From the Archive, 3 May 1963: Haiti’s Papa Doc Makes US nervous

Francois Duvalier

On May 3, 2013, the UK’s The Guardian picked an article from May 3, 1963: “Haiti’s Papa Doc makes US nervous.” The article highlights the violence by the Haitian president’s private army, the Tonton Macoutes, which made the US consider evacuating its nationals:

A United States naval force still stands at alert in international waters off Haiti, ready to evacuate the 1,500 American there if the situation deteriorates further. The force includes an aircraft carrier and Marines. Its strength has given rise to speculation that it might also intervene more directly if the reign of terror, which President Duvalier is intensifying, spreads further.

Haiti has clamped down a heavy press censorship and correspondents are having to go to the Dominican Republic before sending their reports. But all accounts speak of terror, arson and murder on a growing scale, instigated by President Duvalier’s private army, the merciless Tonton Macoutes (“Bogeymen”).

Relatives of some of the Haitians who have fled to Latin American embassies in Port au Prince have been killed or had their homes burned down. What is more, it appears that President Duvalier has gone back on his word to give safe passage out of the country to the refugees in the embassies. He is apparently willing to let only 17 of the 22 in the Dominican Embassy leave, and has also told the other embassies that he would allow all those whom they are harbouring to leave. He is apparently trying to prevent departure of the army officers among them, whom he considers the most dangerous threat to his regime.

President Duvalier is also flatly refusing to comply with the Dominican demand to extradite members of the Trujillo family, and is indeed rumoured to be inviting other relatives of Dominica’s former dictator to join him in Haiti. The leader of a Haiti refugee group in Dominican Republic has predicted that mass rebellion in Haiti will break out within a week but experts are still convinced that outside help will be essential to overwhelm President Duvalier’s militia.

All the indications are that the Organization of American States (OAS), with the Dominican Republic in the lead, will not hesitate long to give assistance – though the US would actively step in only if it became absolutely essential.

[In the photo above, Haitian dictator François Duvalier is shown carrying a gun as he rides through Port-au-Prince. (Michael Rougier/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image)]

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