Haiti In Crisis

By Carol F. Yost

Ever since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021, Haiti, already in turmoil, descended deeper into chaos. Moise himself had not been chosen by the people, who for some time had not been allowed to choose their leaders in a free and fair election. Ariel Henry, who has been implicated in Moise’s murder, and has not been democratically elected, now serves as the acting president and prime minister.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Ashley Norris, Courtesy.

Popular leaders who really cared about their country and tried to create the means of providing food and clean water for the people, and good education for the children, were hamstrung by being denied the funds they needed to do their work. Then they were replaced by corrupt politicians. All of this was thanks to the United States, Canada and France, ever eager to meddle in the country’s affairs. They had twice unseated Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a popular leader who had been democratically elected. During and after the coups that took him out of office, thousands of his supporters were killed. The second time, in 2004, he was spirited out of the country and taken to exile in Africa. While in office, he was forced to sign agreements that deprived him of the ability to carry out many of his reforms. His people have been forced to work in sweatshops for around $2 a day, making huge profits for United States corporations and making most Haitians desperately poor. Violent gangs make the streets dangerous, and there are shootings and kidnappings daily. Rich Haitians, many of them descended from the slaveholding landowners of long ago, and who pay no taxes, hire gangs to help them stay in power.

Haiti was the first country to hold a successful slave revolt which abolished slavery there forever in 1804. In 1825 France, which had held the country as a colony, forced the former slaves to pay for the income France lost when the slaves won their freedom. Haiti, still poor, did not finish paying this false debt until 1947, and the payment process further impoverished the country. Aristide demanded the money back—about $28 billion in today’s dollars. France, outraged, backed the coup that unseated him the second time. The Eiffel Tower had been partly paid for with Haitian money. Haiti is still forced to give France a 50% discount in trade.

Aristide also infuriated President Clinton, who had restored him to his elected office after he had been unseated the first time. Clinton had forced him to promise to privatize all Haitian industry, but he refused to. The US also forced Haiti to accept its low-cost shipments of rice and flour, which bankrupted Haitian farmers. The US had sent its army troops to occupy Haiti from 1915 to 1934, and had stolen the country’s gold reserves, which it still has not repaid.

Even the UN has not been any help. After the devastating 2010 earthquake which killed 220,000 people, the UN sent troops who inadvertently poisoned the Port au Prince water reserves by dumping their toilet waste into the river, the city’s main source of water. This caused a cholera outbreak which killed at least 10,000 people.

Canada has teamed up with the US and France to control Haiti, but says it is contributing funds to benefit popular programs. It also says it is imposing sanctions on rich Haitians involved in the gang violence. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sending two warships to help in gang control; how this will happen is not clear.

Ariel Henry, who is beholden to no one, is calling for military intervention, but since that has always been disastrous in the past, the people of Haiti do not want it, and want Henry to resign. There have been street protests, subjected to tear gas from the police. There is much discussion among other governments, including the US, France and Canada, of letting Haitians determine what they want for their country, but the sincerity of this, given past history, is not certain.

The Haitian spirit will never be completely overthrown. The descendants of former slaves may one day rise up and throw off the tyrannical control of other nations.