Most people probably think of Haiti as the poverty-stricken, island nation recently devastated by January’s earthquake. They’ve probably also heard some hateful explanations from right wing Republican commentators as to why the quake devastated the island so badly; namely that it is the people’s fault.
“We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax….You just can’t keep throwing money at it,” Rush Limbaugh growled recently.
Televangelist Pat Robertson imagined a Satanic explanation: Haitians “swore a pact to the devil” to get freed from the French, and ever since “they have been cursed by one thing after the other”.
Just days after the quake, New York Times columnist David Brooks pounced on the Haitian people, explaining the “influence of the voodoo religion” spreads the message that planning is futile. Haiti’s tragedy was “exacerbated” by its “progress-resistant” culture. Haitians didn’t plan ahead because they’re a bunch of crazy people afraid of progress due to an irrational dedication to voodoo!
Fox Political Commentator Bill O’Reilly chimed in with some of his own hate, “No matter how much charity is given Haiti will remain chaotic until discipline is imposed.” We have to be hard on these lazy black people for their own good, right Bill!? Can’t these black people just get their acts together and stop stealing our good white tax dollars!?
Cue the US Marines storming and occupying Port Au Prince Airport: the white soldiers invading to save the island idiots from their voodoo induced stupidity. Thank God the white hero is here to save the day. God Bless White-Christian America!
Stop the racism people. It’s time the US and France take some “personal responsibility” for their past and continuing torture and enslavement of Haiti. In the wall-to-wall coverage we’ve seen, where’s the honest explanation of why Haiti is so poor?
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the island and declared it the Spanish Colony of Hispaniola. After he enslaved and killed off the indigenous inhabitants, France took over the colony and populated it with slaves kidnapped from Africa. The Haitian revolution began in the late 1700’s. Even the legendary French warrior Napoleon Bonaparte couldn’t put down the slave uprising.
Haiti became a nation of self-emancipated slaves. In 1804 Haiti declared independence, becoming the first black Republic in the world and the first Republic in the Western Hemisphere besides the US. Neither France nor then President Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence) recognized Haiti’s independence.
Naomi Klein describes the reaction of the French, “Haitians had stolen the property of slave owners by refusing to work for free.” Haiti was extorted into paying France the equivalent of $21 billion for taking away its free labor. It took them 122 years to do it, but Haiti accomplished the impossible. They paid off the debt and regained their freedom in 1947; or so they thought…
Starting in 1910, the US strangled Haiti’s economy by seizing its central bank. French and American backed military dictators ran up Haiti’s debt. The US occupation of the island began in 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines to “protect American and foreign interests”. The US military presence finally ended in 1934; while we still maintained economic control until 1947.
The US then supported the brutal Duvalier dictatorships of “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc”. In 1983 Pope John Paul II condemned the brutal regime, sparking rebellion.
In 1988, Haitian lawyers won a case in the US District Court in Miami, finding that the US backed dictator “Baby Doc” “misappropriated more than $504,000,000 from public monies”.
The “Doc” dictators incurred $844 million in debt. Haiti has again been re-enslaved. This time the IMF and World Bank loan sharks are hounding Haiti to “pay up”. We’re talking about debt incurred against the country’s will; Haitians were victims of the fast-spending dictatorships themselves. This is like making the victims of the Holocaust pay back Hitler’s debts.
In 1990, a Catholic priest known for preaching liberation theology, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected in a free and fair election. Of course when he decided to chart an independent course which benefited his own people more than US corporations, the US overthrew him.
Subsequent US-backed puppet governments ran up more debt to benefit the US, and were forced to sell off Haiti’s infrastructure to private corporations.
Far from being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti would be rich if it wasn’t robbed and pillaged by its foreign torturers for centuries. France and the US need to cut a fat check to pay back Haiti for the wealth, lives, and dreams they’ve stolen.