Uprooting Duvalierism

Hogan, John P.

STRUGGLE IN HAITI UPROOTING DUVALIERISM A ROUTE UNSURE & BLOODY It is always hot in Haiti. But in addition to this long summer's heat, Haiti has been plagued by violence. Little has changed in...

...The strikes closed down Port-au-Prince...
...Rache Manyok yo...
...Signs stating "Aba Ameriken-Satan" were in evidence, as was Haiti's small but influential Communist party...
...The strike and demonstrations continued but a series of recent events stand out, both for their political significance and their brutality...
...The pressure on the CNG continued...
...Pere Aristide has become the major proponent of liberation theology in Haiti...
...That glimmer was almost snuffed out on June, 19...
...Beginning with the church's "Charter of 1983" on through a number of pastoral letters, programs in literacy, community organization, popular education, and agricultural development have been promoted under Catholic auspices and are leading the fight for social change...
...Poor farmers live in a desert of erosion...
...These events ushered in a series of strikes, demonstrations, and protests...
...Ten people died in the flood and thousands were left homeless...
...The education necessary to avoid extremes is precisely the role churches have to play...
...At the same time, a general strike was called by a major labor union, CATH...
...While traveling in .the northwest, an elderly Haitian sister told us, "Now that we are working openly in defense of the poor, they call us Communists...
...A Haitian version of the basic Christian community has been developed...
...So far the letter seems to have fueled the rhetoric of commentators and added to the confusion...
...By July 1, there were reports of 25 people killed by the military and over 100 wounded...
...The eroded mountain sides spilled mud knee-deep into the city streets...
...Following this, the Haitian National Caritas office issued a strong defense of the Catholic "Tet Ansem" groups denouncing the accusations of violence and Communism...
...This caused a reaction on the part of his student followers who promptly took over the cathedral in Port-au-Prince in protest...
...In Cite Soleil, two dead bodies still remained in the street...
...Anti-American sentiment was strong...
...The ubiquitous (public transportation) minibuses, called Tap-Taps, were nowhere to be seen...
...They understood better than the rich and the middle class what was happening and why the strikes were necessary...
...On July 10, ten thousand people marched "to rid the army and police of the Ton-Tpn Macoutes...
...On August 8, the Haitian Episcopal Conference issued a statement pleading for calm and nonviolence and calling for a dialogue involving all public sectors...
...Instantly, the peaceful protesters became an angry mob, rampaging through the city breaking windows...
...On Sunday, August 23, a solidarity Mass for the victims of Jean-Rabel was broken up by gunfire...
...Third, the strong and socially active Catholic church has contributed immensely to the construction of a new Haiti...
...He is director of Catholic Relief Services in Haiti...
...Ban-moin te-a blanch'' "pull up the manioc and give back the land clean!'' In other words, uproot Duvalierism Generals Namphy and Regala must go...
...The basic Christian communities called the 77 Legliz, the " little church,'' rallied to the support of the strike...
...Five priests, all active in defense of the poor including Father Aristide, were forced to flee and barely escaped from ambushes and roadblocks set up by the military and apparent Macoutes...
...Many are forced to seek more fertile ground either 518: Commonweal in the slums of Port-au-Prince or as "boat people...
...Romelus later urged the American government to stay out of Haiti's internal affairs and warned Haitians to avoid both extremes of capitalism and Communism...
...Both the complexity and the tragedy of the current situation in Haiti are reflected by the fact that the events in Jean-Rabel are being used to discredit the community organizing by Catholic church workers...
...The constitution so happily voted in by Haitians was cast aside...
...They rescinded their electoral decree and lifted the ban against the union...
...Blood and bullet holes were everywhere...
...However, at the same time it was made public that Pere Aristide had been transferred...
...Matthew, "I praise you Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children...
...The cry was heard and a prophet emerged...
...John Bosco in the hub of one of Port-au-Prince's poorest areas...
...In the area of Jean-Rabel in the northwest of the country, foreign missionaries and local priests had worked for years building up the "little church" groups and developing a peasant organization referred to as "Tet Ansem" or "Heads Together,'' Since last year, they had become more involved in land reform efforts and found themselves at loggerheads with the large landowners...
...Barricades of burning tires sent smoke signals from neighborhood to neighborhood...
...The themes of exodus, diaspora, and Jesus our brother and liberator, need to be understood in the present bewildering and fearful context and lived out in public policy...
