The last time I saw him was at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. He would shortly be returning to Haiti. We chatted and briefly discussed the political situation in Haiti, but then had to part company. I assumed I would see him again on his next trip to the United States.
But Lovinsky has now disappeared. In fact, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, activist member of Fanmi Lavalas — the political party led by the ousted president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide — and founder of the Fondasyon Trant Septanm (Sept. 30th Foundation), was kidnapped a few weeks ago while in Haiti. No one has heard anything from him nor has there been a public ransom demand. His car was left abandoned and he has vanished as if he had never existed.
During the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s I would hear or read hair-raising stories about political repression against progressive activists and human rights advocates in places such as Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and, yes, in Haiti. In fact, a verb "disappear" became a noun "the disappeared" to describe the victims of political kidnappings and covert assassinations aimed at those who fought on the side of the poor and oppressed. In some cases, the "disappeared" would be released, generally after having been tortured, but almost always as a result of an international outcry. In all too many cases, however, nothing was ever heard or seen of these individuals again.
Lovinsky is a longtime Haitian activist who dedicated himself to advancing the interests of the Haitian majority: the poor and dispossessed. A prominent activist in the period leading up to the coup against democratically elected President Aristide, Lovinsky fled Haiti in the aftermath of the coup and came to the United States.
With the election of President Rene Preval, Haiti was supposed to have returned to normality. This has not been the case. The United Nations forces in Haiti which should have been a sword against the tyrants and their allies, has served the role of the intimidator of Lavalas members and supporters. Death squads and criminal gangs continue to terrorize communities, as well as terrorize human rights activists.
And so, Lovinsky has vanished. As each day passes, the chances of a safe recovery diminish. This means that the Haitian government in particular, must take active and aggressive steps to investigate Lovinsky's disappearance and secure his safe release. In this, they must have the support of UN forces on the ground.
That means that YOU need to do something right now; not tomorrow or next week, but right now. Help secure the safe release of Lovinsky by contacting the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C. at: 202-332-4090; or email them at [email protected].
During the 1980s a close friend and mentor of mine from the Congo (then called Zaire) was imprisoned by the then president of the country, the notorious Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu was known for violently eliminating his political opponents and my friend certainly qualified as one of them.
Through an international campaign of pressure on both the U.S. government and the Zairian government, my friend's release was secured. Many people were skeptical that this could happen, but we prevailed. Lovinsky needs just that sort of effort right now!
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is an international and labor activist and writer.