Co-editors: John Heathcote * Seán MacMathúna Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Haiti - from slavery to slavery
As the Haitian crisis develops into perhaps one of the worst tragedies of recent history, one thing must be remembered.
What is killing the Haitian people is not the earthquake itself, but poverty.
From its birth as an independent nation - the first, perhaps the only nation where slaves found the strength and courage to overthrow their 'masters' - Haiti has been penalised and subjected to the most blatant imperial sanction from the white, western world.
When Americans talk derisively about Cuba, Castro and the Revolution; remember, if Cubans had not had Castro's revolution, they would be like the Haitians; living in a country where 1% of the people own 97% of the wealth. With one viscious puppet Government following another, where their children could choose between life on the plantation or 'servicing' tourists.
For western countries like Britain, which are adopting the US / World Bank 'model'; what happened in Haiti can, and probably will take place one day in your country.
What we are seeing with the 'aid effort' is, without a doubt, re-colonisation of Haiti by primarily the United States; fronted by their twinkly-eyed loveable rogue, spokeman for the soft power of the American corporate state, Mr. Bill Clinton.
If you think Haliburton exploited a few 'opportunities' in the degradation of Iraq, then you'll be really impressed by the profits that will roll in on the backs of 'charity' in Haiti.
The charitable poor who will be giving the money out of the goodness of their hearts probably do not realise where most of it will end up.
There is a simple mechanism that swings into place after such a disaster in places similar to Haiti; the West promises aid and 'reconstruction' ; they decide the Government of the country, picking people who will be more concerned with power than principle, with debt repayment than social justice. They will hand the power on the streets to the UN, which in the case of Haiti, will be effectively the US Army; and will then deem any dissident groups who might want a say in the 'reconstruction' and running of their own country as 'insurgents'.
The US State - which as Naomi Klein pointed out in a recent article, is a hollow skeleton wrapped around the greedy monster of corporate capitalism - will then parcel out social provision, from water supply to mobile phones to their cronies; the same old 'brands' who are crawling across the globe impoverishing peoples and shredding environments.
Faction will be set against faction, whilst the US agents now in power squeeze the still traumatised people ever more; selling off state property and services, contracting out Government public record functions to software firms in California, thus 'lifting' all information held by that state.
What distinguishes Haiti from the rest of the world is the unique history and what it represents, not just to the African diaspora, but to all people who are enslaved and look for a beacon of hope in the endless night of modern human history.
How many people know much about Haiti, apart from 'Voodoo' and Papa Doc? In the same way that Precious is seized upon by the white world as a great example of a 'black film' , re-inforcing the same old lie; that all black families are either middle-class buppy or dysfunctional drug-dealing, gun-totin, motherfuckin' idlers drifting along in Easy Street on the back of a munificient welfare state paid for by poor ol' whitey; Haiti is a great place to represent the worst paranoias that can be created in the minds of the western consumer class.
This has been exploited even since the quake, by the excremental US 'Christian evangelist' Pat Robertson, who claimed that the Haitians had sold their souls to the devil to throw off the yoke of slavery - surely the best proof in recent memory of why Christianity can be such a destructive dogma.
How many people realise that Haiti was forced to pay reparations to France for declaring themselves a free people ?
Remember President Aristide, the first democratically elected head of state for a very long time in Haiti ? An interesting article from the website publication nathanielturner.com tells an interesting story;
Haiti's president and other government officials claim their country was held up at gunpoint in broad daylight in 1825 and now they want the admitted thief, France, to replace the stolen wealth to the tune of $21.7 billion.
This, despite massive attempts, well documented elsewhere, by the United States and world lending institutions to destabilize and overthrow the democratically elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide. . .
In a soon to be published booklet provided to a U.S. reporter by the foreign press liaison to President Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haitian government officials dissect the 1825 "agreement" that initially forced Haiti to pay to France 150 million francs in exchange for liberty.
The article continues;
in 1825, France, which was being encouraged by former plantation owners to invade Haiti and re-enslave the Blacks, issued the Royal Ordinance of 1825, which called for the massive indemnity payments. In addition to the 150 million franc payment, France decreed that French ships and commercial goods entering and leaving Haiti would be discounted at 50 percent, thereby further weakening Haiti's ability to pay.
