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#3116: Haitians fear for homeland after slaying (fwd)


Published Tuesday, April 4, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Haitians fear for homeland after slaying___ BY MEG LAUGHLIN 

 Haitian exiles reacted with shock and sorrow Monday to the news that a
beloved Haitian journalist was killed at daybreak in a hail of bullets
outside his radio station in Petionville, Haiti. For many, the murder of
Jean Dominique, 69, gives new and terrifying meaning to the current
reign of chaos in Haiti. ``When I heard the news of his murder, I said,
`Jean Dominique survived Duvalier. He survived the struggle for
Aristide, but he could not survive the Haiti of today,' '' said
Jean-Robert Lafortune, chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots
 Coalition, a Haitian advocacy group in Miami. Like many Haitians,
Lafortune credits Dominique with being among the bravest
 voices in Haiti to stand up to the Duvalier dictatorship during the
1970s and '80s. Through his outspoken reporting on Radio Inter in Haiti,
Lafortune says, Dominique inspired thousands of Haitian youths like
himself to envision fairness and democracy in Haiti. ``When we were
voting adults in 1991, we thought of Jean Dominique and what he
 had done to get us to that point,'' Lafortune said. But many are
questioning whether the assassination of Dominique signals the
 death knell for getting to ``that point'' in Haiti.
 When the tragic news reached Jocelyn McCalla, president of the National
 Coalition of Haitian Rights, at his Manhattan office early Monday,
McCalla says he was struck with grief. Then fear. ``If this could happen
to Jean Dominique after surviving so much, then no one in Haiti is
safe,'' McCalla said. McCalla visited Dominique in Haiti in September,
and the two talked about how Dominique had survived three decades of
threats against his life. He went into exile in 1980 to escape death
threats and again in 1991, after his radio station, Radio Haiti Inter,
was riddled with bullets while he was in it.


 He returned to Haiti in 1994 after Jean Bertrande Aristide was restored
to the presidency. Dominique rebuilt his station, which had been
destroyed by those wanting to silence him, and continued broadcasting.
 ``He was forever undeterred in his faith that most Haitians would know
the truth when they heard it,'' McCalla said. But McCalla says Haiti in
the year 2000 is a place where few people still have faith. It's a
country, he says, beset by criminal enterprise, where thugs kill
 anyone, right wing or left wing, who gets in their way, and where it's
all but impossible to figure out where the truth lies. ``It sends a
shiver down my spine,'' McCalla said. ``Jean Dominique's death is
 proof that the enemy in Haiti is everywhere, and no one can see who it
is.'' For decades, the slogan of Radio Haiti Inter has been
``broadcasting for all of Haiti,'' which has a double meaning. Not only
is the station heard in the most rural areas of Haiti, where broadcasts
out of Port au Prince are rare, but it's also a station known for its
egalitarian point of view for ``all of Haiti.''


 More than once, Jean Dominique was jailed and tortured in Haiti for
this point of view. But when Haitians voted for their president in 1991,
Dominique told The Herald that he felt every terrible thing he had been
through had been worth it. ``You must understand, for Haitians to vote
is more than it is in your country,'' he said. ``It is the way for
millions of people who live in dirt and poverty to prove to themselves
that they are human. It is the difference between eternal darkness and
light.'' But with the death of Dominique on Monday, a huge source of
light in Haiti is gone. Marleine Bastien, president of the Miami
advocacy group Fanm Yisyen Nan Miyami (Haitian Women of Miami):
``Haitians in the United States have always thought about when we could
return to Haiti. But the murder of Jean Dominique makes us think only
about how to get our families out.''