Friday, 22 January 2010
By David Colyer Here’s the briefest summary of Haiti’s inspiring and tragic history I can manage. For more details, check out the links in the previous posts. Inspired by the French Revolution’s proclamation of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” black slaves in the French colony of Haiti rose up and fought for their freedom. The British tried to take advantage of the chaos, and invaded with 90,000 troops, the former slaves defeated them. Napoleon – who had conqured Europe – tried to re-impose slavery, his army was beaten too. And in 1804 Haiti was free. Haitian freedom fighters had fought with the American revolutionaries against the British. But the USA’s slave-owning elite didn’t return the favour, instead they ganged up with the French and British to impose trade and investment embargoes. Eventually the Haitians were forced to agree to pay the French “compensation” for the “property” they had lost when the slaves freed themselves. Since then Haiti (like so many other poor countries) has been in debt to European and US banks. Haiti was invaded and occupied by the US in 1915 and 1934, and suffered under a succession of brutal, US-backed dictators. The current government is part of this pattern. During the latest coup in 2004, the elected president, the hugely popular left-winger Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped by US troops and left stranded in Africa. UN “peacekeepers” backed the new regime and shot Aristide’s protesting supporters. Although the current government won elections, they were neither free nor fair. Not only was Aristide in exile, but his party – which still has the support of most Haitians – was banned from standing. Now there are fears that the government and its US bakers will exploit the tragedy to impose a “disaster capitalism” programme of free market reforms and political repression.