Date: Tue, 21 Jul 98 17:23:18 CDT
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: HAITI: Victims of 1991 Military Violence Still Suffering
Article: 39523
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** reg.carib: 205.0 **/
** Topic: IPS: POLITICS-HAITI: Victims of 1991 Military Violence Still **
** Written 4:12 PM Jul 20, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:reg.carib **

Victims of 1991 Military Violence Still Suffering

By Ives Marie Chanel, IPS, 17 July 1998

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jul 17—(IPS)—Thousands of people in Haiti continue to suffer the effects of brutal repression during the 1991-1994 military regime, says an official report released here this week.

The 115-page report issued by the Bureau of Tracking and Investigation, an organization created by Haitian officials to assist coup victims, is entitled Dossiers of Victims for Reparations Policy. It presents an overview of how victims are coping and makes some proposals for relief.

The report maintains that, as a group, these individuals remain deeply affected by their experiences, and are indelibly marked by the violence, the fear, and the isolation they had to endure.

Those most battered by the experience come from the poorest sections of Haitian society. The report underlines the psycholocial, medical and psychological consequences of repression.

According to this report, the many deaths and disappearances had tragic repercussions; horrific acts of violence engendered feelings of impotence, lack of control, and fatalism, and has marked the affected population with paralyzing fear.

’Disappearances’ have left families of the victims and others close to them with feelings of intense anxiety and guilt, the report says. In these situations, the grieving process and funeral rites which provide a sense of closure have been useful in dealing with the emotional turmoil, which is further complicated by fear of impregnation and sexual contact.

Many of the wives have been branded Madame Zenglendo, (wife of a murderer). Most of these women report that the way they have been treated by their communities has been so painful and that they feel so guilty about what has occurred that they had to move away.

In order to escape death, many individuals had no choice but to spend the entire term of the three-year dictatorship in hiding. But while they may have managed to survive and avoid arrest and imprisonment, there were other grave consequences during those grom years. Living in total deprivation, most of them suffered from malnutrition and illness due to anxiety, poor living conditions, and non-existent medical care. Familes were torn apart and wives often found themselves alone and left to fend for the survival of remaining family members. Lone women were the object of harassment by agents of the junta.

Agricultural and cottage-industry production also was disrupted when thousands of rural people set off into hiding. Similarly, small farmer and self-help organizations also ceased functioning. Many individuals who underwent significant trauma during that period now suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. (PTSS)

The symptoms of PTSS are anxiety, depression, and paranoia, the report explains. The anxiety is often extreme, and those afflicted are unable to remember what happened to them at all or are obsessed with the memory. Sometimes, PTSS sufferers have abnormally extreme social behaviors, such as aggresivity or passivity.

At the end of the repressive military period, the physical complaints of victims usually could be cured, or at least treated, but ill effects still persist in certain cases. Some require orthopedic, opthamological, olaryngological or other surgical interventions. The most frequent need, though, is for physical or occupational therapy, to attentuate the injuries suffered by many of the victims, the report says.

The report underlines that the need for reparations exists on several levels: medical, juridical, economic, and symbolic and stresses that only if Haiti’s democratic and social institutions are revitalized, will such reparations have any impact.

In Haiti, victims live in an economic context which reinforces the pathological effects of the human rights violations, the report says. an experiment conducted by the I am Living project with a group of women victims, shows that although psychological support and assistance are initially very important, follow-up becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible, as time passes.

The present economic situation is responsible for an atmosphere where the victims of human rights abuse are not able to properly care for themselves. As soon as some measure of equilibrium is achieved, they are forced to spend their days searching for some form of support for their families, according to the report.

The victims of such long-term traumatizations are not good candidates for successfully rebuilding Haitian society and installing and developing democracy and Haitian officials have created an aid model whereby coup d’etat victims will receive legal, medical, social and indirect economic assistance.

Economic aid would be used to consolidate and maintain the projects and agencies which already exist to help violence victims. Grant requests submitted by victims’ assocations to the BPS center heavily on economic self-help projects, such as fishing, livestock, and merchants’ cooperatives.

The report makes the positive observation that the burgeoning number of victims’ rights organizations shows that people have not given up the fight.