Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Haiti’s independence ‘ransom’ paid to France revealed

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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Series of articles from The New York Times Published this weekend highlights the tragic history of Haitian independence and the astronomical debt the country had to pay France in the nineteenth century, a topic that few of the Haitian political class exploited.

After several months of archive analysis, the American newspaper estimated that payments, made in 1825 by the first black republic in history to compensate former slave colonists, “cost Haiti’s economic development between 21 and 115 billion dollars in losses over two centuries, or the equivalent of times to Eight times the country’s GDP in 2020.

If the post is widely shared and commented on on social networks, complete silence reigns both on the part of the authorities in Port-au-Prince and on the part of their opponents.

On Monday, Haitian historian Pierre Bouteau responded to AFP: “Haitian politicians are annoyingly inclined to act only for the time being.” Politicians are only interested in the struggle for power.”

The Chief Prosecutor was dismissed

The reluctance of Haitian leaders to take up this issue can be explained by Western intervention in the Caribbean nation’s recent past.

In 2003, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had made the issue of this independence debt his fighting horse, setting the amount that France received at more than $21 billion, for one cent.

Faced with an armed rebellion and a popular uprising denouncing human rights violations, he was ousted from power in February 2004, under strong American, French and Canadian pressure.

Nearly two decades later by the New York Times, Thierry Burcard, France’s ambassador at the time, admitted that there was a ‘little’ connection between Aristide’s ouster and his demand to return this debt.

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By declaring its independence on January 1, 1804, Haiti finds itself shunned by the nations of the world that was at that time dominated by slave powers.

“The way Haiti for a century and a half has had to pay France for its desire to be free, […] French economist Thomas Piketty analyzed when he published his book Capital and Ideology in 2019, in which he extensively discusses Haiti’s debt problem. of independence.

Eiffel Tower funded by Haiti

The payments demanded by France deprived the Haitian economy of resources vital to its growth as much as they allowed its former city to flourish.

The New York Times showed how, at the end of the nineteenth century, the CIC Bank was returned to France, through toxic loans supposed to help Port-au-Prince clear its debts, the income of the young Haitian National Bank.

This capital later enabled the Parisian banking institution to finance the construction of the Eiffel Tower in particular.

The current parent company of CIC on Monday responded to revelations in the US media.

“Because it is important to shed light on all components of colonial history – including in the 1870s, the Joint Bank will fund independent academic work to shed light on this past,” Crédit Motwell declared in a press release.

Through its investigative work, The New York Times also highlights the looting of Haiti’s gold reserves by American soldiers at the beginning of the 20th century.

“December 17, 1914. Eight US Marines crossed the threshold of the National Bank of Haiti in the early afternoon and came out with their arms laden with wooden chests full of gold. – Value of goods: $500,000.”

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These facts preceded the invasion of Haiti by the US Army, which occupied the country from July 1915 to August 1934.

The United States retained direct control of Haiti’s finances more than a decade after its forces left.

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