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A practicing physician, he abandoned Hippocratic Oath do no harm principles as dictator. Quickly solidifying power, he disappeared opponents, dispatching many to Fort Dimanche to be tortured to death. Others were arrested on spurious charges, including journalists, editors, radio station owners, and allies to prevent challenges to his iron grip. In 1961, he won a sham election, discarded Haiti's bicameral parliament for a unicameral one, and in 1964 declared himself president for life.
He ran the military by discarding commanders for others he controlled. He established the Presidential Guard and Volunteers for National Security (the Tonton Macoutes Palace Guard) to solidify power and reign terror through murder, torture and intimidation.
He stole government funds and extorted rake-offs from Haitian and foreign businessmen alike, enriching himself and close supporters. He rewrote the Constitution to assure Baby Doc succeeded him. Haitian elites approved to continue Duvalierism under a 19-year old when he took over in 1971.
During his rule, Papa Doc increased poverty, making Haiti the region's poorest, its present status. As president, Baby Doc continued his father's ways after initially deferring to his mother. He waged war on Haiti's poor, ruled brutally with dictatorial harshness, and amassed wealth the old-fashioned way like his father - he stole and extorted it, including massive amounts of US and international aid, notably from the World Bank, IMF, International Development Bank (IDB), and USAID.
When forced out, the Reagan administration airlifted him to a lavish French villa where he remained until returning. Why he left and why Washington let him back remain unanswered questions.