In Elegua’s last article, they wrote about the living legacy of Haiti’s struggle for independence and freedom. For Part Two, Elegua looks at Haiti’s ongoing struggle against imperialism.
As your eyes meet these words, remember these truths:
Haiti played a colossal role in the independence of countries throughout the Americas. This includes the United States and its enslaved population. There is a particularly cruel irony, then, in Haitian economic refugees and migrants being mistreated and unwelcomed as they attempt to enter the U.S.
This mistreatment is but an extension of the ongoing colonialism Haiti has dealt with for hundreds of years. Faced with a beacon of freedom for colonized and enslaved peoples, imperial powers like France and the United States exacted a steep price. Despite having fought for their freedom, the Haitian people continue to resist colonialism, white supremacy and empire in its many forms.
Colonialism, Accumulation and Resistance
France owes Haiti reparations. Haiti is still being punished for daring to embody, manifest, and take concrete actions to demonstrate that all men are created equal. Haiti was forced to pay France the equivalent of between $20 and $30 billion in today’s dollars for loss of its “property,” impededing Haiti’s development exponentially. Haiti deserves freedom from neocolonialism, particularly from U.S. and U.N. interference in political elections.
Foreign powers have always worked with the Haitian elite to stifle political progress, particularly when the Haitian people have chosen leaders who have their best interests at heart. Any regime deemed ‘hostile’ to the U.S. has been ousted. This has created conditions in which those in power are not there for the Haitian people but to serve the interests of those who installed them.
The cumulative impact is what we see today; those in the upper echelons of Haitian society have accumulated tremendous wealth and power with the help of the foreign partners they represent. While the country descends into lawlessness, they go in and out of embassies, making deals to the detriment of the Haitian people with those who don’t see beyond their own interests, particularly the federation of foreign entities called “The Core Group.” Former ambassador Daniel Foote wrote, “This cycle of political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results.” Foote also called Haiti a “collapsed state.”
Looking ahead, the country will not be rebuilt by external bodies. It will be rebuilt by empowered local actors from the grassroots — communities, organizations, and movements who can choose leaders from their ranks; who understand the needs and the context; and who have the aptitude to lead towns, cities, regions, and the country. Peasants who comprise most of Haiti’s population have the solutions to their woes. Like their African counterparts, they are the solution.
USAID, the French Development Agency (AFD), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), imperialistic NGOs, and the like will never help Haiti surmount poverty. In fact, they condition the people for dependency. The Haitian subsidiaries of these entities are nostalgic for colonial Haiti’s stratified social hierarchy where a minority of Haitians of European and Middle Eastern descent monopolize the country’s wealth, including the labor of the peasantry.
They, with the help of these foreign bodies, intend to continue oppressing the working class because the equation is simple: the suffering of the masses is a function of their wealth. The absence of a responsible Haitian state leaves them in a position to be subcontractors for these ‘aid’ agencies thus profit substantially. Encouraging grassroots movements to continue working from the ground up will always be more effective than dumping money into the hands of the Haitian elite who use governmental institutions as an extension of their businesses to benefit from the populace.
There is no better example of this “NGO imperialism” than their response after the 2010 earthquake. Far from providing resources to working-class Haitians to recover from a disaster that took more than 300,000 lives, the NGOs took hundreds of millions of dollars in donations then left them to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, with scant resources, Haitian movements responded powerfully.
Neoliberalism and Corruption
Neoliberal economic policies, austerity measures, predatory lending, structural adjustment, and other forms of financial colonialism have deeply impoverished and indebted the Haitian peasantry for generations. While entities like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank impoverish the majority, they continue to build generational wealth for the elite. When the “state” of Haiti borrows money, the money goes directly to the hands of the elite who use the country as a front to accumulate wealth, aided by the puppet politicians they put in power, often with the help of foreign governments like the U.S. The people of Haiti are then forced to repay this money.
An example is the case of the Petrocaribe funds, in which 2 billion dollars in aid from former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez went unaccounted for. Several generations of poor Haitians will have to pay that money back, while it accumulates interest in banks, in trusts for the Haitian elite, in Panama, in “offshore” shell companies.
Their progeny will continue to have it all because the descendants of poor black Haitian peasants will pay for it in blood: in the lack of roads to sell crops laboriously grown; in the lack of hospitals that has resulted in horrific health conditions for the populace while those who have money can fly to Santo Domingo or Miami; in the lack of schools that eats the dreams of the youth and robs the country of human resources; in the lack of electricity that keeps everything in the dark in Haiti; in the lack of security, a result of the absence a justice system, that allows rapists and kidnappers, often lynchmen of the elite and corrupt politicians, to walk free; in the lack of public institutions and infrastructure that make a country function.
Debt and Trade
The forced privatization of facilities including cereal mills, cement plants, a phone company, sugar plants, ports, etc., allow a few families to continue draining and hoarding the country’s wealth. They allow unchecked containers full of drugs and guns to continue to destabilize Haiti. And they have a direct link to the lack of food sovereignty and the lack of general sovereignty seen in the country today. With all these forced privatized institutions, how could the state generate revenue to repay its debt?
Unfair and unjust trade policies like those that benefit American rice farmers in the guise of aid to Haiti; land grabs for the benefit of U.S. corporations; free trade zones where cheap labor makes cheap clothes for U.S. consumers; and mine exploitation by U.S. and Canadian companies, threatening the water supply of northern Haitian communities, are all upheld by U.S., Canadian, and European companies supported by their governments.
Missionaries and Abuse
The white missionaries getting off on poverty porn, living lavishly in Haiti, while knowingly allowing people who committed sexual offenses against minors to “serve” on the dime of U.S. evangelicals who support anti-LGBTQIA+ efforts in Haiti, as they do in other countries, will never save Haiti’s soul.
Vaudou is a convenient scapegoat for self-righteousness, homophobia, spiritual colonialism, and white supremacy veiled in Christian virtues. Blaming dark-skinned people’s misfortunes on their beliefs while stealing their land and resources is straight out of the 11th century. Perhaps missionaries need suggestions for another hobby?
Efforts, energy, and money allocated to “evangelize” Haiti would better be served advocating for the reversal of provisions in the farm bill that subsidize starvation. U.S. taxpayers’ money funds land grabs that further undermine food sovereignty in Haiti. What can be a greater cause for crusade than that? The spirit of the U.S. taxpayer’s dollar is powerful and has done more damage to Haiti’s soul than any vaudou spirit ever could.
Still, despite the continued violence, oppression, and exploitation from within and without, working-class and rural Haitians continue to resist. Through them the Haitian Revolution lives on. The Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), its national congress MPNKP, and others organize in the fields, pointing to an alternative to countryside- and climate-killing corporations. The Haitian Platform to Advocate for Alternative Development (PAPDA) resists the privatization of our communities. The Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) documents abuses from government, NGO, and paramilitary forces alike, pushing for justice for survivors and victims.
Though the crises are severe in Haiti, the legacy of revolution that social movements carry forward today is the truth that will set us and keep us free.
Kat je kontre, manti kaba.