suppose I oughtn’t to be surprised at the ‘poppy show’ the hemisphere has made
of the recent Haitian tragedy.
Tears and fears are not what Haiti
needs now nor has it ever. Earthquakes happen as do many other natural events
(called disasters by those unfamiliar with Mother Nature) but, as usual, this
event’s purpose has been lost in a maze of politricking, game-playing and
evangelistic dishonesty. I can hear you muttering to yourself, “What’s
this lunatic babbling on about now? Has he been hit in the head by a domino?
How can an earthquake have a purpose?”
For too long, the world (including
especially CARICOM) has ignored not only Haiti’s plight but the historical
conspiracy that has created it. In a seminal piece published elsewhere on 17 January,
John Maxwell highlighted the most recent act of hostility to Haitian progress
by the and France who, in a
tactic eerily reminiscent of the fate of Toussaint L’Ouverture, conspired with
some Haitian soldiers to successfully overthrow and spirit away a duly (albeit
somewhat dubiously) elected head of state. But it didn’t start there.
Haiti has always been a source of
potential embarrassment to the US from the time of the successful slave revolt
of the late 18th century, inspired as that was by the revolution at its
colonial headquarters that resulted in the French aristocracy’s removal (symbolised
by Marie-Antoinette literally losing her head) and the installation of radical
democracy in France. Apparently, liberté, galité, fraternité were ideals at but not so institutionalised
at the time as to be transportable to the Caribbean and applicable to the
government of a former French colony by persons of African descent. So, when
Vincent Ogé requested the right to vote for “free coloureds”, the colonial
governor refused. Ogé led a brief insurgence, was “arrested” and
brutally executed by being broken on the wheel.
I believe this was the spark that
ignited the Haitian revolt as, previously, the slaves weren’t involved in or
meant to benefit from Ogé’s struggle. The revolt’s success was mainly serendipity.
French military resources were stretched by its war with Great Britain and,
when Spain, also not very fond of the French and who controlled the rest of
Hispaniola, invaded Saint Domingue (as it then was), there were only 3,500
French soldiers left from an original contingent of 6,000 sent to quell the
rebellion. Freedom was ‘negotiated’ (a deliberate euphemism to cover 30 years
of further struggle and intrigue) by the French to avoid military embarrassment.
price for freedom
But ‘freedom’ came at a huge cost.
France insisted on a massive fee (amortised equivalent about US$20 billion) to
free the slaves and for ‘independence’ from France. Haiti had to borrow from
French Bankers to pay the first instalment in 1825. France recognised Haitian
Independence in 1834, by which time its future was mortgaged to international
banks. Thereafter, the US used every possible tactic to ensure that nothing
Haiti did (e.g., succeed) encouraged American slaves into similar revolt. The
US has never let go of the Haitian wheel, including occupation in 1915, and
installation and propping up of the puppet Duvalier regimes.
Haiti remains America’s permanent
warning to the World that blacks can’t run countries. Economic embargoes,
pursued against Haiti and Cuba, were considered unsuitable against South
African apartheid. And CARICOM can’t escape blame. It has ignored Haiti’s
plight forever, while it fawns at America’s feet, seeking whatever favours
possible for itself. Has anyone noticed the proximity to Hillary Clinton’s Jamaican
visit of our sudden rush of compassion for Haitians fleeing to our borders?
This ensures that as few as possible reach American shores.
Nobody cared about Haiti. So, in
steps Mother Nature to broadcast Haiti’s plight so loudly and graphically that
nobody dares allege they don’t see. The question is: What will CARICOM do? Will
we send a few blankets, diapers, shovels, shed a few tears, say a few prayers
and restore the shanties? Or will we finally insist on proper compensation to
Haiti for past abuse? Will we call on France to borrow US$20 billion from the
IMF to repay Haiti the extortion money it extracted for ‘freedom’? Now that
America’s repressive policies have failed; now that first slavery and then
apartheid has been abolished in America; now that America itself is under Black
rule; what will America do for Haiti? Will America open its borders to fleeing
Haitians? Will it facilitate sustainable development? Or will America be
content to weep, wail, knash teeth, seek media ratings, and, of course, pray?
Robinson is an attorney-at-law.