...At present, there are investigation teams of professional people, religious, and human rights advocates attempting to unearth the facts behind the events in Jean-Rabel...
...Although some have tried to make much of the religious denominational differences among the groups and the role of the missionaries, it is clear that the land reform question was at the forefront...
...Nonetheless, three points for reflection come to mind...
...The one glimmer of hope for a democratically elected civilian government was bolstered by the very successful constitutional referendum of March 29, 1987...
...But the military and police proved equally capable of a brutal reaction...
...What the army started, the rains completed...
...But so many deaths had moved the stakes beyond constitutional matters...
...the Haitian bishops issued a i letter commenting on ambiguities surroundling the "popular church" and attempting to 'seize a middle ground between Marxist socialism and capitalism...
...The campaign against the missionaries appears well-organized and well-orchestrated...
...Bishop Willy Romelus, the Catholic bishop of Jeremie who is being called Haiti's Oscar Romero, read one of his several statements about the crisis...
...While delivering medicines to the National Hospital, my colleagues and I witnessed soldiers and police firing at unarmed people in the large slums of La Saline and Cite Soleil...
...The issue had become the viability of the CNG...
...On Sunday, July 5, we attended the Mass of Father Aristide at St...
...The battle cry was raised finally to rid the country of Duvalierism and the Macoutes...
...The poorer neighborhoods in the capital dug out of the mud...
...For the next two weeks, Haiti buried its dead...
...Some wondered aloud whether the record rainfall and the recent events had softened the soil and made it easier to pull up the manioc and clear the land of Duvalierism...
...25 September 1987: 519...
...The rampage, however, was quickly ended by a torrential downpour...
...Radio Soleil estimated the number of dead at four hundred with many more suffering serious machete wounds...
...The interim military (CNG) ignored the constitutionally appointed electoral council and imposed its own electoral decree...
...Bishop Romelus cannot be expected to pull up all the roots alone...
...Little has changed in Haiti since the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier on February 7, 1986...
...The CNG dismissed two members of the electoral council, outlawed CATH, and jailed its leaders...
...people still walk in fear of the Ton-Ton Macoutes...
...Presidential elections are scheduled for November 29, but it is impossible to make predictions...
...The priest compared the poor of Cite Soleil and La Saline to the little children in the Gospel...
...First, the sensitivity to American interference in Haiti's political and economic life is at "a high point...
...But the danger immediately visible comes from the military right...
...Around July 24-25, after a protest march, the "TetAnsem" groups were ambushed and a brutal massacre took place...
...The "Groups of Fifty-Seven," the coordinating committee of the strike, proposed an alternative government who would take over in the event of the CNG's departure...
...Poverty is still the primary concern of life...
...His pungent use of the Creole language will go down in Haitian history...
...A recent church symposium stated, "In the name of God, listen carefully, think hard, rise up and act.'' This is the kind of counsel the church can offer at present...
...However, the CNG appears determined to stay...
...Other strong voices are needed to call the government to responsibility, to mobilize the poor, to criticize the rich, and to challenge the middle class...
...Nonetheless, the strike and protests generated hope, much of which had been"engendered by Catholic church efforts...
...lost on the NBC cameras or the other reporters who salted the crowded congregation...
...Contrasting sharply with a message issued by the Haitian Conference of Religious dealing with the killing of priests at Pont Sondc, the bishops* statement is unfortunately being interpreted as a reversal of their excellent commitment to change in Haiti...
...Coffins were reported floating out of the old downtown cemetery...
...His strong comments on "American imperialism" and his endorsement of Bishop Romelus's statement were not n August 24...
...As so often happens, the missionaries and church groups are now being smeared, as they were under Duvalier, with the Communist label...
...The text for the homily was St...
...JOHN P. HOGAN John P. Hogan, formerly a member of the theology faculty at Loyola College, Baltimore, has lived and worked in Latin America and West Africa...
...Haitians proved themselves capable of sustaining an organized, peaceful opposition movement...
...It is still unclear exactly what provoked the massacre...
...The peaceful demonstration was abruptly ended when soldiers fired tear gas canisters into the crowd in front of the National Palace, injuring three people...
...Second, the splintering of opposition groups and the lack of any strong candidates at present leave the way open for extremists of the left or right...

Vol. 114 • September 1987 • No. 16


 
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