Jean-Claude-Duvalier, the self-proclaimed “president for life” of Haiti whose corrupt and brutal regime sparked a popular uprising that sent him into a 25-year exile, died Saturday of a heart attack, his attorney said.
Duvalier was the son of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, a medical doctor-turned-dictator who promoted “Noirisme,” a movement that sought to highlight Haiti’s African roots over its European ones while uniting the black majority against a mulatto elite in a country divided by class and color. At 19, Jean-Claude Duvalier became the world’s youngest president. Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled for 15 years. The regimes of both leaders tortured and killed political opponents and relied on a dreaded civilian militia known as the Tonton Macoutes.
Under Duvalier’s rule, Haiti saw widespread demographic changes. Peasants moved to the capital in search of work as factories popped up to meet the growing demand for cheap labor. Thousands of professionals fled a climate of repression for cities such as New York, Miami and Montreal., though it was corruption and human rights abuses that defined Duvalier’s rule.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated that up to 30,000 Haitians were killed, many by execution, under the regime of the two Duvaliers. The once-feared dictator known as “Baby Doc” spent his late years in relative obscurity in the leafy hills above the Haitian capital. The 63-year-old ex-leader died at his home. Duvalier and his wife Michele had two children, son Francois Nicolas “Nico” Duvalier and a daughter, Anya.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.