Zenglendo has its etymological roots in the word zenglen, creole for sharp pieces of glass. In the 1840’s, it was the name given to the secret police force that served under Faustin Soulouque. The “Zenglens” later on became a model for François Duvalier’s Tonton Makouts. After Jean-Claude Duvalier went into exile, zenglendo referred to criminals recruited from groups ranging from the marginal social strata found in working-class districts to police officers, usually acting at night in civilian clothes with official weapons. Some of the violence was assumed to be purely criminal, without political motivation. However, it was widely believed that they operated under the cover, or with the express tacit consent of the police. Today the word is used to refer to criminals, gangsters, thugs, burglars, and the like.

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