Editorial: Bon Appétit, Messieurs! 20 October 1980

Download: Bon appétit, messieurs! (1), Bon appétit, messieurs! (2)

By November 1980, it was clear that Jean Claude Duvalier’s regime would soon target the opposition, silence the press and curtail certain fragile liberties.  These limited, tentative freedoms had been gained through the efforts of Haitian independent journalists and human rights activists between 1977 and 1980, as the Duvalier regime reluctantly capitulated to political pressure from human rights-oriented aid donors, particularly the Carter administration.  In November 1980, however, Carter had lost his bid for reelection and a Reagan presidency was on the horizon. For the Duvalier regime, a Reagan presidency meant an opportunity to roll back progress on human rights.

Le Petit Samedi Soir from October 17, 1980, on the arrest of Radio Haiti journalist Konpè Filo

Le Petit Samedi Soir from October 17, 1980, on the arrest of Radio Haiti journalist Konpè Filo (from the Radio Haiti paper archive)

In the preceding months, the independent media (such as Radio Haiti, the weekly magazine Le Petit Samedi Soir, and various small publications) had been covering a variety of issues unfavorable to the Duvalier regime: mounting opposition to the dictatorship, emerging political parties and labor unions, “boat people” fleeing economic and political oppression, previously-unreported peasant uprisings, corruption, toxic waste dumping, and human rights violations. In October 1980, Le Nouveau Monde, the official government paper, published an editorial announcing that the “party was over” (“le bal est fini”).   Journalists were harassed, arrested, intimidated, sometimes facing spurious charges in court.

On October 20, Jean Dominique responded to these events with his prophetic editorial  “Bon appétit Messieurs”, foreseeing what would happen when the independent press in Haiti was silenced.

On November 28, about a month after this editorial aired, the regime undertook a brutal crackdown on the press, political parties, labor union organizers and human rights activists. More than a dozen journalists were arrested at Radio Haiti, some tortured and later expelled out of the country. The station was closed and its studios physically destroyed.  The rest of the Haitian media was effectively silenced until Jean Claude Duvalier was forced to leave the country in 1986.

“Therefore, gentlemen, the official journalists — the country is yours and yours alone from now on.  And all will be beautiful, all will be peaceful, all will be idyllic, all will be pink and wonderful.  However,  the Haitian people run the risk, one beautiful morning, of waking up to a ghastly, unbearable smell, a putrid, nauseating stench!  In surprise, they will pinch their noses and ask, “but what is this, what has happened?”  The official press, they will not tell them.  They will go and look for it themselves, and oh, they will not have to go far, as meanwhile the country will have become a trash heap, the panye fatra of the rest of the industrialized world…. Will you dare, gentlemen of the official government press?  Will you dare risk your paychecks, your jobs, your positions or, who knows, perhaps your lives, to denounce in time, as we have tried to do in March and April, the project that would turn Haiti into the trash heap of American cities and factories?  Would you dare, gentlemen of the official press?”   

Inter-Actualités Magazine, Special Report on Jean Rabel: Land Ownership, Anti-Communism, the Catholic Church, and Rumors, 16 August 1987

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Download: Inter-Actualités Magazine, Repòtaj Spesyal sou Jean Rabel: Pwopriyetè Tè, Anti-Kominis, Legliz Katolik, ak Twipotaj, 16 daout 1987 (1)

Inter-Actualités Magazine, Repòtaj Spesyal sou Jean Rabel: Pwopriyetè Tè, Anti-Kominis, Legliz Katolik, ak Twipotaj, 16 daout 1987 (2)

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Three weeks after the massacre at Jean Rabel, the independent media is still forbidden to visit the area, so Jean Dominique sits with Michèle Pierre-Louis (who had recently visited the region as part of Mission Alpha) and agronomist Chavannes Jean-Baptiste (the founder of the Peasant Movement of Papaye) to discuss the aftermath of the massacre and the factors underpinning it. Pierre-Louis observes a great deal of hostility toward Jean-Marie Vincent and his missionary team among the peasants of Lacoma. But this hostility is the product of intentional strategy, one that the local landowners adopted when Tèt Ansanm’s ideology called into question existing social structure.

