Haiti: Putting On the Squeeze

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The U.S. had about run out of patience with François Duvalier, the hard-eyed dictator who holds ruthless power in Haiti. All aid—amounting to $7,250,000 this year—to Duvalier's graft-ridden regime has been suspended for three months. No more arms are being sent in, and the U.S. has demanded a weapon-by-weapon accounting for the $1,100,000 worth shipped in since 1960 to equip Haiti's regular army, air force and coast guard. Now, Colonel Robert Debs Heinl Jr., chief of the 50-man U.S. Marine mission sent down to train Haiti's soldiers, has indicated still more U.S. displeasure. In a note, approved by the highest levels of both the Pentagon and the State Department, he coldly suggested that Duvalier abolish the brutal 8,000-man militia that operates as the dictator's irregular private army, terrorizing the French-speaking Negro republic.

Demoralized Army. In plain leatherneck language, Colonel Heinl said that the Milice Civile was becoming Haiti's primary armed force, while the constitutional army was being neglected. He noted that the national Academic Militaire had been closed for months, and that army barracks everywhere were falling into disrepair for lack of funds. "Haiti in its present circumstances cannot afford to maintain two separate armies," wrote Heinl. "The practice on the part of individual miliciens or their leaders of establishing themselves as vagrant law officers exercising police authority has had a degrading effect on the regular armed forces."

Haitians call Duvalier's private bully boys the Tonton Macoutes, which means "bogeymen" in Creole. They are paid as much as $30 a month (high pay by Haitian standards), plus whatever they can extort from merchants and businessmen. When Duvalier wants to hold a rally, the Macoutes use their muscle to organize the crowds, commandeer trucks to carry the rooters to the appointed place. When Duvalier wants the opposition squashed, the Macoutes do the job. Three weeks ago, one of the "vagrant law officers" halted a bus near the village of Gressier, 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, ordered out a peasant suspected of being anti-Duvalier, shot him three times in the back, twice more in the head, in full view of the passersby. Last week a night watchman at a highway maintenance depot who refused to hand over supplies for the Macoutes was found beaten to death and his body tied upright with barbed wire.

Sudden Retirement. Though the U.S. is trying to compel Duvalier to mend his ways, Haiti's intransigent tyrant was still showing a preference for his own gang instead of the army. The army's chief of staff, General Jean-René Boucicaut, worried for his own safety, fled with his wife and children to asylum in the Venezuelan embassy. Swearing in a replacement, his fifth army boss in as many years, "Papa Doc," as Duvalier likes to be called, blandly announced that the 44-year-old Boucicaut had reached "the age of retirement."