Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti

Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti

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 Killing Dissent /Sou Duvalier.

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MessageSujet: Killing Dissent /Sou Duvalier.   Mar 29 Sep 2009 - 11:11

Killing Dissent


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-President-for-Life JeanClaude (Baby Doc)
Duvalier, 34, is in charge of the poorest nation in the Western
Hemisphere, as a hotelkeeper underlines by gesturing to a large
portrait of Baby Doc and his wife, Michele, above the hotel reception
desk.
"That's my insurance policy," says the hotel-keeper, smiling.
Baby Doc's authoritarian rule has not been as harsh as that of
his father, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier, who ruled from 1957 until his
death in 1971. There have been ups and downs, but Baby Doc's style runs
more to exile than to political killing.
The last big exile was in mid-November, 1980, when 50 Haitians,
many of them journalists, were thrown out of the country. Baby Doc had
read the U.S. Presidential election returns wrongly, thinking that
Ronald Reagan would scrap President Carter's human rights policy.
Reagan softened it, preferring the term "democratization," but couldn't
afford to get rid of it altogether.
So Baby Doc's regime has loosened up a bit, too, allowing -
within well-understood limits - publication of four independent
"opposition" weeklies and paying lip-service to democracy by making it
possible to organize an "opposition" political party. The mechanics for
opposition parties to Duvalier's Progressive National Party were
embodied in constitutional changes put before Haitians last July in a
"referendum.° The changes were approved by 99.98 percent of the voters
in what was widely regarded as a polling farce.
Opposition leaders denounced the referendum because one of the
requirements to form an opposition party legally was to subscribe to
the legitimacy of the presidency-for-life concept established by Papa
Doc-in short, the Duvaliers would be implanted in power indefinitely.
But one opposition leader, Gregoire Eugene, who originally
denounced the presidency-for-life requirement, has now asked the regime
to register his Social Christian Party legally. He says he began
thinking in early fall that if the presidency-for-life idea were "put
to one side they might accept a compromise."
Eugene, 60, is a lawyer, teacher and one time justice minister,
who returned from U.S. exile in February, 1984. He says his party would
be "moderate, democratic and non-violent," acting as a "watchdog" on
the regime "to make the government work better."
He presented his demand in mid-November to JeanMarie Chanoine,
Minister of Interior and Defense in Baby Doc's new super-cabinet, and
was not turned down. Chanoine, the most powerful figure in the new
government, says only that he's still "negotiating."
Eugene's goal is to run candidates for all 59 seats of the
rubber-stamp National Assembly in an election scheduled for February,
1987.
The U.S. Embassy, which must submit a human rights report to
Congress about Haiti every six months, tends to take a slightly more
optimistic view on the situation here than others. In its latest,
mid-October report, the embassy says "the human rights situation
continued generally to improve gradually during the period under
review, though not without some serious exceptions." The embassy adds
there was "a clear trend away from physical abuse and toward the
fulfillment of legal mechanisms. "Among the exceptions:

  • On April 23, 1985, two persons were shot and killed trying "to
    flee while being arrested for distributing political pamphlets,"
    according to the regime. The embassy's "private sources" say the pair
    were killed while in detention at the Port-au-Prince prison.
  • Baby Dow on April 20 granted "amnesty" to 37 "political and
    state security prisoners" and the regime said no political prisoners
    remained in custody. But 11 other detainees "were not accounted for"
    and there have been further detentions since April 29, 1985.
  • Two days before the July referendum police arrested six
    persons, including two "independent journalists" and the son of an
    opposition politician "for conspiring to circulate illegal
    publications." The six were freed a few days later, unharmed.
  • In mid-September the regime halted Hubert Deronceray, an
    ex-cabinet member now in opposition, from making a public appearance in
    his home town, Petit-Goave. He and five colleagues were taken to
    Port-au-Prince, questioned and freed late the same day.
  • In mid-October a well-known Haitian exile, Dr. Lionel Laine,
    appeared in Carrefour, just outside the capital, and, according to the
    regime, tried to start an uprising. He was shot and killed and a dozen
    accomplices were jailed.

In late November of this year, during a demonstration to commemorate
the November 28, 1980 crackdown, troops came into the town of Gonaives,
injured 15 and killed three. The three that were killed, though on
school property, were not even attending the rally. The following day
when students across the country threatened a national boycott because
of the deaths, the government said the three were mistakenly killed and
closed the schools for a national day of mourning.
The most publicized and far-reaching exception to the softening
trend probably was the expulsion of three Belgian priests in July,
right after the referendum. One of the priests was news director of
Radio Soleil, operated here by the Haitian Bishops' Conference. Radio
Soleil, in a country nearly 80 percent illiterate, is the chief source
of news because it uses parish priests as correspondents. The seven
Haitian bishops also had reservations about the referendum in this
overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country and wrote a commentary for
delivery from pulpits across the nation just before the referendum. The
regime banned delivery from pulpits so the bishops broadcast the
commentary on Radio Soleil. As a result, the station's Father Triest,
and two other outspoken priests, all members of the Scheut Fathers
order, were expelled immediately.
Father Jean Hanssens, superior of the Scheut order, says the
regime "does not really trust the church. No one feels at ease. The
government fears the church and all expectations of change are carried
by the church, which is seen by the government as possible opposition,
even if it isn't planned that way. The relationship is very sensitive."
Radio Soleil's power was cut just before the referendum and
wasn't restored until a month later. Now the station is broadcasting
again and a government spokesman, Director-General Guy Mayer of the
Information Ministry, says "all is tranquil." But some edginess
remains.

- William Steif
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