Cartoon from Tèt Kole's 1989 pamphlet commemorating the Jean Rabel massacre.  Peasant farmers plan to cut down the tree of injustice and oppression with the axe of liberation.  (Source: Radio Haïti Inter paper archive)

Cartoon from Tèt Kole’s 1989 pamphlet commemorating the Jean Rabel massacre. Peasant farmers plan to cut down the tree of injustice and oppression with the axe of liberation. (Source: Radio Haïti Inter paper archive)

These landowners — threatened by the possibility of losing their traditional power amid post-Duvalier political change — have manipulated the peasants of the Jean Rabel area, pitting them against one another, currying favor with certain groups of peasants with promises of land redistribution and favoritism. They have created a situation, in Jean-Baptiste’s words, in which the “little dog eats the little dog, poor peasants are killing poor peasants just like themselves.” According to Jean-Baptiste, the landowners and their allies (including certain radio stations and the traditional Catholic Church) have been part of a misinformation campaign, accusing Jean-Marie Vincent of being a communist, creating a climate of fear in which peasants believe that communists are going to seize their land, homes, and possessions. Divisions within the Catholic Church — between the traditional, reactionary Church hierarchy and the “ti legliz” preaching liberation theology and promoting the rights of the poor dispossessed peasantry – are also responsible for the massacre, and, according to Jean-Baptiste, the Church should be held responsible. Interview Jean Dominique.

Interview with Michel Lamartinière Honorat, 10 Dec. 1971

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Download: Entèvyou ak Michel Lamartinière Honorat, 10 desanm 1971

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Michel Lamartinière Honorat — intellectual and Minister of Public Works under Duvalier — speaks about the legacy of Jean Price-Mars and his conceptions of haïtianité, Haitian culture and civilization, racial and cultural mixing (métissage), and collective Bovarism as it relates to European culture and identity. Interview Jean Dominique.

Jean-Claude Duvalier Speech, September 1971

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Download: Diskou Jean-Claude Duvalier, septanm 1971

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Speech by Jean-Claude Duvalier on the anniversary of his father’s rise to power (Sept. 22, 1957) which he terms a “revolution of power.” Duvalier discusses economic development, private investment, industrialization and “progress.” He claims to be working for Haitian autonomy while restructuring the economy for both external and internal markets.

François Duvalier Speech, January 1971

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Download: Diskou François Duvalier, janvye 1971

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Speech by François Duvalier, in January 1971 (three months before his death). He details what he considers his accomplishments as leader for the last fourteen years, and also discusses the completion of the hydroelectric plant on the Péligre river in the Artibonite as one of his successes.

Luckner Cambronne, Minister of the Interior – Press Conference, 23 Nov. 1971

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Download: Luckner Cambronne, Minis Enteryè – Konferans Laprès, 23 Nov. 1971

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Luckner Cambronne, Minister of the Interior and leader of the Tontons Macoutes under Duvalier, holds a press conference during which he denies allegations that marijuana is grown in Haiti (claiming, instead, that it is a plant that resembles marijuana) and claims that there is no drug trafficking in Haiti and that he has not profited off any drug trade. Cambronne blames hippies, and states that “the Haitian people are allergic to that drug business,” except a few students who have been living abroad and Haitians with “long hair” (i.e. Afros). Cambronne also denies that the Duvalier regime arrests people for politics.

Testimonies of April 26, 1986, Fort Dimanche Massacre (Mothers of Victims, Human Rights Observer) – one-year anniversary, 26 Apr. 1987

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Download: Temwanyaj sou masak Fort Dimanche, 26 avril 1986 (manman viktim yo, obsèvatè dwa moun) – 1 an aprè

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Part 1: Liliane Pierre-Paul interviews the mothers and older sister of three young men who were killed by the army at the April 26, 1986 demonstration in front of Fort Dimanche. On that date, there was a procession from Sacre Coeur church to Fort Dimanche in commemoration of the events of April 26, 1963.

Le Nouvelliste, 26 avril 1986

When the crowd assembled in front of Fort Dimanche, the army fired upon them, killing and wounding an unknown number of people. Among them were Jackson Row, age 26, who worked as a typist at the Nouvelliste; Wilson Auguste, 18, a secondary school student; and Wilson Micaisse, 16, also a second school student. A year after the young men’s deaths, the speakers – who are working class street merchants — are distraught and emotional, seeking justice thought not sure how to do that. They say that the young men were treated like dogs rather than people.

Part 2: Testimony from Gary Desenclos from the Comité des droits de l’homme haïtien in Belgium, who was at the April 26, 1986 event as a human rights observer. He states that the violence committed by the army was largely without provocation. While the crowd was making some threats, they were not armed, and at the time of the violence, representatives of the Benoît and Édeline families (which were nearly exterminated in the 1963 massacre) had calmed the crowd down. The army then waited a time, and began to fire. They also stopped people from assisting the injured.

