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8117: Dreaming of Duvalier (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By MICHAEL NORTON
PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 27 (AP) -- During the dark days of Francois and
Jean-Claude Duvalier's dictatorship, state-sanctioned thugs prowled the
streets, hunting for enemies of the brutal regime.
An estimated 60,000 people were killed during the 29-year father-and-son
dynasty, thousands more were maimed and a heavy air of oppression lingered
long after "Papa Doc" died and "Baby Doc" went into exile.
Haiti has been free of Duvalier for 15 years now, but as poverty and
insecurity deepen in this Caribbean nation, the line between democracy and
dictatorship has blurred, and forlorn hope has given way to nostalgia.
"I was born a Macoute, and I will die a Macoute!" shouted 40-year-old
Abriette Fevril of Duvalier's 30,000-strong militia -- called Tonton
Macoutes -- whose license to kill won it the Creole nickname that means
Two hundred years of military and civilian dictatorship in Haiti ended
when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the first freely elected
president in 1990. But the country's winner-takes-all politics, its
politicians' insatiable desire for total power, and greed and corruption
have kept Haiti off-balance and its people mired in increasing hardship.
The call for Duvalierism, or order by force, can be heard on both sides
of the political spectrum, from factions in Aristide's ruling Lavalas party
to groups in the 15-party opposition alliance, Convergence.
"Duvalierism is a spirit," said former army captain Evans Nicolas, who
lost to Aristide in last year's presidential elections. "Even though I
respect Jean-Claude, the doctrine exists without him."
It's not that many Haitians want Duvalier to return. But as crime and
unrest spiral, many have lost faith in the civilian police force and want a
return to the relative order that was easy to enforce in a dictatorship.
"Aristide has brought nothing but chaos. We want out!" said Fevril, the
widow of a Macoute.
A political standoff -- triggered by legislative races that the
opposition charged were rigged to favor Aristide's party -- has stunted the
country's nascent democracy and bred feelings of frustration and defeat.
Three attempts to negotiate a way out of the impasse have failed, and
hundreds of millions of desperately needed foreign aid dollars are being
held up until the election results are revised.
Fevril and former soldiers and supporters of the 1991-94 army coup that
ousted Aristide demonstrated against him this month, waving the
red-and-black flags of the Duvalier regime founded in 1957.
What shocked many was that the demonstration was not in favor of
Duvalier's return but of Convergence and its leader Gerard Gourgue, a
lawyer, educator and fervent anti-Duvalier activist.
Convergence criticized the protest, saying the alliance does not endorse
But Gourgue and others seeking security do want to re-establish the
7,500-strong army that Aristide disbanded in 1995, the year after U.S.
soldiers restored him from exile by chasing the soldiers from power.
In March, about 1,000 former soldiers marched through the capital,
Port-au-Prince, chanting support for Gourgue and demanding an end to
Aristide's allegedly dictatorial power.
"Another coup d'etat is under way," said Sen. Yvon Neptune, spokesman
for Aristide's party.
But even within Aristide's ranks there are Duvalierist zealots who were
barred from running for political office under a constitutional order that
expired in 1997.
Two former Duvalier government ministers are members of Aristide's
16-member Cabinet, and three Duvalier partisans belong to the nine-member
electoral council Aristide appointed in March.
Aristide has cited their appointments as an example of his willingness
to share power, though no member of Convergence is in his government.
"We see that more and more of those who struggled for the ideals of
Aristide's first election ... are increasingly sidelined and replaced by
Duvalierists and Tonton Macoutes," said Ben Dupuy of Haiti Progres, a
French-language magazine published in New York.
Duvalier lives in France. If he returned to Haiti, he would likely be
arrested and charged with murder and misappropriation of some $120 million
in public funds.