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8761: Magloire obits (Guardian and Times) (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
(The Guardian) (UK)
(July 20, 2001)
Military ruler behind Haiti's brief golden age
By Greg Chamberlain
General Paul Magloire, who presided over what many of his compatriots -
especially the wealthy - saw as Haiti's last golden age, has died aged 93.
It was also a time that starkly displayed the colour divide that has
bedevilled the country for two centuries.
Under Magloire, Haiti became a mecca for American tourists and
world-ranking glitterati, among them Truman Capote, Irving Berlin and Noel
Coward. The anti-communist ruler was also a Washington favourite at the
height of the Cold War, and was feted by President Eisenhower, with whom US
journalists compared him in gushing terms.
Magloire's rule as president, from 1950 to 1956, was a period of unusual
peace and efforts at modernisation, before the long dictatorship of the
Duvalier family laid waste to Haiti, sending it into a downward spiral of
poverty, repression and disorganisation from which it has yet to recover.
A general's son himself, Magloire was a product of the new Haitian army,
that dubious legacy of the US occupation of Haiti between 1915 and 1934. As
a young major, he overthrew the disastrous regime of President Elie Lescot
in 1946, amid an uprising by young urban revolutionaries, many of them
steeped in Marxism.
But the issue of colour intervened. Magloire was from the rising, black
middle-class; the two other officers in the junta were from the
light-skinned elite. Together, they allowed the election of a liberal black
president, Dumarsais Estimé, but his promotion of fellow blacks frightened
the elite. When he tried to extend his term of office in 1950, the elite
turned to the ambitious Magloire, already wealthy with their help, and he
again deposed a president.
The mulattos were happy that Magloire was now fronting their shameless
privilege and barely concealed racism. His rule marked the apogee of their
power - some would say their last stand - and the genial "Kanson Fé" (or
"Iron Pants"), as he was known, threw himself with gusto into their
lifestyle. With his passion for bemedalled uniforms, horses and fine
whisky, Magloire staged endless dazzling social events and ceremonies, even
re-enacting the final battle for Haiti's independence from France on its
150th anniversary in 1954.
Blessed by good world coffee prices, the country's ill- endowed economy
moved forward under Magloire, who refurbished towns and built roads, public
squares, a cathedral, the country's first major dam and other
infrastructure projects. The first attempts at economic and social planning
were made, and foreign investment was successfully courted. Women were
given the vote, and direct popular election of the president was introduced
- though Magloire still scored a time-honoured 99% of the poll when the new
system was first used soon after his 1950 coup.
But corruption, growing repression, the destruction wrought by Hurricane
Hazel in 1954, and the theft of subsequent relief funds turned the tide
against Magloire. In 1956, disputes broke out over when his term of office
should end. Under pressure from strikes and demonstrations mounted by his
rivals, the army abandoned him and he fled abroad.
After a year of political chaos, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier won the
presidency in a rigged election, and Magloire quickly became the absent
scapegoat. Opposition to the new regime was blamed on him, and used by
Duvalier to build his reign of terror. Magloire was even stripped of his
After the Duvaliers fell in 1986, he quietly returned to Haiti from exile
in New York. Two years later, the army, once more in power, briefly coopted
him as an unofficial adviser; it was a token attempt to make it up to the
old general it had earlier rejected.
He is survived by two sons and two daughters.
• Paul Magloire, soldier and politician, born July 19 1907; died July 12
(The Times) (UK)
(July 19, 2001)
Obituary -- Paul Magloire
Charismatic and successful President of Haiti
The first President of Haiti to be elected by universal (male) suffrage,
Paul Magloire was sworn in on December 6, 1950. He enjoyed huge support:
his 99 per cent of the vote looked suspiciously like the level of
endorsement then common behind the Iron Curtain, but there was no doubt
about his genuine popularity. It transcended, as Newsweek commented, “the
rivalry between the negro masses and the mulatto aristocracy which is the
traditional dividing line in Haitian politics”. He had charisma too.
