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

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

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

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

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.

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

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

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

DESCRIPTION

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.

Interview with members of Tèt Ansanm/Witnesses, 28 July 1987

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

Download: Entèvyou ak manm Tèt Ansanm/Temwen, 28/7/1987

DESCRIPTION

Interview with two members of Tèt Ansanm amid the ongoing massacre in Jean Rabel. The witnesses state that members of Tèt Ansanm went to La Montagne for a demonstration in solidarity with other oppressed peasants. Before the demonstration began, members of Tèt Ansanm were attacked with rocks and rifles. Four people were shot, three of whom subsequently disappeared. When the demonstrators tried to leave, they were blocked from leaving and herded into a narrow path where they were again attacked. The protestors tried to flee to the town of Jean Rabel, but there they were massacred. Many of the protestors were then taken to the prison or to the hospital, but they were not safe there, as the macoutes entered at will to threaten the survivors. The families of the hospitalized and imprisoned were watched, threatened, and attacked. When the protestors were released, the aggressors were waiting for them, and would kill them then. These two members of Tèt Ansanm have come on the radio to ask for help to liberate and save the survivors.  Interview Michèle Montas.

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

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

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

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

DESCRIPTION

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. 

Tèt Ansanm members’ testimony, 3 July 1987

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

Download: Sitiyasyon nan Jean Rabel avan masak la, 3 jiyè 1987

DESCRIPTION

Tèt Ansanm members’ testimony; July 3, 1987: Disturbances in and around Jean Rabel since General Namphy, the head of the ruling Conseil National de Gouvernment (CNG) visited the region. In rural areas around Jean Rabel, the macoutes, local leaders and police have come together to destroy Jean-Marie Vincent’s Catholic mission that has been working with peasant organizations. Since Friday they have been in La Montagne, and the surprising thing is that the direktè katechis (local catechism instructors) are collaborating with the macoutes. There have been attacks against the Catholic missionaries and the peasants themselves. Local civil, military, and religious authorities are not protecting people. They have come to Port-de-Paix to ask for authorities to intervene.

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

SoundCloud Ultimate Error: Could not display your SoundCloud track - Error code (401).

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

DESCRIPTION

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.