Why does the U.S. owe Haiti Billions?

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Why does the US owe Haiti Billions?

Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, stated his foreign policy view as the “Pottery Barn rule.” That is – “if you break it, you own it.”

The US has worked to break Haiti for over 200 years. We owe Haiti. Not charity. We owe Haiti as a matter of justice. Reparations. And not the $100 million promised by President Obama either – that is Powerball money. The US owes Haiti Billions – with a big B.

The US has worked for centuries to break Haiti. The US has used Haiti like a plantation. The US helped bleed the country economically since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled popularly elected officials. The US has even used Haiti like the old plantation owner and slipped over there repeatedly for sexual recreation.

Here is the briefest history of some of the major US efforts to break Haiti.

In 1804, when Haiti achieved its freedom from France in the world’s first successful slave revolution, the United States refused to recognize the country. The US continued to refuse recognition to Haiti for 60 more years. Why? Because the US continued to enslave millions of its own citizens and feared recognizing Haiti would encourage slave revolution in the US.

After the 1804 revolution, Haiti was the subject of a crippling economic embargo by France and the US. US sanctions lasted until 1863. France ultimately used its military power to force Haiti to pay reparations for the slaves who were freed. The reparations were 150 million francs. (France sold the entire Louisiana territory to the US for 80 million francs!)

Haiti was forced to borrow money from banks in France and the US to pay reparations to France. A major loan from the US to pay off the French was finally paid off in 1947. The current value of the money Haiti was forced to pay to French and US banks? Over $20 Billion – with a big B.

The US occupied and ruled Haiti by force from 1915 to 1934. President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to invade in 1915. Revolts by Haitians were put down by US military – killing over 2000 in one skirmish alone. For the next nineteen years, the US controlled customs in Haiti, collected taxes, and ran many governmental institutions. How many billions were siphoned off by the US during these 19 years?

From 1957 to 1986 Haiti was forced to live under US backed dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvlaier. The US supported these dictators economically and militarily because they did what the US wanted and were politically “anti-communist” – now translatable as against human rights for their people. Duvalier stole millions from Haiti and ran up hundreds of millions in debt that Haiti still owes. Ten thousand Haitians lost their lives. Estimates say that Haiti owes $1.3 billion in external debt and that 40% of that debt was run up by the US-backed Duvaliers.

Thirty years ago Haiti imported no rice. Today Haiti imports nearly all its rice. Though Haiti was the sugar growing capital of the Caribbean, it now imports sugar as well. Why? The US and the US dominated world financial institutions – the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – forced Haiti to open its markets to the world. Then the US dumped millions of tons of US subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti – undercutting their farmers and ruining Haitian agriculture. By ruining Haitian agriculture, the US has forced Haiti into becoming the third largest world market for US rice. Good for US farmers, bad for Haiti.

In 2002, the US stopped hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Haiti which were to be used for, among other public projects like education, roads. These are the same roads which relief teams are having so much trouble navigating now!

In 2004, the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti when they supported the coup against Haiti’s elected President Aristide.

Haiti is even used for sexual recreation just like the old time plantations. Check the news carefully and you will find numerous stories of abuse of minors by missionaries, soldiers and charity workers. Plus there are the frequent sexual vacations taken to Haiti by people from the US and elsewhere. What is owed for that? What value would you put on it if it was your sisters and brothers?

US based corporations have for years been teaming up with Haitian elite to run sweatshops teeming with tens of thousands of Haitians who earn less than $2 a day.

The Haitian people have resisted the economic and military power of the US and others ever since their independence. Like all of us, Haitians made their own mistakes as well. But US power has forced Haitians to pay great prices – deaths, debt and abuse.

It is time for the people of the US to join with Haitians and reverse the course of US-Haitian relations.

This brief history shows why the US owes Haiti Billions – with a big B. This is not charity. This is justice. This is reparations. The current crisis is an opportunity for people in the US to own up to our country’s history of dominating Haiti and to make a truly just response.

(For more on the history of exploitation of Haiti by the US see: Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti; Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood; and Randall Robinson, An Unbroken Agony)

Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Quigley77@gmail.com


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8 thoughts on “Why does the U.S. owe Haiti Billions?”

  1. Its just astonishing how hypocritical the western media is!

    True-there is an outpouring of compassion from many ordinary westerners. What no one wants to discuss is this ELEPHANT CALLED REPARATIONS that is in the room as far as our Haitian brethren and sistren are concerned.