Handsome, broad-shouldered and supremely elegant, the former army colonel
had campaigned in civilian clothes of superb cut. His immaculate style was
appreciated in Haiti even by the poorest, who could only dream of affording
such suits of white linen or grey gaberdine (with matching grey suede
shoes). Like them, he was also black.
Haiti had a long tradition of the military in politics. The black generals
who prance on their chargers around Port-au-Prince in the form of bronze
statues commemorate heroic military achievements of the revolutionary era,
when even Napoleon’s troops were defeated. From 1804 until 1913, nearly all
the presidents were soldiers. But from 1915 to 1934, the US marines
occupied the country, and the puppet presidents were mostly mulatto
This ascendency was to last until 1946 when President Lescot was forced to
resign. There remained the question that had dominated politics ever since
the Haitian republic was established. With an overwhelmingly black
majority, the mulattos, who controlled most of the businesses and the
professions, sometimes resorted to government de doublure, manipulating
events behind a black front man.
Paul Magloire was no doublure cats-paw, but represented a return to
military intervention in politics. He was also from Quartier Morin in the
north, with its more benevolent and constructive traditions away from the
fervid atmosphere of southern Port-au-Prince, which had seen so much in the
way of extremism and violence.
He had been one of the junta of three who forced out Lescot, the last elite
mulatto President. Lescot’s successor was Estimé, a self-made black man
whose economic policies were a disaster, wrecking the banana industry. He
tried to prolong his term, but the junta again took over. When it gave all
male Haitians the vote, Magloire announced his candidacy and was swept to
As president Magloire had two principles: economic development internally,
and good relations with the two powers that mattered: the Dominican
Republic over the border, and the United States. The Dominican dictator,
Trujillo, often intervened in Haiti through plots. Now a pact was signed,
specifying that there would be no refuge for exile movements and affirming
anti-communism. It is said that when the two Presidents embraced, each
could feel the hard bulk of the other’s hidden pistol.
The US liked Magloire’s anti-communism, and soon aid was flowing in. This
was invested in agriculture, especia1ly coffee and sisal, cattle farming
and vital soil conservation and irrigation. It also went towards a great
dam in the Artibonite which since its completion 15 years after Magloire’s
overthrow, has irrigated 80,000 acres and provided electric power.
Magloire initiated a great campaign against yaws, using penicillin
injections, which eradicated the scourge by 1954. With American assistance
the country was mapped geodetically for the first time. Modernisation
seemed to triumph everywhere. His supreme self-confidence and energy were
putting the country on the map.
Capping all this, Magloire ordained a great celebration of 150 years of
independence in 1954. Homage was paid to Toussaint L’Overture, whose
greatest battle against the French was staged in full period uniforms
before tens of thousands. A state dinner for 700 guests followed, and the
climax was a ball for 3,000 and the unveiling of the heroes’ statues.
Nemesis came ten months later in the form of Hurricane Hazel, which killed
a thousand people and destroyed the export crops. The political weather had
also turned. Magloire, ebullient as ever, embarked on state visits,
including one to the US in January 1955 as the guest of President
Eisenhower. But at home confidence was leaking away, and sapped by
ideologues of the Left and by the sinister figure of Dr François Duvalier,
who introduced a new feature to politics: terrorist bombings.
Mobs roamed the streets of the capital; there was a general strike; all
businesses closed and no food came in from the countryside. In December
1956 Magloire bowed out and went into comfortable exile in New York.
Utter confusion followed, with endless provisional governments. But the ad
hoc arrangements ended in 1957 with the election of Duvalier, who came to
embody all that was worst in the complex psychology of Haiti. By contrast,
Magloire, though by no means faultless, personified some of its most
He returned to Haiti in 1986 after the ousting of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc”
Duvalier, whose departure ended almost 30 years of a dynastic dictatorship.
Although he served for a short time as an adviser to Henri Namphy, who
briefly ruled Haiti in 1988, Magloire tended thereafter to shy away from
the press and politics.
Paul Magloire, President of Haiti, 1950-56, was born in 1907. He died on
July 12, 2001, aged 94.