Haiti: The Living Dead

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If all the many enemies of Haiti's Dictator Francois Duvalier were lined up in a row, the man in front would be Clement Barbot, 50, a onetime friend and devoted lieutenant. Short, wiry, with a pencil-thin mustache, Barbot organized "Papa Doc's" dread Tonton Macoute, his secret police; he was the chief's personal bodyguard, supervised the regime's tortures and executions—and was himself tossed into jail for 18 months when he seemed to be getting too ambitious. After his release last year, Barbot launched a campaign of terror against his old mentor. To Haitians, it was like a choice between a scorpion and a tarantula: "What would you do with a killer who delivered the country of a homicidal maniac?"

Last April four of Duvalier's bodyguards were shot down while escorting two of the dictators children to school. The children were unharmed, but the message was clear. Just target practice, wrote Barbot in a letter to Papa Doc. A few weeks later, Barbot's men pounced on schoolhouses where peasants had been herded in like cattle, waiting to shout Vive Papa Doc at a government rally. Seven were killed—and word of the terror started to shake Duvalier's regime. Duvalier sent militia patrols to comb Port-au-Prince's festering slums. But Barbot laid clever ambushes: in one fight alone, 30 loyal Duvalierists were reported killed. While Duvalier's men were out chasing him, Barbot raided their lightly guarded barracks for arms. He even telephoned the palace one day, warning Duvalier not to drink his coffee—it was poisoned, said Barbot.

The raging Duvalier sent back word: "Barbot, you will bring me your head." But in voodoo-entranced Haiti the whisper went around that no one could kill Barbot. He had the strange power, they said, to change himself into a black dog and escape at will. In Port-au-Prince, Duvalier's policemen went around shooting black dogs on sight.

Last week, his ammunition running low, Barbot was about to muster his mob for an all-or-nothing attack on Duvalier. He and his brother Harry, 45, were hiding in a straw hut at the edge of a sugar-cane field, six miles north of Port-au-Prince. But this time someone tipped off Duvalier. A swarm of government goons surrounded the hut and set fire to the field. The Barbot brothers and three henchmen stumbled out through the smoke and flames—smack into a hail of bullets.

A few hours later, radios blared the government version: the Barbots were caught setting fire to a cane field outside Port-au-Prince and were killed resisting arrest. Pictures of the riddled bodies were passed out to newspapers. But many superstitious Haitians believe that Clement Barbot lives on, and black dogs on the street draw fearful sidelong glances.