Monday, January 17, 2011

Milice de Voluntaires de la Sécurité Nationale : Tonton Macoutes

Can you rob a people of even their poverty?

Yesterday , Jean-Claude “Baby Doc" Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti returned from exile in France. Baby Docs daddy, Papa Doc, initiated a dictatorship of terror in Haiti in 1957. To carry out his wishes he created a secret police force composed of illiterate followers and Voodoo leaders, The Tonton Macoutes.

"The Haitians nicknamed this warlord-led goon squad the “Tonton Macoutes,” after the Creole translation of a common myth, about an “uncle” (Tonton) who kidnaps and punishes obstreperous kids by snaring them in a gunnysack (Macoute) and carrying them off to be consumed at breakfast. Consequently, these torturers, kidnapers and extortionists were feared not only by children, but also by the country’s general population, as well as by opposition members and business men not willing to make enforced pay-offs to the authorities. The militia consisted mostly of illiterate fanatics that were converted into ruthless zombie-like gunmen. Their straw hats, blue denim shirts, dark glasses and machetes remain indelibly etched in the minds of millions of Haitians.
Ever since its establishment, this brutal organization had free rein to act unreservedly, disregarding any ethical or civil rights of the citizenry that might interfere with its indiscriminate violence. They were not accountable to any state branch, court or elected body, but rather only to their leader, “Papa Doc.”"

When Baby Doc took over from Papa he was more focused on his playboy activities so he brought in the mix a new head of the Tonton Macoute. "Luckner Cambronne was a particularly fierce head of the “Tonton Macoutes” throughout the 1960’s and the beginning of the 1970’s, for two reasons: first, because he was considered perhaps the most powerful and influential man in Haiti during the transition from “Papa” to “Baby Doc,” and second, because of his unique brand of cruelty that enabled him to become very rich and earned him the nickname “Vampire of the Caribbean.”

When Baby Doc was disposed in 1986, the Tonton Macoute was the target of revenge and retribution by Haitians. But many of them are still alive and all have passed on their loyalty and beliefs down to their decedents. The Tonton Macoute lies in hibernation, Zombies ready to rise to fight again.

A Report on the Tonton Macoute can be found here.

1 comment:

drlobojo said...

There is another wrinkle in the folk story, concerning Christmas.
Tonton Macoute are as likly to be sent to kidnap as kill, hence the name "Uncle Gunnysack", and the old story that while Santa left gifts for good children on christmas, Uncle Gunnysack, Tonton Macoute, took them away.