Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

Why Haiti is what it is today

January 18th, 2010 Comments off

Haiti sits on the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola and shares the island with the Dominican Republic. Discovered by Columbus in 1492 and ceded to the French in 1692, the colony of Sante Domingue (now called Haiti) became the French jewel of Caribbean as a source of sugar and coffee primarily from the labor of slaves imported from Africa who eventually outnumbered the French colonists by 10 to 1. In 1789 the French Revolution sent out the message of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" and this was heard by the slaves in Sante Domingue. In 1791 the slaves revolted and established the second independent republic in the western hemisphere (the USA being the first). The revolt in Haiti inspired others in South America to revolt. In 1815 Simon Bolivar, the South American political leader who was instrumental in Latin America’s struggle for independence from Spain, received military and financial assistance from Haiti.

But southern planters in the USA refused to recognize Haiti as a sister democracy because the nation had been established by former slaves. In 1802, Napoleon egged on by French investors who had lost holdings in Haiti sent a force to Haiti to put down the rebellion and reestablish slavery. A yellow fever epidemic wipe out most of the expeditionary force enroute to New Orleans. As a result Napoleon gave up on North America and sold French holdings on the mainland to the USA in what is known as the Louisiana Purchase.

In July 1825, King Charles X of France sent a fleet of fourteen vessels and thousands of troops to re-conquer the island. Under pressure, the Haitians agreed to a treaty by which France formally recognized the independence of the nation in exchange for a payment of 150 million francs (about $21 billion in today’s money.) (the sum was reduced in 1838 to 90 million francs) – an indemnity for profits lost from the slave trade. French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher wrote, "Imposing an indemnity on the victorious slaves was equivalent to making them pay with money that which they had already paid with their blood." The debt was not paid off by Haiti until 1947.

So essentially the former slaves of Haiti who had won their independence in a revolution were forced to pay for their freedom through the generations. Did the British force the American Colonies to pay indemnity? No. There was a clause in the Treaty of Paris that “recommended” that the states restore property confiscated from loyalists, but that was largely ignored.

It is interesting to note that the Monroe Doctrine was issued in 1823. The Monroe Doctrine stated that efforts by European governments to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed by the United States of America as acts of aggression requiring US intervention. Yet the USA did nothing to stop Europe from imposing its will on Haiti.

Throughout the 19th century the USA and European powers did nothing to support Haiti except to use the country as a source for imperial profiteering and cheap labor. On more than one occasion, French, U.S., German and British forces claimed large sums of money from the vaults of the National Bank of Haiti. Expatriates bankrolled and armed opposing groups.

In addition, national governments intervened in Haitian affairs. For instance, U.S. Marines supported a military revolt against the government in 1888. In 1892 the German government supported suppression of a Haitian reform movement In January 1914, British, German and United States forces entered Haiti, ostensibly to protect their citizens from civil unrest. In 1915, US Marines invaded Haiti to push out the Germans. The USA imposed racist Jim Crow laws on Haiti and proceeded to occupy the country until 1934. From then on the USA supported one dictator after another all in the name of anti-communism.

So that in a nutshell is why Haiti is what it is today.

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Another thing you can do to help in Haiti

January 17th, 2010 Comments off

As the tragedy in Haiti unfolds, Americans are generously donating millions of dollars to aid organizations.

But when Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, the credit card companies get rich. In some cases they keep 3% of the donation as a "transaction fee," even though that’s far more than it costs them to process the donation.

It’s outrageous and wrong—and it needs to stop.

Can you sign this petition to the CEOs of the major credit card companies demanding that they waive their processing fees for all charitable donations?

The petition says: "Credit card companies shouldn’t be getting rich off of Americans’ generosity. They should waive all fees on charitable contributions from today on."

The credit card companies are trying to get ahead of this story, announcing they will temporarily waive the fees they charge on some Haiti-related charitable contributions for the next 6 weeks. But that’s nowhere near enough. Many emergency donations to Haiti will still get hit with hefty bank fees. (To give a sense of how limited the exemption is, Doctors Without Borders isn’t on any of the publicly available lists of charities that won’t be charged fees.)

All American credit card companies should announce that they will waive ALL fees on charitable contributions, starting today, and going forward for good. This isn’t about helping political organizations like MoveOn, just helping true charitable organizations.

It’s the right thing to do, and honestly, it’s the least they could do after the role they played in crashing the entire global economy last year.

But they won’t do it unless they know how angry Americans are that they’re profiting off of this terrible tragedy. Click here to sign the petition, which will deliver to the heads of the major credit card companies:

To sign the petition go to:

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