Haiti recently caught the attention of the American press again. This time, the headlines were not for earthquakes, hurricanes, cholera or contentious elections, but for Bill and Hillary Clinton’s strong political influence and questionable financial dealings in Haiti.
This involvement is not the first time that a U.S. president or secretary of state had a strong political influence or questionable financial dealings in Haiti. One hundred years ago, one year after the start of WWI, on July 28, 1915, the U.S., under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, occupied Haiti under the pretense of promoting democracy and protecting American lives despite the fact that Haiti posed no threat. This particular occupation lasted until 1934, but in 2015, Haitians’ territories and minds are still being occupied by the U.S., as evidenced by the presence of the Clintons, U.S. celebrities and NGOs in Haiti.
The U.S. rationale for occupying Haiti in 1915 was to supposedly restore political order and maintain economic stability in Haiti. Instead, given its chicanery, the U.S. occupation of Haiti led to unintended and negative consequences for the country. These consequences include the U.S. gaining complete control of Haitian finances; the manipulation of elections in Haiti, along with the U.S. rewriting the Haitian constitution; and the neglect of basic human rights, as evident in oppressive educational training policies and forced labor practices. In the long run, sending the U.S. military to invade Haiti did more harm than good, and the occupation has caused Haiti to this day to become vulnerable to further exploitation by the U.S., Canada, Europe and their NGOs.
In terms of economics, the rationale provided by the United States was that the capital market and fiscal stability of Haiti were in disarray and only the U.S. could successfully link Haiti to the global market as established by the gold standard and the U.S. Federal Reserve System. However, to secure its banking interests, the U.S. expropriated Haitian territories for the cultivation of sugar, coffee, banana, sisal, rubber and mahogany to finance its war against Germany and other central imperial powers. Furthermore, the National City Bank of New York (currently Citigroup) destabilized Haiti by refusing to remunerate Haitian workers and by ordering the removal and transfer of $500,000 worth of Haiti’s gold reserves to the National City Bank’s vaults at 55 Wall St. in New York City. The U.S. not only seized Haiti’s banks, customs house and the port at Mole-Saint Nicolas, but also seized Haiti’s economic prosperity and socio-political future as well.
Politically, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy under Wilson, rewrote Haiti’s constitution and strategically extracted Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ Article 12 forbidding foreigners from owning land in Haiti, thus allowing Americans to seize and own land in Haiti. Under Wilson, the entire island of Haiti was placed under the direct jurisdiction of the U.S. Marines, who were designated the socio-political overseers of Haitian provinces while top U.S. officials had veto power in regards to every governmental decision in Haiti. Moreover, under the U.S., the political leadership of Haiti was selected, not elected. As such, political elections were rigged, and Haitian heads of state served the interest of the U.S., not Haiti.
Culturally, the U.S. pushed a racist worldview of Haiti by targeting Vodou while promoting the people of Haiti as being inferior and uncivilized. As such, the U.S. imposed an oppressive industrial training program along with the corvee system of forced labor upon the Haitians. It was this particular abusive labor system, along with the occupation of Haiti, that brought about the Cacos wars as led by Charlemagne Peralte and Benoit Batraville. However, the U.S. was able to quell the Cacos revolts with the assassinations of Peralte and Batraville. To further subdue and terrorize the masses, the U.S. publicly displayed the dead body of Peralte.
Before his assassination, Peralte declared, “Today, our patience is at an end. … We demand our rights, unrecognized and flouted by the unscrupulous Americans who, by destroying our institutions, deprive the Haitian people of all their resources and thrive on our name and our blood. With cruelty and injustice, the Yankees have for four years cast ruin and destruction on our territory. … We are prepared to make any sacrifice to liberate Haitian territory.”
Thus, on July 28, while we memorialize the 11,500 Haitians who were killed during the U.S. occupation of Haiti, we should also make the necessary sacrifice to liberate not only our territories but also our minds from U.S. colonization, given its deadly diplomacy in addition to the ubiquitous influence of unscrupulous Americans and their NGOs on the economics, politics and culture of Haiti.