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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch "Recognizing the Right of Haitians to Reparations"

"Recognizing the Right of Haitians to Reparations"

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Friday, 12 February 2010 15:28
Writing for The Nation yesterday, Naomi Klein makes the case that Haiti is actually a creditor, not a debtor. Therefore, she argues, to speak of debt cancellation is really only a step in the right direction.

Klein outlines three major sources of the West's debt to Haiti: The Slavery Debt, The Dictatorship Debt and The Climate Debt.

One could add that the United States, France, Canada, and the World Bank also owe Haiti for having deliberately destroyed the economy and de-stabilized the country from 2000-2004, in order to topple the elected government. Since this was done openly, including an international cut-off of vitally needed aid, has been documented, and is quite recent as compared to the previous debts cited by Klein, it should be of prime importance. The renowned medical journal, the Lancet, has estimated that the dictatorship installed after the 2004 coup murdered around 4000 people in the greater Port-au-Prince area alone. It also jailed officials and supporters of the constitutional government. The foreign governments, including the United States, who organized, funded, and contributed to this coup are also responsible for the violence that ensued.

The 2004 coup was a repeat of the 1991 coup that overthrew the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide the first time. Thousands of his supporters were also killed by the dictatorship installed in this coup. The leaders of the coup were paid by the CIA, as was -- according to its leader -- the major death squad organization.

The role of the United States in these coups should be the subject of a formal investigation in Congress, starting with the 2004 coup. This would lead to even more economic damages owed to Haiti.

After a slave revolt led to Haitian independence in 1804, France was determined to make Haitians pay for their freedom. As Klein writes:
So in 1825, with a flotilla of war ships stationed off the Haitian coast     threatening to re-enslave the former colony, King Charles X came to collect: 90 million gold francs--ten times Haiti's annual revenue at the time. With no way to refuse, and no way to pay, the young nation was shackled to a debt that would take 122 years to pay off.
In 2003, Jean-Bertrand Aristide sought compensation from the French government in the amount of $21 billion. However the lawsuit never made it to court, in 2004 Aristide was ousted in a coup, put on a US military plane and flown to the Central African Republic.

Striking a similar tone to Klein, Inter-Press Service reports on a civil rights delegation that traveled to Haiti. Led by Joe Beasley, the delegation is calling for a $30 billion payment from France to help with the relief and reconstruction efforts. The delegation is working to educate the US public on Haiti's history and the context that led to such extreme poverty today:
"I think there are so many preconceived notions about Haiti that are negative and that need to be clarified," he noted. "I think this earthquake has provided us an opportunity to not only talk about the disaster, but to tell the truth about Haiti, the historical reality around Haiti and why it happened to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere."

Beasley argues the U.S. and other countries were threatened by the challenge to white supremacy the Haitian revolution in 1804 represented.

"In the U.S. at the time of the Haitian revolution, Thomas Jefferson was the president. He picked up the notion that these 'black savages from Africa' were able to overthrow the strongest army at the time, Napoleon Bonaparte of France," Beasley said.

"That [challenge] was an idea the Western world was not willing to entertain. In the U.S. in 1804, we still had slavery for another 60 years and another 100 years in Brazil," he said, adding, "I think the Haitian revolution transformed the world."

Tags: debt | reparations

 

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