Breath, Eyes, Memory Historical Context

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Political Terror in Haiti

Haiti in the early 1980s was ruled by Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, son of the infamous dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. During Papa Doc's regime, the longest in Haitian history, he executed all opponents without trial, and kept troops of unpaid volunteers, known as Tontons Macoutes, who were given license to torture, rape, and kill people at will. During his rule, the Haitian economy deteriorated and only 10 percent of the population could read. Papa Doc encouraged the population to believe that he was an accomplished practitioner of voudon, or voodoo, and possessed supernatural powers; to rebel against him invited death. After Papa Doc's death in 1971, his son succeeded him, continuing his reign of terror until 1986, when he was overthrown. Even after his overthrow, although the Tontons Macoutes were no longer officially condoned, they still terrorized the population.

The Tontons Macoutes are ever-present in...

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This section contains 1,280 words
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