Mining of Haiti Resources and Riches

In an interview with Chris Scott, Haitian human rights attorney Marguerite Laurent discusses the important subject of “Mining of Haiti Resources and Riches”

Listen to interview on mining in Haiti. Transcript is also available.

A map showing some of Haiti’s mining and mineral wealth, including five oil sites in Haiti

Oil in Haiti

HLLN on the causes of Haiti deforestation and poverty

Haiti’s Riches – expose the false stereotypes

Is the UN military proxy occupation of Haiti masking US securing oil/gas reserves from Haiti

Les recherches pétrolières bientôt relancées en Haïti

Drill, and then pump the oil of Haiti!

Microbe discovered in Haitian soil may develop super-antibiotic drug

Haiti’s future glitters with gold

Expose the Lies of the International Community about Haiti, its people and resources

Plundering Haiti’s Under Water Treasures: Iles-à-Vaches: Bronze Cannons, gold and emerald pieces stolen

New Preval Government Denounces Heritage Looting

‘One Step at a Time’: An Interview with Jean-Bertrand Aristide

The Counter-Colonial Narrative on Deforestation in Haiti

Ezili Dantò on Help for the Hurricane Victims in Haiti

Source: Open Salon


“Haiti’s History” Conference

“Haiti’s History” Conference

Haiti’s History: Foundations for the Future

April 22-23, 2010

Duke University

This two-day event will bring together leading scholars from Haiti and the United States to explore Haiti’s past and to work together towards guaranteeing a future for that past through projects aimed at supporting libraries, archives, and universities in Haiti in the wake of the January 12th earthquake.

(Download Flyer)

Location: East Duke Parlors, East Duke Building

Free and open to the public (no registration required)


Thursday, April 22: Two Centuries of Haiti’s History

1-3 p.m.: Haiti’s Foundations

Julia Gaffield, Duke University
Deborah Jenson, Duke University
Thorald Burnham, University of British Columbia
Watson Denis, Université d’Etat d’Haiti

3:30-5:30: The 20th Century

Kate Ramsey, University of Miami
Chantalle Verna, Florida International University
Matthew Smith, University of the West Indies, Mona
6 p.m.: Reading by Lyonel Trouillot (unconfirmed)

Friday, April 23: The Future of the Past in Haiti

1:00 p.m.: Introductions and Opening Statement
1:30-4:30 p.m.
Panel discussion on the current situation of Archives, Libraries and Universities in Haiti and on current projects for reconstruction
Watson Denis, Université d’Etat d’Haïti
Brooke Wooldridge, Coordinator, Digital Library of the Caribbean
Patrick Tardieu, Head Archivist, Bibliothèque Haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit
Edward Widmer, Director, John Carter Brown Library

Conference Organizers: Jean Casimir, Laurent Dubois, and Deborah Jenson

Conference Coordinator: Julia Gaffieldjulia.gaffield at


The Center for French and Francophone Studies, the Office of the President, The Office of the Provost, the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Department of Romance Studies and the Duke

 Source: Global France

Colin Dayan says the best aid for the earthquake-ravaged nation is to empower its people

Source: Vanderbilt View:

Colin Dayan says the best aid for the earthquake-ravaged nation is to empower its people

by Jim Patterson

An earthquake kills more than 150,000 people in Haiti. President Obama promises to help and the military mobilizes. There’s a televised concert to raise money, and people can text $10 donations though their cell phones.

The wheels are in motion. Aid is on the way. Cleanup will begin soon. We’ve done what we can for those poor people. On to the next story.

But wait – with the help of Vanderbilt’s Colin Dayan, let’s take a closer look. Why did this happen, and how should we react? Dayan says the destruction wrought by the 7.0 earthquake that struck on Jan. 12 was, in part, “man-made.”

Consider this: Until the 1980s, the population of Port-au-Prince was much lower than the 2 million who were affected by the earthquake. Before that, many Haitians lived in the countryside as farmers of rice and pigs.

