Little Haiti Fears Slayings, Blast Linked to Troubled Homeland
MIAMI (AP) _ Leaders of Miami’s Little Haiti section point to the slayings of two prominent broadcasters as evidence the Tontons Macoutes - former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ″Baby Doc″ Duvalier’s thugs - are here.
Fritz Dor, a well-known local Haitian radio commentator, was shot to death March 15, a month after fellow radio commentator Jean Claude Oliver was killed. Both were advocates of Haitian democracy.
″Many people are scared,″ said Philip Jean, who sipped a beer in Miami’s Little Haiti section last week. ″The Macoutes are here.″
The heart of Little Haiti, a section lined with markets, shops and restaurants offering such West Indian specialties as goat, rice and beans, was unusually quiet after the slayings. The office of the political group Veye-Yo was closed. A wreath of yellows and violets hung ″In Memory of Fritz Dor.″
″This is a new experience for us in Miami,″ said the Rev. Gerard Jean- Juste, a Little Haiti leader. ″As the Haitians in Haiti are chasing out the Macoutes, some of them are now in Miami. They are professional killers.″
Miami police spokesman Angelo Bitsis said a task force investigating the slayings is pursuing several leads provided by the Haitian-American community.
But he refused to say if any former Macoutes are suspected in the slayings or if any had been questioned.
The Tontons Macoutes, formed four decades ago by Duvalier’s father, Francois ″Papa Doc″ Duvalier, enforced a reign of terror that kept the Duvaliers in power for years. Their name means ″Uncle Bogeyman″ in Haitian Creole.
Clad in blue uniforms and dark sunglasses, the Macoutes were blamed for the disappearance of numerous Duvalier political opponents, some of whom were never seen again, others whose bodies turned up on family members’ doorsteps.
Although the militia has since been disbanded, Haitians believe former members are behind the two slayings and a powerful explosion last week that rocked a Miami building owned by pro-democracy activist Ringo Cayard.
After joyful street celebrations in Miami greeted the Feb. 7 inauguration of populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide as Haiti’s president, leaders of Miami’s Haitian community of more than 100,000 began rallying financial and other support for their impoverished country.
Oliver, Dor and Cayard were outspoken supporters of Aristide’s government.
Fire investigators linked the blast at Cayard’s building to gas from a restaurant’s new stove and said it could have been an accident. But Cayard is one of several prominent local Haitians being offered police protection.
″I will continue to help build my country,″ he said.
″It is intimidation,″ Jean-Juste said from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he attended Dor’s funeral Saturday. ″Everywhere, Haitians want to help build Haiti. The enemies of the government are trying to do whatever they can to stop change.″
Miami police, joined by four other departments and state and federal agents, formed the task force with two missions: solve the slayings and reduce Little Haiti’s fear.
Bitsis said until the slayings there had been few problems in Little Haiti.
″It’s been a relatively peaceful area over the years,″ the police spokesman said. ″Now we’ve had two very high-profile murders and there is a heightened state of fear in the Haitian community.″