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Tonton Macoutes







Papa Doc and father of the Tonton Macoutes and no big fan of the scouting movement


Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier was initially a great reformer. He implemented popular land reform. However, following a heart attack, Duvalier began to change. He used the nation's adherence to voodoo superstitions to control and frighten his people. Invoking a local legend about Santa, he formed a paramilitary death squad known as the Tonton Macoutes.

In the Haitian legend, Tonton No?l (Uncle Christmas) visited on Christmas, bringing presents for all the good little boys and girls. However, the bad little boys and girls were visited by Tonton Macoute ("Uncle Knapsack") and they would be carried away. The Tonton Macoutes were given, literally, a license to kill by Papa Doc. They were given automatic amnesty for any crime they committed "in the line of duty". Their line of duty was to maintain Papa Doc in power at all cost. The force was answerable only to him.

The Tonton Macoutes were distinguished by their dark sun glasses. They murdered and tortured editors, political opponents, and prosperous business men that began to get too big for their britches. One of their jobs was to actually enforce Papa Doc's ban on the Boy Scouts. Membership in the organization was punishable by death. Papa Doc instituted the ban when six Boy Scouts were caught spray painting "Down with Duvalier" on a
Port-au-Prince wall.

Tonton Macoute victims were traditionally left hanging in public as warnings.

On Papa Doc's death in 1971, his son Baby Doc assumed power and renamed the Tonton Macoutes (who were understandably getting a bad name by now and not viewed as a positive force in
Haiti) the "National Security Volunteers".

Nothing changed until General Namphy's 1986 transitional government official disbanded the murderous organization. Many Tonton Macoute volunteers folded themselves into the police auxiliary and various government administration jobs. Many simply joined another death squad called FRAPH.

When Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide took power, the public backlash against known Macoutes was fierce. Many met Pere Lebrun, which is better known as "necklacing" -- a person is set on fire by having a burning gasoline-soaked tire thrown around his neck. Roughly 70 to 100 former Macoutes met this fate. There are some reports that a few of the Macoutes were ritually eaten by their killers, their flesh having been first saut?ed in a cheap Haitian rum called Clarin (msg me for the recipe).

Known Macoutes that weren't burned to death were specifically banned by Article 291 of the constitution from participating in political life for 10 years.

In 1991 Tonton Macoute leader Roger Lafontant led a failed coup against Aristide (whom he referred to as the "little red priest"). Lafontant was imprisoned for life and eventually murdered there. Lafontant's right-hand man Mirabeau Petit-Homme escaped from jail and is now ostensibly living in

Oddly enough, in 1994, the Tonton Macoutes held a press conference and claimed they had reformed. Nothing was really heard from them after that, however.

Today "Macoute" is a Haitian euphemism for anyone that opposes progressive change or favors right-wing nationalism.


 -- Karl Mamer





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