Tonton Macoute

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Haitian paramilitary force under President François Duvalier

Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale
Tonton Macoute
Tonton Makout

Emblem Tonton Macoute.png

Tonton Macoute haiti.png

Paramilitary organization overview
Formed 1959 (1959)
Preceding agencies
  • Cagoulards
  • Milice Civile
Dissolved 1986 (1986)
Superseding agency
  • Several semi-legal paramilitary organizations
Jurisdiction

Haiti

Headquarters

Port-au-Prince

Paramilitary organization executives
  • Clément Barbot

  • Luckner Cambronne

  • Roger Lafontant

Parent paramilitary organization

PUN

Agency ID VSN

The Tonton Macoute (

Haitian Creole

: Tonton Makout)

[1]

[2]

[3]

or simply the Macoute

[4]

[5]

was a

special operations

unit within the

Haitian

paramilitary

force created in 1959 by dictator

François “Papa Doc” Duvalier

. In 1970 the militia was renamed the Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (VSN, Volunteers of the National Security).

[6]

Haitians named this force after the

Haitian mythological

bogeyman

, Tonton Macoute (“Uncle Gunnysack”), who kidnaps and punishes unruly children by snaring them in a

gunny sack

(French: macoute) and carrying them off to be consumed at breakfast.

[7]

[8]

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History[

edit

]

Papa Doc Duvalier

created the Tontons Macoutes because he perceived the military to be a threat to his power.

After the

July 1958 Haitian coup d’état attempt

against President

François Duvalier

, he purged the army and law enforcement agencies in Haiti and executed numerous officers as he perceived them as a threat to his regime. To counteract this threat, he created a military force that bore several names. In 1959, his paramilitary force was called the Cagoulards (“Hooded Men”).

[9]

[10]

They were then renamed to Milice Civile (Civilian Militia), and after 1962, Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Volunteers of the National Security, or VSN).

[9]

[11]

They began to be called the Tonton Macoute when people started to disappear for no apparent reason.

[12]

This group answered to him only.

Duvalier authorized the Tontons Macoutes to commit systematic violence and

human rights

abuses to suppress political opposition. They were responsible for unknown numbers of murders and

rapes in Haiti

. Political opponents often disappeared overnight, or were sometimes attacked in broad daylight. Tontons Macoutes stoned and burned people alive. Many times they put the corpses of their victims on display, often hung in trees for everyone to see and take as warnings against opposition. Family members who tried to remove the bodies for proper burial often disappeared themselves. Anyone who challenged the VSN risked assassination. Their unrestrained

state terrorism

was accompanied by corruption, extortion and personal aggrandizement among the leadership. The victims of Tontons Macoutes could range from a woman in the poorest of neighborhoods who had previously supported an opposing politician to a businessman who refused to comply with extortion threats (ostensibly as donations for public works, but which were in fact the source of profit for corrupt officials and even President Duvalier). The Tontons Macoutes murdered between 30,000 and 60,000 Haitians.

[13]

Luckner Cambronne

led the Tontons Macoute throughout the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. His cruelty earned him the nickname “Vampire of the Caribbean”. This particular name was earned by one of his endeavors of extorting plasma from locals for sale. Luckner did this through his company “Hemocaribian” and shipped five tons of plasma per month to US Labs. He would also go on to sell cadavers to medical schools after buying them from Haitian hospitals for $3 per corpse. When the Hospital could not supply this the local funeral homes would be used.

[14]

In 1971, President Duvalier died and his widow

Simone

, and son

Jean-Claude Duvalier

ordered Cambronne into exile. Cambronne moved to

Miami, Florida

, USA, where he lived until his death in 2006.

[15]

When François Duvalier came to power in 1957

Vodou

was becoming celebrated for its purely Haitian heritage by Intellectuals and the

Griots

after having been let go for years by those with education.

[16]

The Tonton Macoute was heavily influenced by Vodou tradition with denim uniforms resembling clothing like

Azaka Medeh

the patron of farmers and the use of the machete in symbolic reference to

Ogou

a great general in Vodou tradition.

[17]

[18]

Some of the most important members of the Tontons Macoute were Vodou leaders. This religious affiliation gave the Tontons Macoute a kind of unearthly authority in the eyes of the public. From their methods to their choice of clothes, Vodou always played an important role in their actions. The Tonton Macoutes wore straw hats, blue

denim

shirts and dark glasses, and were armed with

machetes

and guns. Both their allusions to the supernatural and their physical presentations were used with the intention of instilling fear and respect.

[7]

[19]

[20]

Even their title of Tonton Macoute was embedded in Haitian lore of a bogeyman who took children away in his satchel or his Makoute.

[16]

The Tontons Macoute were a ubiquitous presence at the polls in the

1961 election

, in which Duvalier’s official vote count was an “outrageous” and fraudulent 1,320,748 to 0, electing him to another term.

[21]

They appeared in force again at polls in 1964, when Duvalier held

a rigged referendum

that declared him

President for Life

.[

citation needed

]

Legacy[

edit

]

In 1985 the United States began to shut down funds to Haitian aid cutting nearly a million dollars from it within a year. Nonetheless the regime pushed forward and even had a national party for the Tontons Macoute. Tonton Macoute day was 29 July 1985, and amongst festivities the group was bestowed new uniforms and was honored by all of

Baby Doc

‘s Cabinet. In exuberance of celebration the Tonton Macoute went out into the streets and shot 27 people for the national party.