According to French officials at the time, the terms of the edict were non-negotiable. And to impress the seriousness of the situation upon the Haitians, France delivered the demands by 12 warships armed with 500 canons.
The 150-million-franc indemnity was based on profits earned by the colonists, according to a memorandum prepared by their lawyers. In 1789, Saint Domingue - all of Haiti and Santo Domingo - exported 150 million francs worth of products to France. In 1823 Haitian exports to France totaled 8.5 million francs, exports to England totaled 8.4 million francs, and exports to the United States totaled 13.1 million francs, for a total of 30 million francs.
The lawyers then claimed that one half of the 30 million francs went toward the costs of production, leaving 15 million francs as profit. The 15 million franc balance was multiplied by 10 (10 years of lost revenues for the French colonists due to the war for liberation), which coincidentally totals 150 million francs, the value of exports in 1789.
To make matters worse for Haiti, the French anticipated and planned for Haiti to secure a loan to pay the first installment on the indemnity. Haiti was forced to borrow the 30 million francs from a French bank that then deducted the management fees from the face value of the loan and charged interest rates so exorbitant that after payment was completed, Haiti was still 6 million francs short.
Finally, in a reminder of the methods of the World Bank (so-called) and financial sanctions imposed on non-compliant nations- which are efeectively trade and social sanctions disguised by the dollar - we read;
The 150-million-franc indemnity represented France's annual budget and 10 years of revenue for Haiti. One study estimates the indemnity was 55 million more francs than was needed to restore the 793 sugar plantations, 3,117 coffee estates and 3,906 indigo, cotton and other crop plantations destroyed during the war for independence . . .
"France is getting off easy," St. Hubert told a U.S. newspaper. If Haiti charged 7.5 percent interest on the money, "France would owe $4 trillion today and much more tomorrow.
"The French can debate whether they want to pay as long as they like," he said, " but at 5 percent interest, it will cost them $34 per second."
The result was probably fairly predictable. When the 'pseudo-gangs' associated with the previous 'puppet-regime' of the Duvalier clan rebelled against Aristide's democratically elected government, France was instrumental in the process which forced him (and by extension, his goverment) into exile.
A report from IPS sums up the situation;
KINGSTON, Mar 12, 2004 (IPS) - Whether Jean-Bertrand Aristide ever returns to the homeland he left under such controversial circumstances, his call for France to make reparations to his troubled Caribbean nation of Haiti is as important as ever and must not be allowed to die, say observers.
Some analysts believe that France's refusal to support the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Haiti until after the president's departure was linked to Aristide's unpopular - in Paris - demand for reparations.
The United Nations Security Council, of which France is a permanent member, rejected a Feb. 26 appeal from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for international peacekeeping forces to be sent into its member state Haiti, but voted unanimously to send in troops three days later, just hours after Aristide's controversial resignation.
"I believe that (the call for reparations) could have something to do with it, because they (France) were definitely not happy about it, and made some very hostile comments," Myrtha Desulme, chairperson of the Haiti-Jamaica Exchange Committee, told IPS.
Haiti’s interim leader Gerard Latortue has said the country will not pursue an "illegal" and "ridiculous" demand for reparations from France that was made by former President Jean Bertrand Aristide.
Mr Aristide launched a vigorous campaign last year for Haiti to be given back $20 billion, the equivalent of 90 million gold francs they paid to France in reparations in 1825, more than 20 years after the country gained independence.
But Prime Minister Latortue dismissed the claim and said it was made solely for political reasons . . . Mr Latortue said talks he held with officials from both France and the United States gave him hope that they would support Haiti as it tries to rebuild.
The claim for reparations was also dismissed by French defense minister Michele Alliot-Marien who visited the country last week. Her visit was the first by a French government official since Haitian independence 200 years ago . . .
And this must be the final insult;
Haiti's £547 million international debt must be axed to help the country recover from its devastating earthquake, charity Christian Aid has said.
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