Why the US Owes Haiti Billions
- The Briefest History
by Bill Quigley
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.
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
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...
In 2004, the US again destroyed democracy
in Haiti when it supported the coup against Haiti's elected President
... 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...
Haitians made mistakes as well. But US power has forced Haitians
to pay great prices - deaths, debt and abuse...
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
Bill Quigley 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