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#5089: This Week in Haiti 18:26 9/13/2000 (fwd)
From: "K. M. Ives" <email@example.com>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. To obtain the full paper with other news in French
and Creole, please contact us (tel) 718-434-8100,
(fax) 718-434-5551 or e-mail at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Also check our website at <www.haitiprogres.com>.
"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
September 13-19, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 26
WILL DUVALIER RETURN TO HAITI?
Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier will soon be returning to
Haiti and will be posing his candidacy in upcoming presidential
elections, according to several people at a meeting of
Duvalierists held in Brooklyn on Sep. 10. If he doesn’t take
power through elections, he will take it by other means, some
About 100 partisans of the former “President for Life” gathered
at the Tropical Reflections night club at 4501 Glenwood Road,
where they heard a panel of speakers extol the glories, both
political and economic, of the Duvalier years and the evils of
the Lavalas and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier succeeded his father François (or
“Papa Doc”) as “President for Life” of Haiti in 1971. Both
regimes jailed and killed opposition figures, muzzled the press,
and terrorized the Haitian people through the infamous “Tonton
Macoutes,” a nationwide network of thugs and killers. Jean-Claude
and his cronies also financed lavish lifestyles of sports cars,
motorcycles, and villas by milking bribes from visiting and
resident businessmen and skimming millions from incoming foreign
aid packages, a practice which finally alienated Washington, the
regime’s long-term ally. With U.S. acquiescence and Vatican
direction, a popular uprising in Feb. 1986 toppled Jean-Claude,
who was trundled off to Paris in a U.S. C-130 military transport
packed to the gills with all the loot that “Baby Doc” and his
trophy wife Michelle Bennett could lay their hands on in the
regime’s final hectic days. The phlegmatic ex-dictator has lived
in France ever since, making periodic telephone statements to
meetings of his nostalgic supporters scattered in all corners of
the Haitian diaspora.
A certain Haitian Center for Economic and Social Development
(CHADES) was the nominal organizer of the event, which was
publicized, at least in part, by the placing of flyers on the
windshields of cars around Brooklyn.
Outside the club, the streets were lined with many Mercedes,
BMWs, and fancy sport utility vehicles. The crowd inside was
mostly older and male, with protruding abdomens and lots of gold.
“This is a meeting for the return of President Duvalier to
Haiti,” declared Lionel Sterling, the ambassador to New York of
the death-squad known as the Revolutionary Front for the
Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH). “We cannot say when he
will be going back but it will be soon.” Sterling was one of the
event’s nine panelists. His presentation was optimistically
entitled: “The call for the return of Duvalier by the people.”
Other panelists included Joseph Mervil (“Consciousness-raising”),
Raoul Dupervil (“Call to the national conscience”), Jocelyne
Dorcé Mont Clermont (“Emancipation of Haitian women in
politics”), and Rodrigue Altenor (“The new man”) who said in his
presentation: “If Duvalier doesn’t sit in the Presidential
chair, we will make Haiti’s ground tremble.”
Frantz Bataille, a former radio host in Montreal, was, according
to those in the room, the principal organizer of the affair. He
presented what was essentially the keynote address of the evening
entitled “The social revolution of Dr. François Duvalier.” In it,
he outlined a Duvalierist version of history, highlighting the
“wisdom” of “Papa Doc” and the “conspiracy of the Haitian left”
which, for him, justified the bloody massacres of dozens of
regime opponents in 1969.
“We consider ourselves as the generation which grew up under
Duvalier and we should be proud ,” Bataille declared. “It’s that
pride which we have lost and which we are recovering now.”
“Duvalier or death!” bellowed Mirabeau Petit-Homme, one of the
many “heavy macoutes” who was in the room for the occasion. He
was the right hand man of Roger Lafontant, the former head of the
Tonton Macoutes, with whom he attempted a coup d’état in Jan.
1991 and was jailed. Petit-Homme escaped from prison during the
Sep. 1991 coup and is now living, with impunity, in Brooklyn.
