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: 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)

 

DESCRIPTION

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.

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)

DESCRIPTION

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.

Inter-Actualités Magazine, Special Report on “Boat People,” May 1980

 

Download: Inter-Actualités Magazine, Emisyon Spesyal “Boat People”, me 1980

DESCRIPTION

Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas report from Miami, on the administrative structures and state obstacles facing Haitian refugees who are trying to get political asylum in the United States. As a record number of Haitians flee Haiti for the US, the Bahamas, and other countries – an average of 200 people per week – the question of the rights of the so-called “boat people” and the approximately 30,000 undocumented Haitians in Florida is the subject of political debate in the United States. While Cubans fleeing Communism are considered political refugees by the federal government and granted asylum and various forms of aid (food assistance, work permit), Haitians are considered economic refugees and not granted the same protections or rights. Politicians and civil rights activists in the US, including Jesse Jackson, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Democratic legislators, claim that this is a political façade for institutionalized racism, and are pressuring the Carter administration and Congress to change the laws regarding the treatment of Haitian refugees. Dominique and Montas speak to the deputy district director of the INS, who denies that Haitian and Cuban refugees are treated differently and claims that the State Department has given them no evidence that Haitian refugees face persecution if they return to Haiti; staff members of the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, who argue that in the case of Haitian refugees, the economic cannot be separated from the political; and lawyer Ira Kurzban, who says that the State Department and INS have made it virtually impossible for Haitian refugees to present their claims for political asylum, and in so doing, have violated several federal statutes, the US Constitution, and international law. Dominique concludes by speaking of the courage, fear, and silent determination of the Haitian refugees: “these are our brothers, and we are all responsible.”

 

Face à l’Opinion: Gilles Danroc on Justice, Peace, and Everyday Repression Under the Military Regime, 1991-1994, 10 July 1995

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Face à l’Opinion: Gilles Danroc sou Jistis, Lape, ak Represyon Kotidyèn anba Rejim Militè, 1991-1994, 10/8/1995 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Gilles Danroc sou Jistis, Lape, ak Represyon Kotidyèn anba Rejim Militè, 1991-1994 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Belgian priest, writer, and human rights activist Gilles Danroc headed the “Commission Justice et Paix” the human rights arm of the Catholic Church in Haiti, in 1995. In the Dossier répression au quotidien en Haiti, written with Daniel Roussière, he assesses the situation of everyday repression of civilians under the Cédras military regime of 1991-1994, with particular attention to the repression of peasants in the Artibonite/Gonaïves region, the state of rule of law and addresses issues of freedom, justice, reconciliation and poverty. Danroc argues that Haitian society is structured on repression and terror, and the subsequent voluntary silencing and forgetting of that repression, and that reconciliation will only be possible if there is an active search for truth and justice. Interview Jean Dominique.

“Reconciliation, in my opinion, is when a society has accepted the truth and desires justice. A people without memory, they are not a people at all. So if Haiti wants to have a future, it must have a memory that is structured, solid, clear, and luminous.” – Gilles Danroc

***

“Reconciliation cannot happen without rule of law. Law — the constitution — is higher than mere power. It’s not power that makes the law, it’s the law that makes power.” – Gilles Danroc

Face à l’Opinion: Ambassador Guy Alexandre on the Repatriation of Haitians from Dominican Republic, 22 May 1996

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Download: Face à l’Opinion: Ambassador Guy Alexandre sou Repatriman Ayisyen nan Dominikani, 22/5/1996 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Ambassador Guy Alexandre sou Repatriman Ayisyen nan Dominikani, 22/5/1996 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Haitian ambassador to the Dominican Republic Guy Alexandre discusses the 1996 repatriation of Haitians from the Dominican Republic. While ostensibly those repatriated were undocumented Haitian workers living in the Dominican Republic illegally, in fact many among them had papers certifying them to be in the Dominican Republic legally, or were in fact Dominican-born people of Haitian origin, or simply dark-skinned Dominicans. Alexandre says that while the Dominican Republic is a sovereign nation, it should have notified and consulted with the Haitian authorities before abruptly beginning this deportation process, and that the Dominican Republic should have mechanisms to establish people’s true nationality and identity before engaging in mass deportation. He discusses the relationship between this deportation edict and Dominican electoral politics, as it relates to Joaquín Balaguer (the successor to anti-Haitian dictator Rafael Trujillo) and opposition leader José Francisco Peña Gómez (a dark-skinned Dominican of partial Haitian descent), and those to politicians’ friends and allies on the Haitian side of the border. Alexandre discusses Dominican racial consciousness in general, the history of “whitening” and the erasing of African origins in the Dominican Republic. Interview Jean Dominique.

