter shift that he's ready to mobilize.
Papa Doc from the underground came out and he led the fight for power.
He made it a fight of black versus mulatto in a country where 90 percent of the people are black.
My dad was a shoe in on September the 22nd, 1957. Francois Duvalier wins a landslide victory. Across Haiti, Papa Doc has won the endorsement of influential voodoo priests, they even allowed their temples to be used as party offices during the campaign. Now, these priests are invited to Port au Prince to celebrate victory. There are high hopes for this good doctor. He's turning over a fresh page of Haitian history, but in fact, this is the beginning of decades of dictatorship.
Certainly, they knew the meek persona that he presented during the run up to the 1957 election was certainly a facade. He was a very carefully prepared facade. It was designed to lull the opposition into a state of false security. He didn't want to put anybody back up and he certainly didn't want to give the idea an inkling of what kind of person he could be when he achieved power. He knew that the army didn't want a strongman as president. They wanted somebody they could manipulate to retain their own hold on power.
So I think that was very much a facade, very much a projection at the time. Duvalier's facade works a treat. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as Bernard Diedrich appreciates decades on from covering the election. As a reporter, I had no idea that there were two sides to this man.
I mean, he really fooled us all. If all the army, you some of his partisans who ran his election for him. Oh, God, we had no idea what it was going to be like, but it was murder. On October the 22nd, 1957, devaluate takes his seat as president of Haiti. In just a few short years, his climb to the top of the tree, but he knows that his is by no means a secure position.
Haiti is an unpredictable country with politics that are frequently explosive. Public unrest can erupt at any time, bringing leaders down in a pile of rubble between 1943 and 1915. There were 22 heads of state of Haiti. Only one of them completed his full term in office. Going right back, even the hero of the Haitian revolution, General Jean-Jacques Desalegn, met an unspeakable, hideous fate. John Moqui even displayed himself after two or three years in power, was actually dismembered in the streets of Port au Prince and fed to the pigs.
Another one was impaled on the palace railings. You know, the Haitians don't mess about when they when they become rebellious. And so Duvalier was faced with this reality, this appalling actuality. You know, how would he cope with the Haitian people on the way to cope with the Haitian people was to be absolutely ruthless and to leave them in no doubt at all who was in control. And he did that very, very effectively.
When Duvalier was four years old, the revolution ousted the sitting president. The next year, the new president was blown to bits by a bomb, the year after that, the next man in charge was poisoned. Papa Doc has done his research. He's determined to be the leader who last it's time to put his theory of power taken from the works of Machiavelli into practice. There's no time to lose was very quick.
The transition from bumbling country doctor to ruthless dictator. He must obviously have been planning the whole time how to keep himself in power by neutralizing the influence of the armed forces. But he moves so quickly, I think that they were almost surprised.
Real power in Haiti has always lain with the army. Elected leaders come and go. A cabal of generals is always waiting to pull the trigger and seize power in a coup. It's happened time and again, not least to the country's last two leaders. On Duvalier's list of obvious threats, the army comes top almost immediately that he gets elected.
The first thing he does is to purge the army. So those officers, again, officers that had helped him find themselves exiled to some godforsaken hole in the middle of nowhere or arrested or threatened. That was the start of the way that he was going to operate throughout his presidency to have successive and unpredictable purges of those who thought they were secure. He thought they were in his favor, but absolutely weren't. So he knew that the army was the kingmakers and he needed to make sure that the people in the key positions in the Army were his appointees.
But even those appointees didn't last very long. So there was a very quick turnover in the top ranks of the of the army in Haiti. He kept people constantly off balance. That was his tactic. The top officers are sacked for now, at least they get away with their lives. Papa Doc has fired a warning shot across the bow is of anyone who'd cross him. Despite this show of strength, there are still some army officers who haven't got the memo.
They still believe that if it comes to it, they'll be able to remove Papa Doc from power, their naivety is about to become painfully clear.
Next time on Real Dictators, a band of exiled soldiers attempts to topple the president just months into his rule, Duvalier grapples with US President Kennedy as state sponsored violence erupts across the picturesque Caribbean island.
Papito builds a vast private army inspired by a terrifying bogeyman from Haitian mythology and in the eyes of his cowed and brutalized people, the dictator begins to turn from political strongmen into all powerful voodoo God. That's next time on real dictators.
Real dictators is presented by me form again. The show was created by Pascal, who's produced by Joel de Down, edited by James Tindale and Katrina Hughes. The music was composed or assembled by Oliver Baines from Flight Brigade. The strings were recorded by Doree McCallie, the sound mixer is Tom Pink, the sound recordist is Robbie Stamm. Real Dictators is a noisy and world media writes co-production. If you haven't already, we'd love you to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite shows or check us out at Real Dictators Dotcom.