“In the 1980s, there was a big move, mostly by the United States Agency for International Development, to get Haitians out of the countryside and into the cities for multinational assembly industries,” said Dayan, author of Haiti, History and the Gods. “The promise was to put Haitians to work in industry. Some called it the Taiwanization of Haiti.”

To push along the move, rice was imported from Miami at prices Haitian farmers couldn’t match. A swine flu scare led to the killing of all the pigs in the country, which were replaced by less hardy pigs from Iowa – called “cochons blancs” by Haitians – that were only given to peasants who converted to Christianity. Because they couldn’t survive in the countryside, the new pigs had to be housed at the Christian missions. Haitians actually traveled to visit their pigs.

As a result, Haitians moved en masse to the cities from the countryside. Instead of growing their own food on plots of land given to their families following independence in 1804, many Haitians were working and living in the cities and more vulnerable when the earthquake struck.

“Haitians don’t need our compassion, which too often translates into ‘taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves,’” said Dayan, the Robert Penn Warren Professor of the Humanities and professor of English.

What Haitians yearn for is to be respected for the proud and resilient people they’ve proven themselves to be, Dayan said. They could help themselves if business interests and the Haitian elite would stop looking to poor Haitians as a cheap labor force, and if unfair debt dating back 200 years were wiped out.

“You get this representation of Haiti as utterly helpless and retrograde every time there’s a crisis there,” Dayan said. “You’ve got reporters saying, ‘We’ve got to change the culture. We’ve got to be tough on them. We’ve got to impose middle class values of achievement, and we’ve got to get rid of the cultural backwardness in that country – voodoo.’”

Long before the earthquake, Haiti was repeatedly a victim of Western exploitation, including a brutal occupation from 1915 to 1934 by the United States, Dayan said.

“Citibank pushed for that invasion,” she said. “It was a disaster. There was some progress in terms of building roads, but that was accomplished by using Haitians doing forced labor.”

Additionally, the Haitian Constitution was rewritten during the U.S. occupation. One change eliminated a provision that prevented foreign whites from being proprietors in Haiti.

“After that, foreign proprietors were everywhere in Haiti,” Dayan said.

Much media commentary continues to contribute to the perception of Haiti as a backward nation in need of Western reform. A television evangelist declared that the earthquake was the fruit of a deal with the devil by the people of Haiti. More shocking to Dayan, a New York Times columnist advised that sweat shops are needed to build the country’s economy.

“It seems like people think that the only way to help is to re-enslave Haitians as a captive labor force,” Dayan said.

As the first black republic in the New World and the second independent nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is still a beacon to many developing nations. Cuba and Venezuela were the first to send aid after the earthquake.

“Haiti was once considered Paris in the Caribbean,” said Jane G. Landers, associate professor of history and author of Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions. “There were huge cathedrals, libraries and artwork. The French made it the most profitable colony, based on sugar, which depended on slave labor.”

Landers said the successful Haitian slave revolt from 1791 to 1803 led to fear that the urge for freedom would spread.

“The papers were so fearful that they equated freedom for slaves as a plague or disease,” said Landers, who grew up in the Dominican Republic. Those attitudes continue to this day, she said, with press accounts of Haiti focusing on “poverty and tires burning around people’s necks.”

Haiti paid a huge price for its independence from France: 150 million francs to compensate the French for lost property – slaves. The country has been saddled by debt ever since. Debt forgiveness could make a massive difference, Dayan said.

The impulse to provide aid after a natural disaster is heartening, but it would help if as much of it as possible were provided through Haitian organizations instead of the U.S. military.

“I think the really important thing is to look at how we may be able to help Haitian organizations, which exist and are very important,” Dayan said. “They have tremendous expertise, and they’re already on the ground helping.”

In the longer term, Dayan hopes that calls for sweat shops and other uses of Haitians for cheap labor will fail. Haitians could industrialize or not at their own pace, hopefully with local ownership. And the voodoo traditions that are so feared and maligned by Westerners and the media should continue to be a source of hope and strength to many Haitians. Stigmatizing voodoo as a backward “zombie religion” is incorrect and harmful, Dayan said.

