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Haiti – the unforgiven land – the slaves that freed themselves.
rights and freedoms |
Tuesday February 07, 2012 14:10 by Sean Edwards - Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC)
Of all the colonies in America, the most profitable to the coloniser was Saint Domingue, where the slaves produced more wealth for France than the North American colonies did for England. The French republic decreed an end to slavery, but Napoleon sought to reimpose it. The armies he sent to the island were defeated, and the victorious people renamed their country Haití, the indigenous name for the island. Haiti thus became the first free country of America in 1804, sixty years before chattel slavery was ended in the USA. For the crime of freeing themselves the people of Haiti have never been forgiven. The slave owners and colonisers feared the example they set. Haiti was later forced to pay 90 million gold francs to France to compensate the slave owners for the loss of their property, which took 150 years to pay off, thereby inhibiting any economic development.
In 1915 United States marines invaded Haiti and occupied it until 1932. They subsequently gave support to the notorious dictatorship of “Papa Doc” Duvalier whose private army of “Tonton Macoutes” terrorised the population, and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc”. A popular movement for democracy was led by the Catholic priest and liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and led to the overthrow of Duvalier in 1986. When elections were held in 1990 Aristide won with 67% of the vote. Less than a year later he was overthrown in a military coup.
In 1994 the US marines were back in Haiti. This time they facilitated the return of Aristide, but under conditions imposed by Clinton which limited his freedom of action and favoured US business interests.
Aristide continued in office until 1996, but was elected again in 2000. Although he acted cautiously to avoid conflict with the US, nevertheless the Bush administration plotted with Haitian business interests and former Duvalierists to overthrow him. The planning of the coup followed the pattern of the coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002, and the Chilean coup in 1971. Nevertheless, it was failing, so with the participation of France and Canada the United States interfered directly; kidnapped the President and flew him to the Central African Republic.
The régime installed by the invaders represented a very tiny élite, as there is little industry in Haiti, and agriculture has been severely weakened by imports, for example subsidised rice from the USA destroyed Haitian rice growers after import duties were reduced – Clinton has apologised for this, but continues to impose policies which favour US interests. Such development as there is consists of export-oriented sweatshops taking advantage of the miserable wages paid. This is still the model promoted by Clinton.
The United Nations shamefully endorsed the invasion and took over the occupation through the force called MINUSTAH, headed by Brazilian troops, and including troops from many other countries. This force did nothing to protect the common people from the attacks of the coup plotters, on the contrary, committed its own atrocities against them. On the pretext of fighting “bandits” it raided the slums of “Cité Soleil” in Port au Prince and killed dozens of innocent people. MINUSTAH continues to treat the common people with contempt, refusing to protect them and acting with brutality themselves . The soldiers are responsible for a great number of rapes and other crimes. Due to its extreme negligence the force introduced a virulent strain of cholera from far-away Nepal, causing an epidemic which has killed over 7,000 people.
Lavalas, the party founded by Aristide, continues to have massive support. However it is banned from participating in elections. So a tiny unrepresentative clique is maintained in office by the United Nations in total perversion of its stated purpose and function. When elections are held few bother to vote.
Another tragedy hit the afflicted people of Haiti, the earthquake in January 2010, in which tens of thousands lost their lives and hundreds of thousands lost their homes. The disaster shocked people all over the world - two countries in particular reacted quickly. Cuba sent doctors and the US sent troops. The troops actually occupied the airport and stopped aid coming in until the military operation was complete. The Cubans joined their compatriots who were already providing a health service to the people, along with Haitian doctors trained in Cuba. Half of the doctors attending to the victims of the earthquake were Cuban.
Much international aid was promised to Haiti. Yet 500,000 are still living in tents and makeshift housing, there is really not much to show for the money spent which is nothing near the money promised. Bill Quigley of the US organisation “Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti” reports that international NGOs are everywhere with their projects, but Haitians are not consulted. 0.4% of international aid goes to Haitian NGOs, and only 1% to the Haitian government. Until last October aid was co-ordinated by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission chaired by Clinton along with the Haitian Prime minister. It seems that the US has stepped in to take control even of this. NGOs have been co-opted, willingly or otherwise, into the imperialist project. How do the Irish NGOs, Haven, Goal and Concern fit into this?
Aristide has returned to Haiti from his exile in South Africa, to a tumultuous welcome from enormous crowds. (Before he left, US President Obama asked President Zuma of South Africa to stop him, which he could not legally have done.) The following day there was an election of a sort, with Lavalas banned, two neo-Duvalierists standing for president. The winner Michel Martelly got the votes of 17% of the electorate, that is one out of six of those eligible to vote.
Martelly was exhibited in Dublin last month by Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien, meeting the taoiseach here and in Davos. He has admitted that he was a Macoute in his time, and has been openly supportive of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, since a judge dropped charges against him. Also shaking Duvalier's hand was William Jefferson Clinton, the de-facto controller of Haiti. Truly, bad times are in store for the people of Haiti.
The anniversary of the 2004 coup will be marked in Dublin on February 29th by Haiti Solidarity Ireland
Haití Solidarity Ireland is planning a picket of the Brazilian Embassy on that day,
from 5.30 to 7.30 p.m. as Brazilian troops lead the occupying force MINUSTAH.
During the previous week it will hold public meeting to explain the issues.
On Saturday 25th in the afternoon there will be a showing of films about Haití in the New Theatre.
Haití Solidarity Ireland is affiliated to the Latin America Solidarity Centre