Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1996 15:17:32 -0800 (PST)
From: Bob Corbett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: more on 1971 election 1
Actually, that little mischief did not require much bravery at all... When Francois announced that he had nominated Jean-Claude as president, most people I knew took it as a joke - oh, he is just playing yet another farce on the country. The obvious - that he was dying and dead serious (forgive the pun) - was not contemplated... The whole thing was accompanied by thousands of pictures distributed throughout PAP of an overweight Jean-claude sitting in front of a diminutive Francois who placed a hand on his son's shoulder and a lot of propaganda: "le pouvoir a la jeunesse...". His original speech as I recall sounded like something out of the bible: ...for I give you my only son...
...Yet another anecdote:
Back then, I played guitar in a Compas band. After the initial proclamation, all the bands in Port-au-Prince were summoned to La Commune for an impromptu carnival. We sent one of our band members down to comply. Upon his return he described the scene: a very long line at the head of which was a macoute-like fellow sitting behind a desk with his sunglasses on, handing out money and writing down the names of the bands. Our man got $50 and was told to be back for the carnival.
When we got downtown on carnival day, we found ourselves in the middle of chaos. Nobody was in charge and so many bands showed up that they ran out of floats (just bare trucks, really). We had unloaded our instruments in front of La Banque and as we were trying to find someone in charge to ask what to do, one of my friends noticed that there was an outlet in the bank and suggested that we plug in and perform on the sidewalk. We started doing just that, when the director invited us inside to throw himself a private party.
Every half hour or so during our performance, a man in sunglasses would make the request "joue yon ti mizik Divalie!" (play a Duvalier song). When we ran out of the few popular ones that we knew, the lead singer resorted to improvising Duvalier lyrics in all our songs. (Most of the famous bands in Haiti had written songs about Duvalier. A very popular classic written by Nemours Jean-Baptiste to commemorate Duvalier extending his mandate for life went like this: "roule, roule Francois! pep ou en fom deye-ou..."). Sometimes, he would sing the regular lyrics and before the solo he would put his fist up in the air and yell "viv Divalie" and the choir in sunglasses would echo. Of course, none of us in the band were Duvalierist. In fact, we were kids! However, in Haiti, in those days you learned very early that you either had to say you were a Duvalierist or you were automatically classified as a "Kamokin" - there was no room for peaceful dissent. That was done by leaving the country which most middle-class educated Haitians did in droves.
At the end of the day, the director asked us to come back and play the next day, which we did. Since it was obvious they liked our playing, we were surprised that at the end of the day we were not paid. Some of us went to the director and asked him for a contribution for the band. Our eyes lit up when he opened his drawer revealing stacks of cash, then our smiles vanished when he pulled out a mere $10 bill to give us. MAN! were we disappointed. The band had 10 members and the truck driver we hired to transport the instruments charged us $4. (However, to put these sums in perspective, back in those days a maid was paid about $6 a month. Nonetheless, the economics of a band was different since the imported Fender amps that were used cost about $250 a piece.)
So, as you can see, there was not much danger at all in our voting. In those days, had a man in sunglasses been in charge he would not have objected. Had it been a small functionary, one could have made her/him backup by stating that Papa Doc said "le pouvoir a la jeunesse" ... "Viv D !!!". The fact is the whole thing was a comedy and everybody knew it (Graham Greene's title was not too far off the mark). There had been no election in Haiti since 1957 and there was no voter registration prior to the 1971 vote. Keep in mind that the constitution at that time stated that to be president one had to be at least 40 years old. Jean-Claude was 19. So I don't believe too many people bothered voting for or against in that referendum and whatever number is quoted I would consider bogus.