“To this day, many of the strongest Haitian communities are those that practice voodoo,” Dayan said.

“Voodoo is a fascinating religious practice,” she said. “It’s a way of reinterpreting history, a thinking-through of the history of Haiti that springs from the people rather than from enslavers or occupiers like the French or the Americans. The only thing that can destroy voodoo is Protestantism, because if you don’t have rum and you can’t dance, the gods are not going to come.”

President Thabo Mbeki on Haiti

Thabo Mbeki on Haiti  (Time Lives)

View Image

“The Big Read: It was difficult to hold back the tears as a deluge of news told of the catastrophe visited on the people of Haiti by the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12. 

ON REFLECTION: Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Former president Thabo Mbeki says the people of Haiti are an inspiring example of human resilience and dedication to the cause of freedom, and the rest of the world must do whatever it takes to help them overcome this disaster.
” A bond of friendship has developed between us and the poor of Haiti ” Jacob Zuma

After the tragedies in Asia resulting from the Indonesia tsunami in 2004 and from Hurricane Katrina in the US city of New Orleans in 2005, it was possible to imagine that we could respond to future natural calamities with a certain degree of stoicism.

But when the full picture began to emerge about the destruction in Haiti, this proved to be little more than a delusion born of the wish to limit the pain all of us feel when merciless nature strikes suddenly, brutally claiming the lives of many helpless fellow human beings.

It was not necessary for us to see the human limbs protruding from under the rubble or to see lifeless bodies lying in the streets to know the terrible cost the earthquake had imposed on thousands of Haitians.

The heaps of bricks and mortar that had been houses necessarily invoked in the mind’s eye terrifying images of crushed bodies, of people still alive under the walls that had collapsed, but condemned to die slowly because help would not reach them on time, of human blood flowing into the canyons that had opened when the earth itself became an enemy of the Haitian humanity.

Those images in the mind, even without confirmation by the graphic television footage, were enough to produce the tears that are impossible to hold back.

But the tears also came because this tragedy engulfed this particular country – Haiti!

The fact of our birth into the South Africa that was, placed Haiti in a special place in our hearts and minds. This is because it has the indestructible distinction that 206 years ago, in 1804, it emerged as the very First Black Republic in the world.

More than the mere fact of this was the history of the extraordinary uprising which led to this outcome, which could not but serve as an unequalled inspiration to those engaged in struggle to achieve their own liberation.

During a sustained military and political struggle, which ended with the birth of their Republic, the African slaves of Haiti, with many free mulattos as their allies, defeated the armies of the most powerful European powers of the day – Spain, Great Britain and France.

From this titanic struggle emerged true heroes of all oppressed peoples, including Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe and Alexander Pétion, who together out-smarted some of the best Generals that Europe could produce.

When, in 1803, their armies defeated the French forces, which were first led by Napoleon’s brother-in-law, General Leclerc, they saved the United States of America from occupation by France.

Because the African slaves of Haiti annihilated the French army, this army could not proceed to occupy the US territory known as Louisiana, as ordered by Napoleon. Ultimately France had to sell this territory to the US, which is celebrated in the US as the Louisiana Purchase.

Free Haiti also provided the outstanding Latin American liberator, Simon Bolivar, with the war materials he needed to defeat the Spanish forces, secure independence for Venezuela and therefore guarantee the liberation of Latin America from Spanish occupation.

The Haitian Revolution was organically linked to the American and French Revolutions and should have taken its place alongside these in the construction of the new world order of the day. Sadly, this was not to be.

One important reason for this was explained by the US newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, in its January 2 2004 edition, in an article by José de Côrdoba headed “Impoverished Haiti pins hopes for future on a very old debt”.

The article said, “More than two decades after rebellious former slaves vanquished troops from Napoleon’s army here (in Haiti) in 1803, France’s King Charles X made the fledgling republic of Haiti an offer it couldn’t refuse.

