Inter-Actualités Magazine, Special Report: The Slaughter at Jean Rabel, late July 1987

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Download: Inter-Actualités Magazine, Repòtaj Spesyal: Masak Jean Rabel (l’Hécatombe de Jean Rabel), fen jiye 1987 (1)

Inter-Actualités Magazine, Repòtaj Spesyal: Masak Jean Rabel (l’Hécatombe de Jean Rabel), fen jiye 1987 (2)

 

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As news of the massacre of peasants at Jean Rabel reaches Port-au-Prince, Jean Dominique tries to make sense of the situation based on the scarce information at hand.  All that is known is that a group of peasants in the grassroots group Tèt Ansanm who were demanding land reform have been killed by other peasants as the result of the machinations of Duvalierist landowners.  Jean Rabel is in a remote area and the press can not yet go there.  There are conflicting reports about the number of dead; tens to hundreds are reported dead, and there is the possibility that the death counts have been inflated by the aggressors.

July1989_chantepeyizan_cartoon_1 copy

Cartoon from Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen’s 1989 pamphlet commemorating the Jean Rabel massacre. Wealthy landowners, the army, the Church, and the US, among others, are destroying Haitian peasant farmers. (Source: Radio Haïti Inter paper archive.)

This program revisits several other recordings — the July 3, 1987 interview with members of Tèt Ansanm in which they they warn that the situation is getting more perilous for Jean-Marie Vincent’s missionary team, the July 28, 1987 broadcast from Radio Soleil in which members of Tèt Ansanm who escaped the massacre described what they saw and experienced, Konpè Filo’s interview with Rémy Lucas and Jean-Michel Richardson earlier in 1987 after the violence at Gros Sable, and Michèle Montas’ interview with Father Jean-Marie Vincent on July 28, 1987.  While Jean-Marie Vincent is careful not to criticize Church authorities directly, the Association Nationale des Agronômes Haïtiens is more direct in its denunciation; in an open letter, they claim that bishops and priests have long been attacking Tèt Ansanm and Father Jean-Marie’s missionary team through inflammatory sermons, and that the Church is implicated in this violence.  According to speakers from the community of Plaine de l’Arbre, Tèt Ansanm had also been promoting national production and the consumption of local agricultural products by blocking imported food and food aid (manje sinistre), which created resentment for peasants whose families could not eat without this aid.  The recording concludes with Father Jean-Marie’s words on the future of Tèt Ansanm and grassroots peasant organization.

Father Jean-Marie Vincent on the Jean Rabel Massacre, 28 July 1987

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Download: Pè Jean-Marie Vincent pale sou masak Jean Rabel, 28/7/1987

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Father Jean-Marie Vincent — Catholic priest and director of Caritas — speaks about the recent massacre of peasants in Jean Rabel, northwest Haiti. He blames an alliance of local oligarchs (the Lucas family and Jean-Michel Richardson) and macoutes; they in turn blame Father Vincent, claiming that he armed the members of Tèt Ansanm and incited them to violence. He says he is used to being blamed, attacked, threatened, and called a communist; it is to be expected when one organizes with peasants and encourages them to defend their rights. He rejects claims that the members of Tèt Ansanm are responsible for the violence in Jean Rabel, saying instead that the oligarchs and macoutes are creating a climate of fear and making the victims out to be the aggressors. Father Vincent explains that the conflict began when peasants in Gros Sable reclaimed their land after the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986. It reached its peak with the massacre in Jean Rabel, which has lasted several days. Relatively few people died on the first day, but in the following days, brigades under the direction of those oligarchs attacked and killed people as they attempted to return home and within the hospital. These powerful landowners have impunity. When asked about the Catholic Church’s position (as there are local church authorities who are in opposition to Tèt Ansanm and part of the attacking forces), Father Vincent replies that his order and Caritas have an official mandate to work with and organize the peasants, but that he does not want to risk saying more than that and will wait for higher church authorities to explain their position. Local landowners and oligarchs are profiting from post-dictatorship political instability, leveraging their economic and social capital to crush peasant movements. Father Vincent does not believe that this will be the end of Tèt Ansanm; grassroots peasants groups are the only hope for the masses, so despite suffering and death, they will not disappear. Interview Michèle Montas.

Jean Rabel: Rémy Lucas and Jean-Michel Richardson, date unknown 1987

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Download: Jean Rabel: Rémy Lucas ak Jean-Michel Richardson (1)

Jean Rabel: Rémy Lucas ak Jean-Michel Richardson (2)

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Interview with Rémy Lucas (local oligarch) and Jean-Michel Richardson on their roles in and perceptions of the violence in Gros Sable on February 17, 1987. Lucas and Richardson dismiss allegations that they were responsible for the burning of peasant houses in Gros Sable or any of the events in the Jean Rabel area. They insist that they never had a problem with anybody — they are the victims and that the real blame lies with the “missionary team” of Father Jean-Marie Vincent, who was organizing local peasants to claim their rights and land through the Tèt Ansanm movement. It is not the peasants’ fault, they say, because they are being poorly guided. Lucas and Richardson claim, variously, that Father Vincent is corrupt, that he’s only claiming to do things for the peasants but is in fact profiting, that he’s done a few good works but that it’s been insufficient, that he’s responsible for the introduction of ill-suited North American pigs to Haiti (via his work with Caritas), and that the missionaries personally burned down Richardson’s factory and therefore only increased poverty and hunger in the area by depriving people of their jobs. Lucas and Richardson claim that Father Vincent is not acting as a priest should, that he is creating disunity rather than unity and dividing the community. They defend the reputation of Nicol Poitevien, another powerful local landowner, denying that he was a Macoute. Richardson likewise says he was never a Macoute himself: he was in government, but he never had the “soul” of a Macoute. Lucas claims that he is part of a new, more open generation of the Lucas family. He hedges when asked how much land his family really owns, and says that the peasants have cut down most of the trees on it, anyway.  Interview Konpè Filo.