In the days leading to September 22nd I began to think about how the “Duvalierist/Jean Claudist” would celebrate the 54th anniversary of the violent electoral coup that brought Dr. Francois Duvalier to the presidency of Haiti. I imagined a select few sitting with Jean Claude Duvalier at some quaint restaurant or hotel in Petion-Ville guzzling their beer, sipping their Barbancourt, eating their fried plantains and griots while reminiscing about the “good old days”. I also imagined a few others taking to the streets shouting their love for Jean Claude Duvalier and demanding the return of the despised and disbanded army.
Oh, how wrong was I regarding the “street” component of this celebration? Here’s how the story appeared in the September 23 edition of the Miami Herald. Some twenty Duvalier supporters headed by lawyers Reynold George and Osner Fevry stormed an Amnesty International meeting meant to bring awareness to the 29-year barbaric reign of the Duvaliers while making an urgent plea for the justice system to aggressively prosecute Jean Claude Duvalier. The paper reported that a few victims of the regime, among them Michele Montas , looked aghast and were not able to bear witness to the unbearable pains they or their loved ones suffered at the hands of the Duvalier regime. This macabre parade of Duvalier supporters shamelessly holding old bones and dead skulls is part of the aberrant behavior so often seen in Haiti.
The unthinkable and unacceptable has happened. This event sadly reminds us of November 28, 1980 when Jean Claude Duvalier sent his henchmen to disperse a human rights meeting, beat the participants before forcing a few of them to exile. However, on this September 22 the unstated goal of this rancorous crowd that ran amok was simply to put an end to the meeting and at the same time make a brutal statement about their newly-found resurgence. The power to force folks into exile is yet to be part of their political armament. Bal a fini! These folks seem to be telling us: the democratic dance may be over or close to its abrupt end.
During the last presidential campaign and in the “digital pages” of the Link I have argued that a Martelly win meant that the people of Haiti must brace for the emergence of some ugly strain of Jean Claudism with all the consequences this entails: the flourishing corruption, the exclusionary politics and the abhorrent intolerance. And atop this political architecture will stand the torn flag of mulatrism, the ugly side of the politics of color in Haiti – noirism being the other one. This is where we are, a mere 25 years after the forced departure of Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986.
President Martelly had made a lot of promises to the voters. He has already reneged on a crucial one – the departure of MINUSTHA – but he has already started to work on a promise he didn’t make to those who voted for him: placing some key sons and daughters of the Duvalier old guard into prominent and lucrative positions in the public administration. FAES (Fonds d’Assistance Economique et Sociale), the most important social service structure maybe after the ministry of social affairs, once occupied by Rene Preval in 1994, is now handed down to Josefa Gauthier, the daughter of Adrien Raymond, Jean Claude Duvalier’s former foreign minister.
Nicolas Duvalier, Jean Claude Duvalier’s son, is a now a Martelly advisor. Don’t be fooled by the title, though: This is Martelly’s circuitous way to provide a hefty check to Jean Claude Duvalier – all at the expenses of the poor folks in Haiti who religiously paid their taxes.
The best political prize is now being debated in the Senate: the deliberations to confirm Serge Conille as Haiti’s new Prime minister. Early next week, Garry Conille, son of a former Jean Claude Duvalier minister Serge Conille who doubled as a traitor to the student movement in the early 60’s, will claim the big prize on behalf of Bill Clinton and the international community but, more important, the macoutes or the neo-macoutes who are no longer waiting in the background to start again gouging Haiti of its meager resources.
These are strange and sad times in Haiti. The saddest of all is the absence of a credible political grassroots movement that can foil every attempt to stray the country from the democratic road. As in the past, these macoutes du jour will again miscalculate and – sooner or later – plant the seeds of discontent that will check their power.
Our summer or spring of resistance won’t wait too long to emerge from the parched streets of Port au Prince and provincial cities of Haiti!
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