Feature Week of April 18, 2004
THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION: A VICTORY WITH NO SUCCESS
Aristide Sent Packing For Trying To Get Paid
Would you believe that Haitian President Jean Paul Aristide was “taken for a ride” because he’d demanded $21.7 billion in reparations restitution from the French for his country? Was Aristide’s February 29, 2004 departure from Haiti a coup d'état orchestrated by the U.S. and France because he wanted payback?
The reparations Aristide seeks remains an issue for both the U.S. and French governments, in reverse perceptions of justice. Blacks who suffered two centuries of free labor in the U.S. want payment, while the Haitians who overthrew colonial masters want pay-back. The tone corporate media attaches to today’s situation is propaganda describing Aristide as “corrupt” and that his “people suffered” under his presidency in Haiti. Much as is done toward Black Reparations in the U.S., U.S. and Franco government officials dismiss Aristide’s stand against Haiti’s slavery-era masters and demand for return of the island’s stolen wealth.
Explored by Columbus on Dec. 6, 1492, Haiti soon became the French colony of Saint-Dominique and a leading sugarcane producer dependent on slaves. In 1791, a insurrection among Haiti’s 480,000 slaves led to it becoming the first black slave population to rise up and conquer French colonists. During the 18th century, France’s Haiti was one of the most brutally-efficient slave colonies ever and its most valuable colonial possession. Haiti was an important port of call for slave ships to colonies in the Americas and the origin of two-thirds of Europe's total volume of tropical produce.
The Revolution wrecked Haiti’s economy because it challenged the world as it was then. Slavery was the heart of a thriving system of merchant capitalism that profited Europe, devastated Africa, and propelled the expansion of the Americas. Independent Haiti had few friends. All the world's powers sided with France against the self-proclaimed Black Republic which declared itself a haven for runaway slaves. Hemmed in by slave colonies, Haiti had only one non-colonized neighbor, the slaveholding United States; which refused to recognize Haiti’s independence for decades.
After the revolution was successful in 1804; Haiti's leaders were desperate for recognition, since the island’s only source of revenue was the sugar, coffee, cotton and other tropical produce it had to sell. In 1825, under threat of another in a series of French invasions, and restoration of slavery, Haitian officials signed a document, the beginning of the end of any hope of autonomy. France’s king agreed to recognize Haiti's independence only if the new republic paid France an indemnity of 150 million francs and reduced its import and export taxes by half. The “debt” Haiti recognized was incurred by slaves when they deprived French owners not only of land and equipment but of human “property”. The terms of the edit were non-negotiable, and to impress the seriousness of the situation, France delivered the demands by 12 warships armed with 500 canons.
To make matters worse, the French anticipated and planned for Haiti to secure a loan to pay the first installment on the indemnity. That’s when the usury began. Haiti was forced to borrow the 30 million francs from a French bank that then deducted management fees from the face value of the loan and charged interest rates so exorbitant that after payment was completed, Haiti was still 6 million francs short. The Haitians were taken to the cleaners. The indemnity was 55 million francs more than was needed to restore the 793 sugar plantations, 3,117 coffee estates and 3,906 indigo, cotton and other crop plantations destroyed during the war. By contrast, when it became clear France would no longer be in a position to capitalize on further westward expansion in the Western hemisphere, they agreed to sell the Louisiana Territory (an area 74 times the surface area of Haiti) to the U.S. for 60 million francs - less than half Haiti’s indemnity.
The impact of the debt repayments - which continued until after World War Two - was devastating. It turned a country whose revenues and outflows had been balanced up to then into a nation burdened with debt and trapped in financial obligations that could never be satisfied. Haiti did not finish paying its indemnity debt until 1947. European “justice” imposed an indemnity on the victorious slaves that was equivalent to making them pay with money what they’d already paid with their blood. The “debt” is unquestionably the reason Haiti is “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Jean Bertrand Aristide first made the demand for $21 billion from the French on the bicentenary of the death of independence hero Toussaint Louverture.
After the cycle of debt, dependency and foreign domination that’s torn Haiti apart for 200 years, isn’t it worthwhile to question American officials, especially U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, about America’s past, and current, role in helping to keep Haiti impoverished? When it comes to the issue of reparations justice, the US/Franco intervention in Haiti is just the latest chapter in blacks of African ancestry being taken for a ride. When will justice prevail and continuing bilking of blacks in the Americas end?
© 2000-2003 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com