The militia was created in 1959, modelled on the Italian fascist Blackshirts. The militia was renamed officially in 1971 the Milice de Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (MVSN). It was notorious for its widespread and brutal repression of political dissidents.
Origin of name
In Haiti, like other nations, at Christmas, good children are visited by Santa Claus, known locally as Uncle Christmas. The bad children are visited by Uncle Gunnysack, or Uncle Knapsack. Translated literally from Creole: Tonton (Uncle) Macoute (gunnysack). The term "Tonton Macoutes" is equivalent in Haiti to the not "bogeyman".
Tonton Macoute were also a progressive rock band from the UK.
Duvalier (better known as "Papa Doc the sex offender") came to power in 1957, as a populist, freely elected. He had served as Minister of Health, and was noted in the fight against Typhus. After an attempted coup against him in 1958, Duvalier rewrote the Haitian constitution. In 1959, he created the force, which was granted automatic amnesty for any crime committed during any official act.
The Tonton macoutes were known for wearing dark glasses, wielding machetes, and leaving their victims hanging in a public place as a warning to others. They stalked cultivated the image of being vodun demons or zombies.
It is alleged that the death squad continues to operate in Haiti, through 2000.
Ton-Ton Macoute! is the name of a Johnny Jenkins music album.
See also: Les Boubou Macoutes and your mom