Papa Doc and
father of the Tonton Macoutes and no big fan of the scouting movement
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
Known Macoutes that weren't burned to death were specifically banned by
Article 291 of the constitution from participating in political life for 10
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 Brooklyn.
Oddly enough, in 1994, the Tonton Macoutes held a press conference and
claimed they had reformed. Nothing was really heard from them after that,
Today "Macoute" is a Haitian euphemism for anyone that opposes
progressive change or favors right-wing nationalism.