By Thierry Lindor

NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Oct. 1, 2021, REUTERS: Haiti is not cursed, it is targeted!

From earthquakes in the summer to the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, and the perilous  voyage to the U.S. border for Haitian refugees, only to end up whipped by modern-day plantation overseers.

They must be cursed!

Both the Obama and Trump administrations had their cages, while Biden has his lassos to violate Black and Brown bodies.

How can a nation be so grieved by these unfortunate events?

They must be cursed!

A popular take on the events happening in Haiti, spread by the American evangelical Christian pastor, Pat Robertson, is that the nation is cursed. The host of “700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network” suggested that “a pact [with] the devil” brought on the earthquake in Haiti.

Robertson said during a broadcast of the show in 2010 that, “the Haitians were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever…and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal’.”

They must be cursed!

The story alludes to the genesis of Haitian independence where the legendary Bois Caiman  ceremony took place on August 14, 1791. Chaired by Dutty Boukman, a powerful leader of the Maroons (descendants of Africans in the Americas who formed settlements away from slavery) and the legendary Haitian vodou priestess, Cécile Fatiman, the visionaries knew how to weaponize their environment. They used swamps, crocodiles and venomous plants to keep the slavers away from their plan for freedom.

Toussaint L’Ouverture, a Haitian general and the most prominent leader of the Haitian Revolution, helped transform the slave rebellion into a true revolutionary movement. He went from trying to bargain for better conditions of slavery late in 1791, to becoming fully committed to its complete abolition – and he eventually got that for himself and the people of Ayiti. It was a shame he did not live to see it.

But they are cursed!

I would argue, from the point Haiti gained its freedom, the nation faced constant targeted socio-economic and political oppression at the hands of the “international community”.

Although Haiti formally gained independence on January 1804, France refused to recognize Haiti’s independence in 1825 and the Napoleonic Armada threatened to invade the island unless the sum of 150 million francs (modern equivalent of $21 billion) was paid for “the loss of income from slavery”.

After several years of negotiations and fear of war, Haiti agreed to pay 150 million gold-Francs in 1838. Haiti did not finish paying this debt until 1947.

In 1914, the United States invaded Haiti and seized its national gold reserves worth about $500,000 – about $13 million as of 2021. American troops killed several thousand Haitian civilians during the rebellions between 1915 and 1920, though the exact death toll is still unknown.

Those that managed to survive had to endure horrifying conditions of forced labour under a ‘corvee’ policy to “improve economic conditions” in order to fulfil foreign debts – including payments to the United States.

In 1922, the National Bank of Haiti was seized by the National City Bank of New York (today’s Citibank). Peter James Hudson, associate professor of African American Studies and history in the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote in the Radical History Review that employees of National City Bank of New York “triumphantly announced ‘Bank of Haiti Is Ours’”.

In the early 1980’s, Haiti maintained dependency on their own cultivation of rice. That’s until the United States, under the Clinton administration, formed the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) – a trade agreement between the United States and Caribbean countries which aimed to lower tariffs to ‘liberalize’ Haiti’s economy.

The CBI had tragic consequences for Haiti as their import tax stood at 35% prior to its formation, but the trade deal cut this down to 3% in 1994. The nation was inundated with cheap rice imports subsidized by the U.S. government from Arkansas. Haitian rice farmers could no longer compete and found themselves out of business.

In 2010, before a U.S. Senate committee, President Bill Clinton admitted that his initiative was a “mistake” that killed local Haitian agriculture for the benefit of his “Farmer Friends in Arkansas”.

This late admission of guilt came around the same time of Haiti’s most devastating year – 2010 – as the nation was destroyed by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people.

The following year, a U.N. investigation revealed that a cholera epidemic hit Haiti following the voluntary discharge of faecal matter into the Artibonite River by United Nations employees. The 32-page report found that cholera spread quickly from a U.N. camp in the upper Artibonite River valley to water used by tens of thousands of Haitians for bathing, washing and drinking.

The cholera epidemic hospitalized nearly 300,000 and killed 4,500 people.

More than $13 billion in international aid was given to the Red Cross, UNICEF, The Clinton Foundation and several other NGOs in 2010. Although 95% of the 1.5 million people who were in camps have been moved, many of them are still not in permanent housing, with at least 200,000 people in new hillside slums and makeshift tents for homes. The majority of the funds disappeared without any transparency regarding the recipients.

Which leads us to where we are today. President Moise assassinated. Haiti struck by a of 7.2 magnitude earthquake. More than 15,000 descendants of Toussaint L’Ouverture undertaking the perilous march of more than 7,000 km to the United States to relive what their ancestors lived.

So, what do you think? Cursed or targeted?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thierry Lindor is the founder of The Federation of African Canadian Economic and Delegate at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance.

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