by Yves Engler
Last Thursday the World Bank announced
it would release $73 million in cash to Haiti's government of
Gerard Latortue that was installed by foreign powers after elected
President Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced from office. For Haiti
to get the World Bank cash it had to pay $52 million in outstanding
arrears. Canada helped out by giving the regime a $12.7 million
What's going on?
The Canadian government, like the US
and the European Union, stopped providing aid to the Haitian government
after accusations that the May 2000 elections were unfair. The
basis for this claim was that in 10 multi-candidate contests where
Lavalas gained a plurality rather than a majority of votes, according
to the constitution they should have faced a second round election.
Instead Lavalas' "plurality winners" simply took their
Objections were raised even though the
same method was used in previous elections and it was public knowledge
prior to the vote that this would happen again. So, while more
than 3500 other positions were judged to have been filled fairly
in the same election, the Organization of American States and
the US claimed electoral fraud. The opposition used this claim
to justify their boycott of presidential elections later that
year and to say Aristide's victory was tainted, even though no
one claimed the opposition had any chance of beating the popular
former priest. The "tainted" election became the excuse
to divert aid money from the government to opposition "civil
Now, however, the Canadian government
has no problem giving money to a Haitian regime without the remotest
pretense of democratic legitimacy.
The World Bank money now going to Haiti
is mostly loans. Haitians will have to repay it even though Haitians
didn't choose Latortue - the US, France and Canada did. Similarly,
of the $1.2 billion in "aid" for Haiti announced at
a Washington donors' conference in July, more than half is loans,
which Haitians must repay.
While it's unclear how exactly all of
the money on offer will be spent we do know that a number of North
American companies have their eyes on the prize, so to speak.
Montreal -based SNC Lavalin already has some contracts lined up.
Most countries stipulate that the majority of their "aid"
must be spent on domestic contractors. So Haitians will have to
repay money sent to foreign companies.
A country as poor as Haiti - where there
are no public schools, only intermittent electricity and little
health infrastructure - should not be sending $40 million to the
World Bank headquarters in Washington. But then again in 1825
Haiti never should have had to pay France $21 billion (in 2004
dollars) to compensate French slave-holders for their loss of
property (now free Haitians). This debt, paid under threat of
invasion and exclusion from international commerce, took Haiti
120 years to repay.
According to the Haiti Support Group,
"Haiti's debt to international financial institutions and
foreign governments has grown from US$302 million in 1980 to US$1.134
billion today. About 40% of this debt stems from loans to the
brutal Duvalier (Papa and Baby Doc) dictators who invested precious
little of it in the country. This is known as 'odious debt' because
it was used to oppress the people, and, according to international
law, this debt need not be repaid."
As the 20th century began, foreign powers,
especially Germany, France and the US, repeatedly sent gunboats
into Haitian waters. The most common reason for the incursions
was to press Haiti to pay debts it was unable to afford. In one
instance, US marines secretly entered Port-au-Prince and took
the national treasure. The 1915 US invasion/occupation of Haiti
was partly about forcing the country to repay its debt.
While it would be a stretch to claim
that the recent invasion of Haiti occurred simply to force the
country to repay its debt, it isn't a total coincidence that Haiti,
like the other "failed states" Yugoslavia and Iraq,
has massive "obligations" to foreign bankers.
"Failed state" may in fact
be a euphemism for a country's failure to subject itself above
all else to the rights of international creditors. After all,
gunboat diplomacy to enforce these rights has a long, inglorious
For those interested in organizing or
taking part in demonstrations (planned for Saturday February 26th)
in Canada or throughout the world commemorating the one year anniversary
of the overthrow of Haiti's constitutional order get in touch
with Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those interested in bringing Haitian
speakers to Canada or the northeast of the US get in touch with
yves at (514) 807 - 9037 or email@example.com
Anyone planning on attending the World
Social Forum who might be interested in outreaching with our Brazilian,
Argentinean and Chilean comrades please get in touch with yves.