Hands off Haiti! Time to pay reparations

In the middle of the night of July 7, a shocked Haitian nation woke up to the news that President Jovenal Moise was murdered by a group of armed men. Almost immediately a number of Colombian mercenaries were arrested and admitted doing the deed. So far fingers are being pointed at a US-based security company, and various internal opponents of Moïse in the country, as being the sponsor of the assassination.

While the mainstream media dusted off its standard description of Haiti as a violent, broken state, the years of abuse since the country successfully freed itself from slavery was ignored; instead calls were made for  the international community to intervene to stabilize the country.

Basically this narrative obscures the repeated violent foreign interventions, which strangled the revolution at birth and forced free Haiti to pay for its hard fought freedom. Instead it speaks of Haiti as a victim of its own backwardness, corruption and prone to violence, but ignored the ongoing and systematic abuse by Western nations that is at the root of Haiti’s sad history.

In 1791, the Africans rose up against their French colonial enslavers and won their freedom after years of bloody conflict. In 1804, the former colony of Saint-Domingue became the first successful slave revolt in all the European slave colonies and the first self-governing Black society in the Americas. It chose the name Haiti, which was derived from Ayiti – the indigenous Taíno or Arawak name for the island.  

In 1825, France, after repeated attempts to take back the island and restore colonial rule, forced the freed Africans to pay for its independence to the tune of 90 million gold francs – the equivalent of about $US20 billion in today’s money.

One would have thought that such an enormous penalty for one’s freedom would have been enough, but the Americans thought otherwise; it simply could not allow the Haitian example to inspire the enslaved of the Caribbean and Americas. The slave business was much too lucrative as the primary element of the American economy.

So in 1914, the US marines landed in Haiti, seized $500,000.00 from the Haitian National Bank and took it to New York. This was part of a strategy to force Haiti to seek US protection – a euphemism for submitting to being re-colonized. The Haitians resisted, so the Americans invaded in 1915 and occupied the island for 19 years. They then applied the same racist Jim Crow laws as was the case in the US. 

Even as the US withdrew in 1934, the virtual re-colonization didn’t end. The Americans, together with their European allies, and Canada, handpicked every president, except one, against the wishes of the majority of Haitians. That single president was Jean Bertrand Aristede, who was kidnapped by US forces and, while Canadian troops secured the airport, the only democratically elected president, was flown to the Central African Republic and into exile.

The turmoil and violence by which we have come to know Haiti, are the result of the ungoing occupation of Haiti that started in 1804 when the enslaved Africans freed themselves; now another chapter is being written with the murder of president Jovenal Moise.

Unfortunately, this chapter is no different from all previous chapters that it constitutes Haiti’s history of ongoing occupation and the deposition of a leader. And, like clockwork, the powers that have made Haiti what it is, are again speaking of intervening, sending in armed forces to keep the peace, and experts to help in the investigation of Moise’s assassination.

Fortunately, there is a strong resistance from within and without Haiti which is calling for no more intervention in Haitian affairs. They want foreign hands to taken off of Haiti, and let the country charter its own course for the first time in its history.

Justice must also be served by demanding that France and the US pay back the billions they robbed Haiti of, plus reparation for the pain and suffering they caused. Canada should be made to pay as well.

All decent people should echo that call.