MIAMI — THE brutal hand that sustains Haiti's military power may have lashed out in Miami.
On Oct. 24, Dona St. Plite, a radio talk show host and outspoken supporter of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was killed by an unknown number of gunmen in a middle school parking lot.
The father of six was leaving a benefit to raise money for the family of Fritz Dor, another pro-Aristide talk show host who was slain shortly after the 1991 coup that ousted the controversial Roman Catholic priest. Three talk show hosts, all pro-Aristide, have been killed in Miami since 1991.
``We're looking into whether it was political,'' says officer David Magnusson of the Miami police. ``We're not ruling it out, but we need to explore many other avenues.''
The killing has sent a chill through Miami's Little Haiti community. It came just five days after a self-proclaimed, pro-military group, believed to be connected with the former Tontons Macoutes - the Duvalier-era militiamen, circulated a death list in Miami.
The four-page document is written in child-like handwriting and contains obscene slurs against Fr. Aristide and his supporters. It lists 39 names of prominent Aristide supporters, former Haitian government officials, and exiled Haitian journalists. It states they will be killed before Oct. 30, the day Aristide is scheduled to return to Haiti.
``You never know with the Macoutes. They're good at scaring people, experts at war on nerves,'' says Roger Biamby, a prominent Aristide backer, whose name appears on the list.
Mr. Biamby says he does not believe Haiti's pro-military forces would resort to murder in the United States. ``But with the Macoutes, one never knows,'' he added.
A Haitian activist who requested not to be identified, doubted the St. Plite killing was politically motivated. He noted the radio talk show host's name was not on the so-called death list.
A large number of supporters of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier settled in and around Miami after he was ousted in 1986. Analysts say some continue to have strong ties to Haiti's current de facto military government.
``Any time you speak out publicly for Aristide on the radio, you get four or five threatening calls,'' says James Monroe Rosefert, the exiled leader of the Haitian Press Association. Mr. Rosefert says there may be only 10 to 15 agents operating in Miami who are directly paid by the Haitian ``attaches,'' the shadowy, plain-clothed military group thought to be responsible for the upsurge in political violence in Haiti.
But other analysts contend their power is more pervasive in Miami.
``They own businesses, carry guns, and work directly with the drug traffickers here,'' said one analyst who declined to be identified.
Whether their power is real or imagined, it is felt throughout the Haitian community. ``Everyone here is scared, of course,'' said one Haitian resident. ``They have informants everywhere.''