Talk of blood, talk of evil, talk of death

October 02, 1994|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Sun Staff Correspondent

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The blade of the knife is long, and its sharpened edge glints brightly in the midday sun at this scene of recent violence and death.

Charles Carlos, one of the paramilitaries who broke up Friday's democracy march, killing five and injuring 14, has just lifted his green T-shirt and taken the knife out of the sheath that hangs on his belt.

"We are waiting," he says. "If they come with knives and stones, we will have the same."

We meet on the shady porch of the headquarters of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), the political arm of the army here and a feared paramilitary force.

The road outside is strewn with the rubble of the three-hour skirmish between these opponents of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his supporters, who were trying to march peacefully from the cathedral to the cemetery on the anniversary of the military coup of Sept. 30, 1991.

The house, on Rue du Champs de Mars, is colonial-style clapboard. With a lick of paint it would fit nicely into Georgetown or St. Mary's. It is no Fort Knox, but it would have been one of the prime targets of U.S. forces had there been an invasion.

Around the corner, on Rue de L'Enterrement, stands an abandoned truck, which was leading the anniversary procession. Its tires are flat, its windows shattered. Someone has put flowers on the flatbed, in memory of those who died here 24 hours ago.

The talk on the porch this morning is of U.S. imperialism, the mysterious powers of voodoo -- the ancient African-based religion that permeates much of life here -- and "Le Pere Brun," the quaint Haitian name for "necklacing" people with tires filled with flaming gasoline.

Eric Jean, 35, is a big man with a barrel chest and a voice to match. He says he is one of FRAPH's leaders, although it is a communal organization without formal rank.

He is wearing a straw hat and has a gold chain dangling on his chest, which is straining the seams of his green-and-white-striped T-shirt. As he speaks, members of the paramilitary organization listen in rapt attention, suggesting that his claim to authority is well founded.

"They can come again," he says, referring to pro-Aristide demonstrators.

"I don't care how many they are; we will fight them again. Even if I died, my brother would still have a life to kill them.

"I know how to kill Haitians. Probably you don't know how to kill Haitians. Me, I can kill them without a gun."

He puts his hands together precisely in front of that chest, as if in prayer, then gives a slight nod and bends briefly toward his visitors.

"Probably you don't know what that means," he says. "And I can't tell you because it is my secret for the next day. Maybe the country will be burning; then we will do this to have a life."

Speaking of the devil

Again, the hands come together, and the slight inclination is made. "I have a life that is something the Americans can't kill, that is evil, that is the devil.

"We don't know when the devil comes, but if he comes he is here."

Now his hands go to his ears. He tweaks them apart under his straw hat, and continues: "Sometimes you see me as I am now between these ears." The hands briefly cross his face, to show he is referring to his humanity. Then they are back on his ears. He tugs them apart with more force, lengthening them.

"The next time my ears become like a donkey's. Sometimes we are donkeys. You can't tell," he says.

"We use the devil when we have a problem, when life is too hard, when we are in difficulties. I can use it, even now, on you."

Self-described 'malfacteur'

Mr. Jean describes himself not as a voodoo priest, who can cast spells, but as a "malfacteur," someone who can do evil.

"A malfacteur has a big devil with him," he tells his attentive audience. "That big devil, every day, he wants to drink blood.

"I have to find blood for him. I know I am still going to have a life, so I am going to kill a lot of persons. There are Haitians who support the American occupation. I don't like the occupation. I am going to kill all those Haitians.

"I am going to kill Haitians who don't have respect for the Haitian police, who don't have respect for the Haitian military. I will kill all those Haitians because they are not true Haitians. Had I been here yesterday, many more Haitians would have died, 200, 300 more. I would have killed them without a gun."

Mr. Jean's declamation over, Charles Carlos steps forward, knife in belt. He is another impressively large man, and he offers a tour of the FRAPH headquarters.

The first thing you see is a large freezer, necessary in a country as hot as this and now functioning again since power was restored by U.S. military engineers last week. Over a table where the paramilitaries take their meals is the universal plea: "Please pay before you consume your food."

'We don't have guns'

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