    What a symbol of consequences Haiti has been. Consequences of Black People resisting slavery in a neighbourhood thick and rancid with it!

    Like clock work, soon there will be much talk on how Black people cant just keep it together….

    The truth will NEVER EVAPORATE.

    May God Bless Haiti

  2. My heart goes out to the people of Haiti. I feel that much of the problems there, past and present are man-made. Beginning with slavery and France’s occupation on an earthly
    unstable island to begin with. What comes to mind when I think of Haiti is an old
    warrior that time has bought on several life threatening ailments but he is still trying to survive. He just will not give up. I like what the president of Senegal offered.
    Although, I believe that the majority of Senegal is muslim ,some christianity, some judiasm as long as one obeys the laws in their new land adaptation could go well.
    At least one thing you would not have to worry about earthquakes and money donated
    could be sent there. God Bless!

  3. These are the rules of the road (by that I mean the world). I am a white 29 year old male, and I earn about $28,000 a year. So you will take food from my mouth and put it in someone elses! I am not to sure of that! But what I would like to see is a change in policy, and maybe if countries want help we will help. I am tired of hearing someone owes me this and that. If you want it go out and earn it just like all the multi races in the U.S. Life is not fare for me or anyone else that lives it. Some people are born into wealth and some are born into poverty, but we all make decisions on our own and we are acountable for each one of them. By the way the U.S. is the leader in giving to 3rd world countries.

    1. “These are the rules of the world”… maybe YOUR world. These are the rules created by dictatorial U.S. led western society over other non-European countries is a more accurate statement. Just because they made these rules does not make them right… and it does not mean that we should just lay down and accept them.

      “The U.S. is the leader in giving to 3rd World countries”

      WHY they are still “3rd world Countries” in the first place? Had it not been for western colonization, the rape of the resources, the enslavement and exploitation of their people, and land by the west… these countries would be thriving. If these countries thrived there would be no need for the U.S. to intervene and thus gain access to those resources and land masses… which would be ultimately bad for the U.S. Capitalistic Economic Hierarchy.

      This is the typical problem in white America… the inability to own up to the issues western society has created for non-European countries. If the U.S. gives to any non-European country, there is always something in it for the U.S. You whine and complain about aid to Haiti… a country completely raped by the U.S… but you are awkwardly silent on the billions that go to Israel with no strings attached every year.

      So yeah… the U.S. may be the leader in giving to 3rd world countries… but that is usually after they have raped, pillaged, and worked to destabilize those 3rd world countries.

  4. I just saw a news report this morning here in Queens, NY. The Haitian Prime Minister is seeking administrative investigations on all the Child Adopiton and Foster Care Agencys trafficking supposed orphan Haitian Children. The Prime Minister of Haiti has been receiving alarming reports that the Haitian Children are being taken against their will and they are not orphans they still do have family members. Child abduction is another form of salvery the chaos Haiti has been has covering this up for years. I feel at this point in Haiti’s turmoil that these crimes will be exposed to the world over to witness how Governments,and Religious organizations have always failed people of color in Haiti.

  5. Wesley Baker your logic is fuzzy making you mix issues:

    a) your (relative) poverty as a white man does not mean that the west does not owe HAITI (and indeed AFRICA/Ns )TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

    b) The fact is that Africa is poor because the west is rich from slavery/colonialism & post colonialism/globalization.

    c) Your relative poverty is due to the logical culmination (in time) of the western-led socio-techno-political-economic model: The rich get richer but the poorest remain (coincidentally?) the darker races. This is blatantly obvious to any observer.Of course Afrikan & Haitian rulers have had a hand in this but as mere tools/puppets/lackeys.

    You only gripe like this because you are at the bottom (as whites go) in this modern feudal system but it is rich (no pun) to imagine that Haitians for example are just “born poor” . All you need to do is a little research on Haiti’s history to cure your propensity for trite remarks…

    I don’t expect you to see the bigger picture though. You are after all social debris to this system that can make you so callous in attitude even as you wallow in your own misery.

  6. I think that for a country to be taken seriously it has to find ways of settling its own debt. Only beggars plead for aid or debt relief. If u look at post-WW1 Europe, many countries has huge debts, but this was managed strategically on both an economic and political level……Anglo-saxon countries supported each other and strategic allies. Haiti needs to find a solution that does not involve begging.

  7. someone has to get screwed, that is the way of capitalism.
    If Haiti’s farm land wasn’t owned by sugar companies, Haiti might be able to pull itself up

    but since their politicians are just as crooked as everyone elses’ politicians i don’t think it will happen

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