A Short Explanation on Baby Doc’s Downfall

Introduction
After ruling for 14 years, Francois Duvalier, the tyrannical dictator of Haiti, was succeeded by his son Jean-Claude Duvalier. The latter continued with the same authoritarian politics, but his regime fell in 1986. Many people argue that this breakdown was due to the US’s lower preoccupation about Communism at the end of the Cold War; thus, the American government forced him to resign by freezing his aid in 1986. This argument cannot solely explain Baby Doc’s downfall. Papa Doc’s aid was also frozen under Kennedy; however, he succeeded in sustaining his regime. How can this difference be explained then? In fact, foreign aid conditionalities played a crucial role in personalist dictatorship survival. When it is contingent on democratization, it provides an incentive for liberalization, which in turn can impede the dictator’s survival. That’s what happened to Baby Doc: Aid was contingent on his domestic policies, which turned out to weaken his repressive capacity. Whereas under Papa Doc, foreign aid conditionality was, to a great extent, an incentive for remaining anti-communist. Thus, he was able to use it to strengthen his coercive apparatus.

Foreign aid can also have different results on autocrats’ legitimacy due to corruption generally associated with it. For charismatic dictators, which gain legitimacy through ideology and personality cult, corruption might have no, or little effect on their reputation. However, for uncharismatic autocrats which seek legitimacy on economic performance, corrupt management of aid might be an impediment. The Duvaliers were no exception to this rule. The popular Papa Doc maintained his legitimacy even though his regime was a kleptocracy. Whereas Baby Doc’s economic failure undermined his.

In sum, Baby Doc had poor legitimacy in addition to his weaker repressive apparatus. The confluence of those two made his personalist dictatorship uncontrollably vulnerable. That’s why the US easily ousted him by cutting his aid in 1986.

Duvalier2

Repression under Papa Doc (1957-1971)
Foreign aid, which represented 70% of Haiti’s income[1], had different impact on the Duvaliers’ repressive capacity. Under Papa Doc, the aid was not contingent on democratization. The autocrat received military and financial assistance by simply pretending to be anti-communist. This lack of restrictive conditionalities enabled him to use the assistance for his own interests. He embezzled 80% of it; $10 million was taken from the national treasury per year[2]. He was thus able to strengthen his repressive apparatus by building a large patronage network with his militia also known as the “Tontons Macoutes”. The army, which had previously staged many coups, was counterbalanced by Papa Doc’s militia. By 1971, it represented 5% of the population while the army was only 7000[3]. The “Tontons Macoutes” were spread throughout the entire country and executed whatever Duvalier ordered them, thus enabling him to track dissidents.

Papa Doc killed or repressed his opponents. On November 14th, 1964, two leaders of the group “Jeune Haiti”, which had attempted to overthrow Duvalier, were executed publicly. It was a strategy to deter any potential rebellion. The press and the clergy were also harassed. The leader of the magazine L’Escale, Yvonne Hakime-Rimpel, was arrested and tortured by the “Tontons Macoutes”; several priests were expelled while many religious institutions were closed[4]. The elite was neither exempt from Papa Doc’s brutality. The former army general, Francois Benoit, was wrongly suspected of masterminding a coup. In response, his entire family was decimated while he escaped through the Dominican embassy. 19 officers were also executed in 1967 after attempting to bomb the National Palace. In total, 30,000 to 60,000 people were killed while many others were forced to exile or brutalized[5]. With all these atrocities, Papa Doc weakened the opposition, which allowed him to establish a robust dictatorship.

When Kennedy froze his aid in 1963, Papa Doc was thus able to come up with new taxes, and to reduce salaries of government officials and the military[6]. This enabled him to find money for his patronage network, thus sustaining his regime. If his foreign aid was contingent upon liberalization, his regime might have had a different fate. He would certainly not have that strong apparatus to usurp money for feeding his patronage network. Thus, he would more likely resign when the aid was cut.