Face à l’Opinion: Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine on Justice, Impunity and Memory in the Aftermath of the Coup Years, 16 Dec. 1997

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Face à l’Opinion: Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine sou Jistis, Inpinite ak Memwa Aprè Ane Koudeta yo, 16/12/1997 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine sou Jistis, Inpinite ak Memwa Aprè Ane Koudeta yo, 16/12/1997 (2)

DESCRIPTION

From 1995 to 2000, the Fondation 30 septembre led weekly demonstrations throughout the country demanding justice for victims of the 1991-1994 military coup. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, human rights defender, psychologist and founder of the group, discusses the Fondation’s battle against impunity and forgetting, the process of documenting the victims and their testimonies, with particular emphasis on seeking justice and reparations for the victims of Raboteau and other massacres. Ten years after this interview, in August 2007, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine disappeared under mysterious circumstances; his body was never found. Interview Jean Dominique.

 

“It is a battle of memory against forgetfulness, because we think that we cannot build the democracy we want for this country if we continue to erase what happened. It is impossible. It is impossible.” – Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

***

“We believe that we must say that the work we are doing is not just for the dead. We are doing this work for those who had loved ones who were victims – the relatives of the victims – and for the victims who survived. And for the entire population, so they don’t forget what happened. Because this represents a huge danger to us, to our society, if society forgets what happened. We risk living through it again. And who can claim, today, that Haiti is immune to another coup d’état? Who can claim, today, that society has set up barriers to a coup d’état ever happening in this country again?” – Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

***

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine: Forgetting is not democratic. Forgetting is something that encourages, that favors the executioners. When we forget, it’s like we’re signing a blank check over to the executioners.

Jean Dominique: What you mean by that, Lovinsky, is that when victims forget, when society forgets, the executioners can repaint their faces, make themselves over to appear to be just like newborn babies, like innocents, and with that mask of innocence, they can get themselves in a place where they can start all over again. That’s what you’re saying.

Face à l’Opinion: Rodolfo Mattarollo: OAS/UN Report on Human Rights in the Coup Years , 11 Oct. 1999

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Face à l’Opinion: Rodolfo Mattarollo: Rapò OEA/ONU sou Dwa Moun an Ayiti, 11/10/1999 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Rodolfo Mattarollo: Rapò OEA/ONU sou Dwa Moun an Ayiti, 11/10/1999 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Rodolfo Mattarollo discusses the results of an OAS/UN report on the state of human rights, justice, and impunity in Haiti in the aftermath of the coup d’état and the brutal regime of Raoul Cédras (1991-1994), during which an untold number of people were killed, disappeared, raped, and tortured. Mattarollo focuses on the need to establish and document the truth – which is particularly complicated in Haiti, because so many of the victims were poor, anonymous peasants – and on having solid judicial structures and legal institutions in the fight against impunity. He speaks particularly of the Raboteau massacre of 1994, in which military forces gunned down pro-Aristide demonstrators in the Raboteau neighborhood of Gonaïves. Mattarollo, who was exiled from his homeland of Argentina during that country’s military regime, was lawyer, human rights defender, and Adjunct Executive Director of the International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH) from 1996 to 2000. As the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) ambassador to Haiti from 2010, Dr. Matarollo provided active support to the plaintiffs in the judicial case against former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.  Interview Jean Dominique.

For more information: Rodolfo Mattarollo: Rien n’a été en vain (in French)

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

DESCRIPTION

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.

Face à l’Opinion: Father Rénald Clérismé on the First Anniversary of Jean-Marie Vincent’s Assassination, 24 Aug. 1995

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Face à l’Opinion: Pè Rénald Clérismé sou Premyè Anivèsè Asasina Jean-Marie Vincent, 24/8/1995 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Pè Rénald Clérismé sou Premyè Anivèsè Asasina Jean-Marie Vincent, 24/8/1995 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Father Jean Marie Vincent, a Catholic priest who founded the peasant rights association “Tet Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen” in the small town of Jean Rabel, was assassinated on August 28, 1994 under the military regime. On the first anniversary of Father Vincent’s death, Jean Renald Clérismé, a former Catholic priest (and eventual Minister of Foreign Affairs of Haiti from 2006- 2008) remembers Jean Marie Vincent, his devotion to the peasantry (“Jean-Marie grew up with a boundless love for the peasantry”) and his commitment to liberation theology and universal dignity for all. Clérismé also discusses development and underdevelopment, corruption, and the role of the international community in Haiti, as well as Aristide’s return and the US and UN occupations of 1994-1995. Clérismé explains that in order to truly honor Jean-Marie Vincent’s memory, they must seek justice not only for him but for all the victims of the regime, including the poor and invisible. Interview Jean Dominique.

“Everyone is demanding justice for Janboul [Jean-Marie], justice for [Antoine] Izméry, justice for [Guy] Malary, because those people were visible. But a penniless unfortunate on the street, that they seize and they beat, and they take him and rape his brothers, rape his sisters, rape his mother – those people, too, they deserve to be commemorated, for us to say that they were people too and to put them together with Janboul. We can’t honor Janboul if we don’t put those people’s problems together with the commemoration we’re doing for him.” – Rénald Clérismé