[22]

The lack of funds coming to the Tonton Macoute was result of being intercepted by the

Duvalier dynasty

who were sometimes taking nearly 80 percent of international aid to Haiti, then turning around to only pay 45 percent of the debts the country owed. This continued until the Tonton Macoute were left on their own when Baby Doc fled the country with an estimated $900m.

[23]

The Tonton Macoutes remained active even after the presidency of “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s son “Baby Doc” ended with the

anti-Duvalier protest movement

1986.

[20]

Massacres led by paramilitary groups spawned from the Macoutes continued during the following decade. The most feared paramilitary group during the 1990s was the

Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haïti

(FRAPH), which

Toronto Star

journalist Linda Diebel described as modern Tonton Macoutes, and not the legitimate political party they claimed to be.

[6]

Led by Emmanual Constant, FRAPH differed from the Tonton Macoute in their denial to submit to the will of a single authority and their cooperation with regular military forces.

[24]

FRAPH extended its reach far outside that of the Haitian state and had offices present in

New York

,

Montreal

and

Miami

until its disarmament and disbandment in 1994.

[25]

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Representation in other media[

edit

]

  • The Comedians

    [26]

    (1966) is a novel by Graham Greene about the struggle of a former hotel owner against the Tonton Macoute. It was adapted into a

    feature film

    starring

    Richard Burton

    ,

    Elizabeth Taylor

    ,

    Peter Ustinov

    and

    Alec Guinness

    .

  • Ton-Ton Macoute!

    , a 1970 album by

    Johnny Jenkins

    .

  • Heaven Knows

    ,” a song by

    Robert Plant

    on his album

    Now and Zen

    , references the Tonton Macoute.

  • The Serpent and the Rainbow

    (1988), a horror film directed by

    Wes Craven

    , loosely based on

    the book of the same name

    , deals with

    Haitian Vodou

    and Duvalierist political repression.

  • The Dew Breaker

    [27]

    (2004) is a novel by

    Edwidge Danticat

    that features the Tonton Macoute as important in the plot.

  • Prior to her solo career,

    Sinéad O’Connor

    sang in a band called Ton Ton Macoute.

    [28]

  • The Tonton Macoute is also mentioned in

    season 1

    ,

    episode 9

    of the popular television series

    Dexter

    . In the episode, an ex-Cagoulard is recognized and killed by Miami-Dade police sergeant

    James Doakes

    , who was formerly stationed in Haiti as an Army Ranger.

  • Don Byron

    mentions the Tonton Macoute while describing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima’s brutal interrogation by the

    NYC Police

    in his song “

    Morning 98 (Blinky)

    ” from the 1998 album

    Nu Blaxploitation

    .

  • The track “Tonton Macoutes” appears on the 1987 album Coup d’État by

    Muslimgauze

    .

    [29]

    [30]

  • In the 2016 video game

    Mafia III

    , the New Bordeux Haitian Mob is composed mainly of refugees who fled Haiti to escape from persecution by the Tonton Macoute.

  • In the television series The Thick of It, the character Malcolm Tucker jokes in response to why he enters a room without knocking that it is due to his “time with the Haitian death squads”.
  • In NSV, the character Nasalis states that in 1974 he felt sympathetic towards the Haitian national football team, not being aware of

    Jean-Claude Duvalier

    at the time. The character Erik replied that nonetheless the Tonton Macoute was already keeping an eye on him even then.

  • In Toni Morisson’s essay, “

    The Habit of Art

    “, Morisson refers to the tragic practice of the Tonton Macoute targeting people who attempted to bury people that were murdered.

  • Shrunken Heads (film)

    , features the character Aristide Sumatra, a voodoo priest and former member of the Tonton Macoute, who uses his Tonton Macoute experience to train three shrunken heads in combat to fight criminals.

See also[

edit

]

General[

edit

]

  • Militia

  • Paramilitary

  • Political color

  • Political uniform

  • Police state

  • Secret police

  • Mongoose Gang

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References[

edit

]

  1. ^

    Taylor, Patrick (1992). “Anthropology and Theology in Pursuit of Justice”. Callaloo. 15 (3): 811–823.

    doi

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    0161-2492

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    2932023

    . After François Duvalier was elected president with popular support in 1957, he created his own security force because he did not trust the army. (Its popular name, tonton makout, is taken from a tale about an uncle who carries off children in a bag on his shoulder.)

  2. ^

    Bernat, J. Christopher

    (1999).

    “Children and the Politics of Violence in Haitian Context: Statist violence, scarcity and street child agency in Port-au-Prince”

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    Cedras

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    his

    government was invested in a non-salaried paramilitary civilian militia known as the Tonton Makout (Uncle Knapsack). Staffed by informers, spies, bullies, neighbourhood bosses and extortionists, the Makout freely used extreme violence, terror, and intimidation to cow the population out of all illusions of destabilising the regime.

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    b

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    Sprague, Jeb (2012).

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External links[

edit

]

  • De la Cova, Antonio Rafael (2011).

    Tonton Macoute Militia: Photos”

    . Latin American Studies. Haiti.

    Archived

    from the original on 20 April 2015.

  • 26th Anniversary of the Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale

    on YouTube

Retrieved from “

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