“In 1825, as the king’s warships cruised just over the horizon from the Haitian capital, a French emissary demanded 150 million gold francs in exchange for recognising the new republic. The implicit alternative was invasion and re-enslavement.

“It was a huge sum, about five times Haiti’s annual export revenue. Haiti’s then-president reluctantly agreed, taking on a crushing debt.

“Today, as Haiti celebrates the 200th anniversary of its independence amid growing political unrest and a collapsing economy, one of its few glimmers of hope is that long-ago deal.

“Haiti wants its money back – with interest.

“Aided by US and French lawyers, the Haitian government is preparing a legal brief demanding nearly $22-billion in ‘restitution’ for what it regards as an act of gunboat diplomacy.”

After its defeat, France refused to recognise the Republic of Haiti. Frightened by the example it had set, the slave-owning US imposed economic sanctions against the young Republic.

France demanded that the Republic of Haiti must pay compensation for the losses sustained by French property-owners in what had been its wealthiest colony. The most valuable property for which the French claimed compensation was the slaves themselves!

The France of Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité sent a new expeditionary force to enforce its demand that the liberated slaves had to pay money to guarantee their freedom.

Haiti felt that it had no choice but to pay the compensation demanded by France. Remarkably, it took Haiti 122 years to settle this debt, with the final payment being made in 1947 to the US, after the latter had bought this debt from the French!

To indicate how heavy the burden of this debt was, in 1900 fully 80% of Haiti’s national budget had to be set aside to service the debt imposed on the country by France in 1825, which continued to expand because of the interest it carried.

What the poor of Haiti paid during 122 years, expressed in 2004 US dollars, was conservatively estimated to amount to $22-billion! In 2004, a French government commission established to assess Haiti’s demand for restitution said this demand was “not pertinent in both legal and historical terms”.

It is probably true that Haiti today is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It is, however, also true that as their forebears did, the people of Haiti continue to stand out today as an inspiring example of human resilience and dedication to the cause of freedom.

The urgent task all humanity faces today is to come to the aid of the Haitians, to confront and overcome the consequences of the deadly earthquake which has claimed the lives of thousands and wiped out the little wealth they had accumulated in the protracted struggle of many centuries merely to survive.

It was indeed truly inspiring to hear the international media reports about the efforts of fellow South Africans, working side by side with other foreign teams, to rescue Haitians from beneath the mounds of rubble in Port-au-Prince. It is this that makes it possible for one to say – I am proudly South African, and proudly human!

The time will come when other truths will have to be told about Haiti, to allow this country once again to set an example, this time to speak about what should be done and not done if, indeed, we are true to the humanist view that umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye – I am because you are!

When those truths are told, we will have the possibility to salute the people of South Africa that, during the year that Haiti celebrated its Liberation Bicentenary, they had the courage to welcome into their midst a distinguished Haitian family – the family of Jean Bertrand and Mildred Aristide and their two daughters.

Then we will tell of the bond of friendship that has developed between us and the poor of Haiti, including those who have resided in Cité Soleil, the biggest slum in Port-au-Prince, to which has been added the enormous destruction imposed by the January 12 earthquake.

We will also have the possibility fully to absorb the story told in Peter Hallward’s book, Damming the Flood, about what happened in 2004, as Haiti celebrated its Bicentenary and as it saw its elected president forcibly transported into exile in Africa, the ancestral home of the 1804 liberators of Haiti.

For now, we must convey our sympathy, condolences and solidarity to the Haitians who live among us, as well as the rest of the sister people of Haiti.

To give meaning to our words, we must join the rest of the world to do everything that has to be done to help ensure that tomorrow we shed tears of joy, as we see the people of Haiti realise the dreams which inspired the African slaves of Haiti to do what they did over two centuries ago, which affirmed the dignity of all Africans and all human beings, regardless of race, colour, gender or belief.”