For pdfs of the Nouvelliste reporting on this event from April 26-27 1986, click here, here, and here.

Cazale Massacre: 18 Years Later, 27 March 1987

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Download: Masak Cazale: 18 lane aprè, 27/3/1987

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Liliane Pierre-Paul reports from Cazale on the 18th anniversary of the 1969 massacre. The day prior to the broadcast, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide gave a mass in commemoration, in which he spoke of liberty and justice. Several witnesses to and survivors of the massacre give emotional testimony about the burning of peasant houses, the pillaging and theft, and the rape of young girls by macoutes. Several members of the Haitian democratic movement attended, including Jean-Claude Bajeux of the Centre Oecumenique des Droits de L’Homme, René Théodore of the Parti Unifié des Communistes Haïtiens (PUCH), Gérard Pierre-Charles, Robert (Boby) Duval  of the Ligue des Anciens Prisonniers Politiques Haïtiens (LAPPH) and Monique Brisson.

Interview with members of Komite Pa Bliye (commemoration at Fort Dimanche, February 1991)

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Download: Jean Dominique: Entèvyou ak manm Komite Pa Bliye (komemorasyon nan Fort Dimanche, fevriye 1991) (1)

Jean Dominique: Entèvyou ak manm Komite Pa Bliye (komemorasyon nan Fort Dimanche, fevriye 1991) (2)

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Jean Dominique speaks with three members of the Komite Pa Bliye – Marie-Thérèse (Bébé) Artaud, Ralph Allen, and Guylène Bouchereau — in February 1991, on the occasion of a commemoration of the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship held at Fort Dimanche. The speakers were all intimately affected by the dictatorship and lost close relatives under Duvalier: Artaud’s two sons, Jacques and Max Armand, were part of the August 1964 Jeune Haïti attempted invasion, in which they and eleven other young men were betrayed and then slaughtered; Allen’s mother’s entire family (the Drouin family) was killed in the Jérémie Vespers massacre that Duvalier’s forces exacted in retribution for the Jeune Haiti invasion; Bouchereau’s father, Jean Bouchereau, a high-ranking member of the military under Duvalier, was disappeared and killed on April 26, 1963. The Komite Pa Bliye was originally founded in 1987 with the intention of publicly commemorating the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship via a permanent and traveling exhibition (featuring photographs, texts, and a memory garden), but because of the continued political insecurity, repression, and danger in the years following the end of the regime, they are only able to begin working on the project in earnest in 1991 because there is a new government which represents a “rupture with the past.” They also discuss the political divisions within the Komite Pa Bliye – questions of how explicitly partisan the organization should be, who should and shouldn’t be included among Duvalier’s victims – and how this has resulted in the project not moving forward. Allen states that everyone is “defending their own dead” (moun vin defann mò pa yo). Artaud says that it’s important to differentiate between “victims” and “heroes” – for her, the victims, the innocent bystanders, are the more tragic case because the heroes (her own sons included) knew the risk they were taking. There is a considerable description of Jeune Haïti, their goals, betrayal, and death, and of the Jérémie Vespers massacre that followed. Jean Dominique explains, “If a single man decided to go into battle against Duvalier, Duvalier would say, ‘if you’re in battle against me, your entire family line will disappear.’ So, in addition to the destruction that the dictatorship carried out, it established a rule of terrorism, a domino effect that would exterminate entire families, entire lines.” Jean Dominique asks about the relationship between personal, intimate loss and national grief and symbolism, and Artaud explains that this is why these deaths should not be exploited for the sake of politics. She says: “For me, as a mother, it hurts me viscerally to think of how my children died. My children, they came [as part of Jeune Haïti] – I know – it wasn’t for any particular party. They came for the country. And I don’t want them to be taken up by those on the right nor those on the left nor those in the center. It’s Haiti they were defending.”

One-Year Commemoration of the Killings of “Twa Flè Lespwa” in Gonaïves, Featuring Venel Remarais, 27 Nov. 1986

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Download: Entèvyou Venel Remarais 27/11/86, 3 flè lespwa

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Journalist Venel Remarais speaks with J.J. Dominique on the one-year anniversary of the Nov. 28, 1985 attacks on protestors in Gonaïves by “soldiers and macoutes,” in which three schoolchildren were shot and killed and many other civilians injured.  Venel Remarais worked at the time for the Catholic radio station Radio Soleil, which was ordered closed by the Duvalier regime in 1985.