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2301: Francois Duvalier: Antoine recounts eyewitnessing the Paen execution
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
I remember the Pean execution well... once you see an execution as a child,
you never forget it, do you? Controversial as this may seem, my father took
us all to witness it, because he did not want to spare us the full brutality
of the Duvalier regime. We KNEW that he did not approve, though the words
did not come out of his mouth, until many years later, when we were safer
within the limits of Philadelphia, Pa. You have to understand that at that
time, most parents did not dare talk of politics in front of their children
(or anyone else), except
maybe in coded form. The least you said could incriminate you (more on
that, in a little while).
But going back to the execution of Pean, I cannot relate it as vividly as
the other execution for the following reasons: The people were kept at a
reasonable distance, meaning that it was not altogether "in your face" as
the one that occurred on Rue A at the Orthodox Catholic Church. Also, there
were several soldiers (I believe six), doing the shooting (with the
presumption that one rifle was had blanks, so any of the chosen soldiers
could console himself with the idea that perhaps his rifle was not involved
in the actual killing). Finally, Pean's body collapsed immediately from the
firing, and subsequent rounds were not judged necessary. The spectacle was
not as gruesome, though the finality was, of course, the same.
It was widely reported at the time that Pean was killed because he was a
"lougawou" or alternatively he indulged in "zombification", the real kind,
not the intellectual sort so aptly exercised by Duvalier over the
population. But even as a kid, and without any discussion of the merit of
this case, I took it with a grain of salt.
As to the fragility of life under Duvalier, if you did not watch your mouth,
a cousin of mine disappeared, another one brutally tortured, not for bearing
arms, but for supposedly taking a stance against Duvalier's regime. My
father was lucky. He escaped with a few hours of jail (and a bribe to the
jailer), after he humorously asked
a Tonton Macoute called Dubreus (another character for Mario's screenplay)
why he had stolen my father's cat. Well, you see, there was a friend who
had promised my father a kitten from a nice litter. But before my father had
the chance to pick it up, Dubreus came along and asked for that kitten.
Knowing Dubreus's ill disposition towards those who did not comply to his
wishes, my father's friend said: "well, I had promised it to ..., but it's
up to you, if you really want it". Of course, Dubreus took the cat. the
next day or so, my father encountered him and said: "Dubreus, mwen tande ou
vole chat mwen an" (I heard you stole my cat). To this day, I can't believe
that my father could have been so imprudent. But, sometimes his sense of
humor got the best of him.
Another time, my father's small truck was confiscated, as it did every year,
so it could carry people from Cap-Haitien to Port-au-Prince on the 22nd of
May, so they could dance in the streets and sing what a Godly benefactor
Francois Duvalier was to the Haitian people. This always interrupted my
father's economic activity,
but what can you do? he simply had to wait patiently until the small truck
got returned a few days later, and then he had to spend his own money to get
it back in shape. Since this happened every year at designated times to
most people in the provinces that owned a large or medium occupancy vehicle,
you could call it a motor vehicles tax, or a luxury tax. You simply had to
live with it, unless you had a death wish.
Well, that year, the small truck did not make it past Limbe, as some
mechanical problem developed. A moment later, two respectable authorities
came to my house and asked to speak to my father. They were politely
received, and they proceeded to tell my father about the unfortunate
incident (and of course, fully expected my father to express his sorrow and
offer some funds to cover the expenses of repairing the truck). Instead, in
a moment of supreme foolishness, my father smiled and said: "That's what I
call an intelligent truck!" ... ... ... My father received an icy stare
from those two previously good natured (and well dressed) gentlemen. They
were taken aback and in the few seconds of silence that followed, my father
realized that he had gotten himself in deep doodoo. One of the two said to
my father: "W-h-a-t d-i-d y-o-u j-u-s-t s-a-y?" And my father to respond:
"Well, I think it was very intelligent of you to come up to me right away.
Let us see how I can help you out." So his interlocutor to respond: "Ah...
sorry, I misunderstood you for a minute." After this, things went rather
well. All my father had to do was pay in advance his "vehicular tax". But
he had a few sleepless nights afterwards.
So was life under Papa Doc... For the fortunate ones, there were lots of
close calls. I had mine as well. But that should be covered under the full
recollection of my amazing (and mostly happy) childhood and adolescence
under Papa Doc (in spite of it all).
Yvon, I hope I have not disappointed you with my story of the Pean
execution. It was not as dramatic, but for his loved ones, I am sure,
Guy S. Antoine
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