Sept priorités pour rebâtir Haïti


Sept priorités pour rebâtir Haïti (

“La communauté internationale se réunit lundi 25 janvier à Montréal pour coordonner l’aide et envisager la reconstruction du pays.” Voic ceux qu’ils ont propose:

  1. GOUVERNANCE: Remettre l’Etat haïtien au centre des décisions
  2. INFRASTRUCTURES : Répartir autrement l’espace foncier
  3. LOGEMENT : Un million de sans-abri attendent un toit
  4. SERVICES PUBLICS : Priorité à la sécurité, aux hôpitaux, aux écoles
  5. ECONOMIE : Rééquilibrer le développement au profit des campagnes
  6. EGLISE : Les chrétiens ont besoin de pasteurs et de lieux pour célébrer
  7. SOCIETE : Souder la population, le défi majeur

“Civilizing” Haiti

“Civilizing” Haiti (Boston Review)

Colin Dayan

It is now eight days since an earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, along with numerous other places that we do not hear much about—Carrefour Feuille, Léogane, Petit Goave, Miragoâne, Jacmel. My friends in Haiti report that the UN and the U.S. military and the countless humanitarian aid agencies are nowhere to be seen. The United States, in control of the airport and, in effect, of much else, has designated the center of what was once the capital city a “red zone.” In other words, it is a security risk, so the U.S. relief workers remain in the “green zone,” a term that has become all-too familiar to us from the disaster that is Iraq.

Richard Auguste Morse—musician, writer, and beloved manager of the Oloffson, the model for Hotel Trianon in Graham Greene’s The Comedians—has been tweeting every day since the catastrophe. On January 17 he asked:

How can the UN help the people of Carrefour Feuille if they are prohibited from coming to the neighborhood!! If the UN can’t help poor people then what are they doing in Haiti!!! . . . UN is not staying out of my neighborhood 4 reasons of security. It’s just some kind of warped politic.


Haiti has once again fulfilled its traditional role for the United States and the international media. When I see CNN reporters commenting on the smell of urine and decay, taking viewers through the garbage, through crowds of the injured, the dying, and the dead, I recall other representations of Haiti. They never change. As early as 1853, the Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle lamented the destruction of the richest French colony in the New World. He called Haiti “a tropical dog-kennel and pestiferous jungle.” Thirty-five years later, his biographer, the historian James Anthony Froude, would describe his first impression of the “ulcer of Port-au-Prince” as a smell of “active dirt fermenting in the sunlight.”

Amid evocations of a desperate people and festering landscape, the media and the “humanitarian” community continue to ignore the history of the island. Without reference to the foreign occupation, intervention, and exploitation that define the Haitian political experience, we cannot appreciate the sinister politics of Clinton and Bush’s promise of “compassion.”

Haiti was the scene of the only successful revolution by slaves in history, the first black republic in the Americas. The “Black Jacobins”—Toussaint l’Ouverture and his successors, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe—defeated, in turn, the local whites; the remaining soldiers of the French monarchy; a Spanish invasion; a British expedition of some 60,000 men; and the soldiers of Napoleon, led by his brother-in-law, General Charles Le Clerc. Yet at the moment of its birth it was stifled by those who feared its example. France, using warships and heavy cannon, imposed a 150-million franc “indemnity” on the new nation. This was the defeated colonial master’s price for recognition of Haitian independence, compensation for the former slave-holders’ lost “property.” The United States withheld recognition of the ex-slaves’ victory and independence until 1862, lest its own slaves follow their lead.

During the American occupation of Haiti, which lasted from 1915 to 1934, the U.S. government rewrote the Haitian Constitution to permit foreign investment; dissolved the Haitian army and replaced it with a police force, known as the garde; seized peasants’ land; imposed martial law; and instituted the corvée, a program of forced labor to build roads throughout the countryside. In 1918 the peasantry, under the leadership of Charlemagne Péralte and Benoît Batraville, began a revolt. A year later, more than 3,000 peasants had been killed. Another 5,000 died in labor camps that the garde supervised for the occupying forces. When the United States left, she saddled the country with another foreign debt—a massive $40 million—which destroyed any possibility that Haiti might enjoy a stable financial regime.

