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#645: Manno Charlemagne : Laleau comments
I was wondering about the same thing -- Manno was elected in June 1995 for
what I thought was to be a 4-year-term. He took office, I believe, at the end
of 1995 or beginning of 1996, thus should still be completing his term, I
think. Yet for the past 3 years, I have heard nothing about his work. When
did he become the ex-mayor? What happened?
Regarding the threats against his bodyguards -- I would say it's entirely
possible and credible that they are at risk in the capital. I did meet
several of them, as I had visited the Mayor's office early in his term when
crowds of former city workers were invading the grounds demanding back wages
from the time of Mayor Evans Paul... I probably have photos from then. I was
also in Haiti and at the time of the drive-by machine-gunnings of the office
in late 1995 (I wasn't in the office itself, fortunately). And I remember
when Manno courageously tore down the illegally constructed warehouses in the
La Saline market route area, and also the little (illegal also) "chicken
shack" restaurants around the Champs de Mars... and had the market stalls
torn up that were blocking the main thoroughfare in downtown
Port-au-Prince... And this is only what I KNOW about... so yes, I guess you
could say those guys might be in danger.
I agreed with the necessity for the Mayor's above actions, especially the
destruction of the illegal warehouses that had been built on top of the
sewage ditches for Cite Soleil, that had caused the filth to back up into the
neighborhood, and also the cleaning of the Champs de Mars and Ave.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines. From what I heard about the breaking up of the
market stalls on Av. J-J D., however, I have the impression that this was
done with unnecessary crudity by his team. I don't think the Mayor himself
was present, and I don't know if he did anything to either encourage the
brutality ahead of time, or discipline his men afterwards.
One young marchand told me that she thought he was right to tear the stalls
down -- she said "He warned them once, and all the marchands said, 'oh, he
won't do anything.' He warned them again, and they said 'nothing will
happen, and ignored it.' Then he sent in the men and they tore things up.
But he warned them, and he was right. Now they believe him when he says
something." And that, by itself, may be some kind of a "first" in the
history of the city, by itself.
My own thinking, as a former city/community planner, was that ideally the
Mayor would have formed committees of the marchands involved in the route
blockage, and together they would have devised a variety of strategies to
mitigate the traffic-flow problem. But although that might work in Berkeley,
perhaps that is too idealistic for the pragmatic realities of
Regarding his "team" and its safety: If I got my hands on one of or two of
them that I know, I wouldn't mind putting a dent in their uzis myself... but
not for political reasons -- just for some aspects of the "down-side" of
common macho Haitian male behavior that personally affected me. And others
of them I would trust with my life -- the "up-side" of common macho Haitian
male behavior. (I guess heroism doesn't come without its price.)
Manno was in a "no-win" situation as mayor -- the only way he could have
succeeded was if he, then-President Aristide, and current-President Preval
had all pulled together as a team... even then, the three of them would have
had only a very slim chance of pulling Haiti out of the fire... when I saw
the fragmentation of the democratic camp by the end of 1995, it appeared that
teamwork was unlikely. I hoped I was mistaken then -- and I still hope so.