The moral of the story

François Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, was elected president of Haiti in 1957. However, he rapidly became dictatorial and ruled with an iron fist. He created the Tontons Macoutes to enforce his power. The Tontons Macoutes committed harsh violence and human rights abuses to suppress political opposition.

In 1967, my wife and I spent two week exploring Haiti. Upon arriving, we were met by a Tonton Macoute. He interrogated us on why we were there, if we were CIA, what we intended to do, etc. He frequently appeared at the hotel where we were staying and followed us when we went out.

We stayed at the Hotel Oloffson which was a former mansion. It had a wide porch where we had our meals. There were only two journalists, who were attempting to cover the rioting in the Dominican Republic, and two missionaries staying at the Oloffson. However, a few days later a chiropractor from Lancaster arrived.

Back at that time, there were very few tourists and no tourist amenities or facilities. Through friends at Pan American, we were fortunate to have the use of a station wagon. We invited the chiropractor to ride along with us as we toured the country side. He told us that he had decided to move to Haiti when he retired. When we asked him why he would do that, he said he could get a luxurious villa with a swimming pool, a maid, cook and gardener and live like a king.

We viewed it as just talk, but about two years later we received a letter from him. He had indeed moved to Haiti and was living in a luxurious villa with a swimming pool, a maid, cook and gardener and lived like a king.

Several months later we received another letter from him sent from Dominica. The Tontons Macoutes had entered his home in the middle of the night and took him up in the mountains where they grilled and tortured him, accusing him of being a CIA agent. They put him on a boat and shipped him out with only what he wore. He begged the American Consulate in Dominica to retrieve his belongings in Haiti. They told him there was nothing they could do and that he was lucky to have come out alive.

Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for.

Edwin Gillmore


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