Repression under Baby Doc (1971-1986)
Unlike Papa Doc, Baby Doc’s aid was contingent on democratization. Under Jimmy Carter, human rights became a precondition for the young dictator to receive American aid. Given his regime reliance on it, Baby Doc was forced to move toward liberalization. 104 political prisoners were released in 1977; legislative election was held in 1979; legal sanctions were also taken against Tonton Macoute for abuse[7]; the military academy, which Papa Doc had closed since 1961, was reopened in 1972[8]. Furthermore, the US pushed him to recognize other political parties constitutionally in 1985; the post of prime minister was established; and election was forthcoming in 1987[9]. Thus, Baby Doc’s regime was markedly less repressive than his father’s. These gave Baby Doc a friendlier façade, which attracted a lot of benefits. Foreign aid increased from $4.3 million in 1971, $9.3 million in 1974, to $35.5 million in 1975; thousands of exiles headed back to Haiti; 167,260 tourists visited the country by 1977[10]; Haiti’s relationship with the Vatican was also restored in 1983, which was honored by a papal visit.

However, those steps toward liberalization weakened the young tyrant’s apparatus. Radio stations and newspaper began to criticize the regime[11]; his control over the military was lost[12]; the speech of the pope, which indirectly rebuked the government, sparked political protests[13]. By the end of 1985, mass uprisings for Baby Doc’s departure started. At this stage, the regime was unable to use repression to control the mass. One his last resorts was the American aid, which he could use as incentive to decrease the tension. But, the situation was exacerbated because the US cut the aid in 1986. Baby Doc had thus any other choices than to resign.

In sum, foreign aid, due to its conditionalities, rendered Baby Doc’s regime weak. If the conditions were not so restrictive, he would be able to keep the level of repression as it was under his father. He would then be able to raise taxes and find money for continuously feeding his corrupted regime.

Papa Doc’s Legitimacy
Papa Doc was a charismatic leader who did not based his legitimacy on economic performance. He gained it through his strong ideology and personality cult. The name Papa Doc by itself is a term of appreciation which he obtained after he wiped out yaws with penicillin. Furthermore, his ideology of “noirisme”, whereby he promoted the reaffirmation of black pride, enabled him to gain the appreciation of the black majority. He also built his personality cult by claiming to be the incarnation of “Baron Samedi”, which is known as the guardian of the graveyard in Haitian voodoo. These gave him a supernatural image.

In spite of his mismanagement of aid, which contributed to Haiti’s economic failure, Papa Doc maintained his legitimacy. When Kennedy was pressurizing him, he was able to mobilize people for him, which deterred the US from invading Haiti[14].  If Papa Doc did not have this strong legitimacy, his economic failure might have had more impact on his reputation. Thus, his regime would have become vulnerable after Kennedy froze the aid.

Baby Doc’s Legitimacy
Unlike his father, Baby Doc was not charismatic. His legitimacy was a matter of economic performance. “My father did the political revolution, I will do the economic revolution”, said Baby Doc. His effort toward political liberalization attracted more aid and many American corporations. 70,000 Haitians were employed in 240 offshore factories by 1985[15]. However, Baby Doc’s kleptocracy counterweighted those achievements, thus preventing him from having a good reputation. In 1980, he married Michèle Bennett in a lavish wedding which costed 3 to 7 million USD[16]. Later that year, Haiti was granted $22 million from the IMF, but $16 million went for Duvalier personal use while $4 million was at the disposition of the “Tontons Macoutes”[17]. By 1983, 44% of Haiti’s income was earned by 1% of the population, and the average income per capita was $200 per year (World Bank). Baby Doc’s economic failure was obvious. The IMF even reported that Haiti’s economical crisis is due to excessive undeclared spending.

Thus, the uncharismatic Baby Doc remained with his weak legitimacy. His corrupt management of the aid prevented Haiti from growing economically, which exacerbated his regime vulnerability. If he had stronger legitimacy, cutting his aid would have had less impact on his survival. He might have had mass mobilization for him like his father did 1963, which could lead to the restoration of the aid.