Bataille was followed by “economist” Parnell Duverger who
outlined the “economic and political mess in the country since
1986.” The reign of Jean-Claude Duvalier brought Haiti “robust
growth,” Duverger argued. He neglected to say that the people
were not only bloodily repressed but sinking deeper into poverty
Finally came the climax of the evening: the address to the room
by Duvalier himself, speaking by telephone direct from France.
With his trademark nasal French, Duvalier solemnly delivered what
he called a “message of hope” in “this moment of exceptional
gravity” where “the [Lavalas] regime has betrayed the national
conscience” and was guilty of “megalomania.” The speech was
regularly punctuated by cries of “Long Live Duvalier!”
Unfortunately for the organizers, the speech was interrupted by a
scuffle as the “President for Life” droned on. The “economist”
Duverger was apparently vexed that a reporter from Haïti Progrès
had earlier taken his photograph on the stage. He angrily
confronted the journalist, demanding that he immediately hand
over the roll of film or else have it forcibly removed from him.
The journalist refused, asking “Is this a secret meeting?”
The sarcasm was apparently too much for Mr. Duverger, who had to
be physically restrained by those who had gathered around the
face-off. Now trying to play the role of good democrats, most in
the room realized that roughing up the Haïti Progrès reporter
would not produce the best publicity for Duvalierism’s new make-
over, and told the journalist that he had a right to be there. A
pity that such reasonableness didn’t apply to other journalists
like Gasner Raymond, who was assassinated by the regime in 1976
during Baby Doc’s “golden years,” or radio host Jackie Caraïbes,
disappeared during the 1991 coup d’état.
Nonetheless, Frantz Bataille again approached the reporter as he
left the affair, asking that he turn over the negatives, a demand
which was again refused.
Some Duvalierists came up to the reporter in the melee that
followed the confrontation asking to have their picture taken,
saying that, apparently unlike M. Duverger, they were not ashamed
of their political affiliation. “We have a lot of Duvalierists
here in New York, and we must be able to make a political meeting
at any time,” said Willy Bourdeau, a former Duvalierist deputy
under Papa Doc, who met with Duvalier in France three years ago.
He strove to present an image of a reformed and conciliatory
Duvalierism “In a democracy, every political party must be able
to organize peacefully. Democracy means I respect you, and you
respect me,” he said.
But before he could finish, he was interrupted by a colleague
with no such tolerance. “Aristide must go!” interjected panelist
Jocelyn Dorcé Mont Clermont. “The people of the diaspora demand
the immediate departure of Aristide from the country. He has
destroyed the country!”
The return of one of Haiti’s most reviled presidents, and the
exile of one of the most popular: it doesn’t sound like a
platform that will get very far by democratic means.
The question remains: would Duvalier dare return to Haiti after
stealing so much money and torturing and killing so many people?
“There is an ongoing criminal case against Jean Claude, in which
he is charged with corruption and stealing from the state,” said
Brian Concanon, a lawyer for the Haitian government. “Another
case, for murder, is prepared but has not been filed. I can't
believe that he would not be arrested on sight.”
“If he goes back, he’ll be arrested,” affirmed Ira Kurzban, the
Haitian government’s lead lawyer.
In any event, as Washington’s pressure on the Haitian government
mounts in the weeks to come, it is likely that the Duvalierists
and FRAPHists will clamor in the diaspora. Do they really want to
participate in presidential elections? By their conduct and their
declarations, the answer is clearly no. Their results would
surely be as dismal as that of their brethren in the neo-
Duvalierist front called the Patriotic Movement to Save the
Nation (MPSN) in last May’s election.
Their real goal seems rather to capitalize on the destabilization
campaign now being deployed against Haiti so as to seize the
opportunity to have Duvalier or a Duvalierist “sitting in the
presidential chair,” even if by other than democratic means.
All articles copyrighted Haïti Progrès, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED
Please credit Haïti Progrès.