And the media, then as now, have acted as faithful water carriers for powerful outside states and their financial interests. Generalizations about criminality and barbarism have always been a good way to avoid the particulars of history. In the gritty world of politics and power, a retrograde Haiti—the portrait of pathos—derails our attention from the real causes of suffering and poverty there.

Analysts and policymakers have never been subtle. Lawrence E. Harrison, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission to Haiti from 1977 to 1979, turned Haitian culture itself into the source of the country’s poverty and an excuse for the imposition of American-style development: Haiti is a “moral void,” he wrote in a 1987 article for the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post news service. “The principal cause of Haiti’s acute underdevelopment is a set of national values and attitudes dominated by voodoo religion and compounded by the experience of slavery.” In the chaos following Baby Doc Duvalier’s departure and dubious “transition to democracy,” Harrison proposed a version of the American dream for Haiti. The program featured “the establishment of assembly industries employing tens of thousands in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.” The workers in these factories, he predicted, would “learn that a combination of organization, cooperation, technology and work can vault them into the middle class—something the voodoo priests have failed to achieve.”

In a New York Times op-ed last week—“The Underlying Tragedy”—David Brooks alluded to “a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences” and renewed Harrison’s civilizing mission: replacing Haitian practices with “middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos, and tough, measurable demands.” History keeps repeating itself. So let us be wary of the U.S. media coverage of looting, violence, and chaos in Haiti. The exaggerations serve a purpose: rationalizing the militarization of aid, pushing for a new status for Haiti, that of U.S. protectorate, like Puerto Rico.

When The New York Times questioned the capacities of Frederick Douglass as U.S. Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti in 1889, it described Haiti as “a black mob pretending to be a government.” In 2009 it is still too easy to blame Haiti for bad government, or, as we keep hearing, for no government.

What is perhaps more difficult is to understand is how every disaster and every coup—including the numerous coups abetted by the U.S. government, such as those against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 and 2004—never ceases to inspire an old vision for the country: a site for multinational investment. Once a colony, then an occupied territory, then a land under the thumb of USAID and the World Bank.

Their project in the 1980s displaced farmers from the countryside and created a captive labor force in Port-au-Prince. The people lived in the shantytowns on the hillsides, only to become victims of a natural disaster made worse by the endless, quite unnatural programs promoting “democracy.”

Haiti: the Hate and Quake, by Sir Hilary Beckles


The Hate and the Quake


By Sir Hilary Beckles

The University of the West Indies is in the process of conceiving how best to deliver a major conference on the theme “Rethinking and Rebuilding Haiti”. I am very keen to provide an input into this exercise because for too long there has been a popular perception that somehow the Haitian nation-building project, launched on January 1st 1804, has failed on account of mismanagement, ineptitude, corruption.

Buried beneath the rubble of imperial propaganda, out of both Western Europe and the United States, is the evidence which shows that Haiti’s independence was defeated by an aggressive North-Atlantic alliance that could not imagine their world inhabited by a free regime of Africans as representatives of the newly emerging democracy.


The evidence is striking, especially in the context of France. The Haitians fought for their freedom and won, as did the Americans fifty years earlier. The Americans declared their Independence and crafted an extraordinary constitution that set out a clear message about the value of humanity and the right to freedom, justice, and liberty. In the midst of this brilliant discourse, they chose to retain slavery as the basis of the new nation state. The Founding fathers therefore could not see beyond race, as the free state was built on a slavery foundation. The water was poisoned in the well; the Americans went back to the battle field a century later to resolve the fact that slavery and freedom could not comfortably co-exist in the same place.

The French, also, declared freedom, fraternity and equality as the new philosophies of their national transformation and gave the modern world a tremendous progressive boost by so doing. They abolished slavery, but Napoleon Bonaparte could not imagine the republic without slavery and targeted the Haitians for a new, more intense regime of slavery. The British agreed, as did the Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. All were linked in communion over the 500 000 blacks in Haiti, the most populous and prosperous Caribbean colony. As the jewel of the Caribbean, they all wanted to get their hands on it. With a massive slave base, the English, French and Dutch salivated over owning it – and the people.