Conclusion
Foreign aid plays a significant role in autocrats’ survival by influencing their repressive capacity and legitimacy. When the aid is not contingent upon liberalization, charismatic autocrats with ideological legitimacy can use it to strengthen their apparatus. That’s why Papa Doc maintained his regime until he died. The lack of restrictive conditionalities enabled him to use the aid for patronizing his militia, thus consolidating his ruthless dictatorship. At this stage he became terribly resistant. Added to his strong apparatus, his strong personality cult allowed him to resist when Kennedy cut his aid in 1963. He had mass mobilization for him, which deterred the US from invading Haiti. The confluence of his strong repressive capacity and strong legitimacy made it hard to oust him.

On the other hand, when aid is contingent upon liberalization, it can easily weaken uncharismatic autocrats. First, liberalization counterweighs their repressive ability. Second, corruption associated with aid may lead to economic failure, which in turn can prevent them from earning legitimacy on economic performance. That’s why Baby Doc was so vulnerable. The US pressured him to liberalize his regime: A lot of political prisoners were released; the press was allowed to criticize; sanctions were taken against abuse of the “Tontons Macoutes”; and the army regained its strength. All these contributed to weaken Baby Doc’s repressiveness. Furthermore, corrupt management of foreign aid led to economic failure, which tarnished his reputation. The annual income per capita was $200; the IMF even reported that the regime’s undeclared spending was the major cause of the economic crisis. Baby Doc had thus a weak legitimacy in addition to his weak repressive apparatus. The confluence of those two was incompatible with a personalist dictatorship type. That’s why the young autocrat resigned in 1986.

In conclusion, when aid is not contingent on liberalization, it consolidates autocracies that already had strong personality cult. Whereas, aid which is contingent on democratization has great chance to breakdown autocracies with weak legitimacy.

Works Cited
Ferguson, James. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier. Oxford, UK; New York, NY, USA: Basil Blackwell, 1988.

Hebert, Gold. “The downfall of furniture-face Haiti: the Duvalier and their legacy.” Los Angeles Time, October 16, 1988.

Pezzullo, Ralph. Plunging into Haiti. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006.

Snyder, Richard. “Explaining Transitions from Neopatrimonial Dictatorships.” Comparative Politics 24, no. 4 (1992): 379-99, https://www-jstor-org.pitt.idm.oclc.org/stable/422151

Wien Weibert Arthus. “The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War: Kennedy Facing the Duvalier Dilemma” Diplomatic History, Volume 39, Issue 3, 1 June 2015: 504–531, https://doi-org.pitt.idm.oclc.org/10.1093/dh/dhu001

Footnote
[1] Gold Hebert, “The downfall of furniture-face Haiti: the Duvalier and their legacy,” Los Angeles Time, October 16, 1988.

[2] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New-York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 58

[3] Richard Snyder. “Explaining Transitions from Neopatrimonial Dictatorships.” Comparative Politics 24, no. 4 (1992): 388.

[4] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 50.

[5] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 57.

[6] Wien Weibert Arthus. “The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War: Kennedy Facing the Duvalier Dilemma”, Diplomatic History, Volume 39, Issue 3, 1 June 2015: page 522,

[7] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New-York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 67.

[8] Ralph Pezzullo. Plunging into Haiti (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), 108.

[9] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New-York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 83

[10] Ralph Pezzullo. Plunging into Haiti (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), 108.

[11] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New-York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 68.

[12] Richard Snyder. “Explaining Transitions from Neopatrimonial Dictatorships.” Comparative Politics 24, no. 4 (1992): 389.

[13] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New-York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 76.

[14] Wien Weibert Arthus. “The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War: Kennedy Facing the Duvalier Dilemma”, Diplomatic History, Volume 39, Issue 3, 1 June 2015: page 526

[15] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New-York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 82.

[16] Ralph Pezzullo. Plunging into Haiti (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), 110.

[17] James Ferguson. Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvalier (Oxford; New-York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 70.