Date: Thu, 20 Mar 97 11:36:43 CST
From: Haiti Progres <>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 14:52 3/19/97
Article: 7597

Tonton Macoutes mount destabilization campaign

This Week in Haiti,, Haiti Progr├Ęs, Vol.14 no.52, 19–25 March 1997

If you don't help out our young, poorly equipped, beleaguered police, the Tonton Macoutes will come out of the shadows and stage a coup, the same as in 1991, Haitian President Rene Preval pleaded with a crowd in Mirebalais, a town on Haiti's central plateau, on Mar. 14. For 4 days, demonstrators blocked roads through the town, which is a regional gateway, and the town's government offices and telephone exchange were closed.

The Army is definitively dismantled, but Mirebalais is a bastion for the former military. We must work together with the Haitian National Police [HNP] to impede acts of destabilization, Preval said, having flown in by helicopter to negotiate removal of the road blocks.

The situation in Mirebalais reflects the deep crisis shaking every corner of the country. Lavalas government policies which have fostered complete impunity for putschist criminals and a widening gulf between the rich and poor have finally pushed Haiti to the brink of chaos. Angry people in cities and towns throughout Haiti are rising up.

But, at the same time, demobilized soldiers, paramilitary thugs, and former Tonton Macoutes have seized the moment to launch a multi-faceted destabilization offensive expressed in a wave of violent crimes, attacks on police and haphazard gunfire.

They have also sought to infiltrate the growing popular movement against foreign military occupation and the neo-liberal austerity program. Hiding behind the anti-imperialist program of the popular organizations, the Macoutes are trying to provoke street confrontations and confusion to complement their assassinations, robberies and power bid.

At least 50 people have been killed in the past four weeks in the worst violence since U.S. troops ousted Haiti's military dictators in 1994, the Associated Press reported on Mar. 15.

However, the U.S. troops, which enforced the Washington-dictated policy of reconciliation, also prevented the judgement and disarmament of the Macoute legions now spear-heading today's mayhem. While some weapons have also fallen into the hands of urban street gangs, this aspect has been overplayed by the mainstream press, which often portrays Haitians as prone to violence and anarchy. The most heavily armed and active trouble makers in Haiti are the Macoutes, who are far better equipped and organized than the HNP. In the past 4 weeks, at least 7 policemen have been killed, and several others wounded.

The Macoute resurgence also comes as the date of their return to legality approaches. The Haitian Constitution adopted on Mar. 29, 1987 barred for 10 years Duvalierists who displayed excess zeal from holding public office.

Furthermore, resurgent Duvalierists are being embraced by unpopular politicians, who are willing to ally with any forces in their ambition to return to power. Former Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul of the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD) and Serge Gilles of the PANPRA, among other politicians, have called repeatedly for a national dialogue which would be without exclusion, code for including the Duvalierists.

Furthermore, the Duvalierists have been waging a steady propaganda war for months, through such media as Radio Liberte of Duvalierist ideologue Serge Beaulieu, reminding people that conditions were not so miserable under Duvalier and stoking popular rage with rumors and generalized accusations of gran manje—meaning big eater i.e. corrupt bureaucrat—applied to almost any Lavalas government official. (Beaulieu, who was imprisoned in Haiti before the Sept. 1991 coup d'etat for his involvement in the attempted coup of Jan. 1991, continues to run and speak on his radio by telephone from New York, where he, like other putschists and Duvalierists, has found a safe harbor). The Duvalierists' goal is not to root out wrong-doing but rather to equate the failings of the Lavalas government with their 30-year reign of terror and corruption.

Moveover, the Tonton Macoutes have sought to high-light police repression, which has often been indiscriminate and savage. But the fact remains: the Macoutes have killed many policemen while the policemen have barely arrested any Macoutes, and those they have captured, are often released by Duvalierist or scared judges. And this trend is growing.

Meanwhile, the Duvalierists have tried to pin the responsibility for Haiti's growing violence on former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his party, the Fanmi Lavalas (FL). Last week, the right-wing paper Haiti Observateur focussed on a statement of Serge Pierre-Louis, Preval's spokesman, who charged an Aristide- aligned former soldier and FL candidate, Fourel Celestin, with fomenting the armed confrontations in Cite Soleil, which have left over 20 people dead and hundreds of shacks burned down in recent weeks.

Aristide placed the blame for climate of violence and terror on the high cost of living and the effects of the neo-liberal austerity and privatization being implemented by the Preval government. He made his analysis during a meeting of several hundred adherents and candidates of his party on Mar. 14-15 in Tabarre, just outside the capital.

Occupation forces have been quick to help when the Haitian police have cracked down on popular organizations protesting the government's neo-liberal course. But they have done little to help rein in the Macoutes. On the contrary, they seem to be more ready to penalize the Haitian police. If a policeman shoots at a bandit, he is liable to end up in prison or fired, complained one policeman on Radio Metropole on Mar. 13. The Canadian soldiers [with the United Nations military mission, MANUH] tell you to turn in your gun and your badge and go home.

Furthermore, Washington seems to want the Macoutes to keep their advantage. In February, the State Department issued a memorandum imposing an arms embargo on Haiti. This translates to an arms embargo and strait-jacket on the Haitian government, since the Macoutes are already more heavily armed and are reported to have several clandestine weapons supply routes via contraband vessels coming from Miami.

Meanwhile, occupation troops have been conspicuously remiss in helping to quell the civil strife such as that which gripped Cite Soleil in past weeks. People expect too much from the U.N. mission, complained the new MANUH spokesperson Patricia Tome. The mandate is to give technical support to the police.

The technical support provided by the 300-odd troops of the U.S. Support Group, which is not under U.N. command, is primarily muscle-flexing. For example, Cap Haitien was particularly agitated with demonstrations and gunfire after 3 gunmen ambushed and wounded one of their senators, Mehu Garcon, and killed his driver near Cite Soleil on Mar. 11. Now American soldiers have appeared in the northern city this week, after months of absence, with big trucks, guns, and equipment.

Adding to the combustion, the future of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth is in doubt. He will be called before the Parliament on Mar. 26, where there is a chance, however small, that he could receive a no-confidence vote from the chambers which are dominated by members of his own party, the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL). This would bring Smarth's dismissal or resignation, which popular organizations have called for since December. But popular organizations want a change of political direction, not just a reshuffling of ministers.

Overall, the political scenario in Haiti remains very complex and volatile. We continue to demand the removal not only of the Smarth government, but more importantly of the neo-liberal policies, declared Ben Dupuy, spokesman for the National Popular Assembly (APN). At the same time, we will not tolerate the Macoutes trying to use the people's program and demands to achieve their own return to power. We must fight the destabilization campaign of the Duvalierists and putschists. While they adopt nationalist rhetoric, we know they are protected by and allied with the foreign military occupation of Haiti.