The people won a ten-year war, the bloodiest in modern history, and declared their Independence. Every other country in the Americas was based on slavery. Haiti was freedom, and proceeded to place in its 1805 Independence Constitution that any person of African descent who arrived on its shores would be declared free, and a citizen of the republic. For the first time since slavery had commenced, Blacks were the subjects of mass freedom and citizenship in a nation.


The French refused to recognise Haiti’s Independence and declared it an illegal pariah state. The Americans, whom the Haitians looked to in solidarity as their mentor in Independence, refused to recognise them, and offered solidarity instead to the French. The British, who were negotiating with the French to obtain the ownership title to Haiti, also moved in solidarity, as did every other nation-state in the western world. Haiti was isolated at birth – ostracised and denied access to world trade, finance, and institutional development. It was the most vicious example of national strangulation recorded in modern history. The Cubans, at least, have had Russia, China, and Vietnam. The Haitians were alone from inception. The crumbling began.

Then came 1825; the moment of full truth. The republic is celebrating its 21st anniversary. There is national euphoria in the streets of Port-au-Prince. The economy is bankrupt; the political leadership isolated. The Cabinet took the decision that the state of affairs could not continue. The country had to find a way to be inserted back into the world economy. The French government was invited to a summit.
Officials arrived and told the Haitian government that they were willing to recognise the country as a sovereign nation but it would have to pay compensation and reparation in exchange. The Haitians, with backs to the wall, agreed to pay the French.

Systematic destruction

The French government sent a team of accountants and actuaries into Haiti in order to place a value on all lands, all physical, assets, the 500 000 citizens who were formerly enslaved, animals, and all other commercial properties and services. The sums amounted to 150 million gold francs. Haiti was told to pay this reparation to France in return for national recognition. The Haitian government agreed; payments began immediately. Members of the Cabinet were also valued because they had been enslaved persons before Independence.

Thus began the systematic destruction of the Republic of Haiti. The French Government bled the nation and rendered it a failed state. It was a merciless exploitation that was designed and guaranteed to collapse the Haitian economy and society. Haiti was forced to pay this sum until 1922 when the last instalment was made. During the long 19th century, the payment to France amounted to up to 70% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Jamaica today pays up to 70% in order to service its international and domestic debt. Haiti was crushed by this debt payment. It descended into financial and social chaos. The republic did not stand a chance. France was enriched and it took pleasure from the fact that having been defeated by Haitians on the battlefield, it had won on the field of finance. In the years when the coffee crops failed, or the sugar yield was down, the Haitian government borrowed on the French money market at double the going interest rate, to repay the French government.

Fledgling nation crushed

When the Americans invaded the country in the early 20th century, one of the reasons offered was to assist the French in collecting its reparations. The collapse of the Haitian nation resides at the feet of France and America, especially. These two nations betrayed, failed, and destroyed the dream that was Haiti; crushed to dust in an effort to destroy the flower of freedom and the seed of justice. Haiti did not fail. It was destroyed by two of the most powerful nations on earth, both of which continue to have a primary interest in its current condition. The sudden quake has come in the aftermath of summers of hate. In many ways the quake has been less destructive than the hate. Human life was snuffed out by the quake while the hate has been a long and inhumane suffocation – a crime against humanity.

Moral obligation

During the 2001 UN Conference on Race in Durban, South Africa, strong representation was made to the
French government to repay the 150 million francs. The value of this amount was estimated by financial actuaries as US $21 billion. This sum of capital could rebuild Haiti and place it in a position to re-engage the modern world. It was illegally extracted from the Haitian people and should be repaid. It is stolen wealth. In so doing France could discharge its moral obligation to the Haitian people. For a nation that prides itself in the celebration of modern diplomacy, France, in order to exist with the moral authority of this diplomacy in this post modern world, should do the just and legal thing. Such an act at the outset of this century would open the door for a sophisticated interface of past and present, and set the Haitian nation free at last.

(Sir Hilary Beckles is Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus)

The Advocate: