Did You ever wonder about the Home you’ve never been too ?


MDG : Haiti : Rebuilding after earthquake : newly rebuilt  Iron Market  in Port au Prince

The earthquake didn’t kill them, Haiti did.

You’re right Haiti did kill its own people, and continues to do so. I have nurse friends from my job that go there to help with medical care when they can, I hear their stories when they get back…it’s sad. This was a very thoughtful post!

But your point is that people here will manage and rebuilding will occur because of the stability of the country and available assistance which is often not from the government, but from good-hearted people who are able and willing to help. Haiti never had these critical components.

And where is their government? – and leaders? Doesn’t look like anything being done to change process. (We have many Haitian refugees here – they know here they have a chance – but long for home. Must be change there from the inside.)

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I read the afore mentioned comment convo on The Outlier Collective’s post: What seminal event from the past 20 years has emotionally affected you the most, and why?  and it got me wondering as a Haitian American: Is what is being said an accurate portrayal. I wanted to know if the trend I had noticed in international politics was applicable to Haiti.

The trend goes like this: after some time of colonialism, the people rally and  gain an uneasy “independence”. Sometimes puppet governments (or banana republics) are installed, or sometimes foreign money and interest has far to much of a role in internal affairs, like when the USA and the UK  toppled a democratically elected government in Iran for which Madeleine Albright issued an apology in 1993.

Here are some interesting events in the US Haiti Relationship

After Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804, through slave rebellion, the pro-slavery south worried this event could influence slaves in the US, and America refused to recognize Haiti’s independence until 1862. President Andrew Johnson suggested annexing the island to secure influence over Europe in the Caribbean. The US government did post active military on the island during this period. The U.S. Navy sent ships to Haiti 19 times between 1857 and 1913 to “protect American lives and property” until the United States finally occupied Haiti in 1915.

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From 1915 to 1934 the U.S. Marines occupied Haiti. Prior to the occupation, the U.S. military took control of the banks and collected $500,000 to hold in New York. It also repealed an 1804 provision that forbade foreigners from owning land in Haiti.

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From 1957 to 1971, Francois Duvalier governed Haiti under a repressive dictatorship, but some argue the United States tolerated the regime because it was staunchly anti-Communist and a counterbalance to Communist Cuba during the Cold War. When Duvalier died, his son, Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) took over and maintained many of his father’s policies. The Reagan administration forced Baby Doc to leave in 1986, and when a repressive military dictatorship arose, President Reagan suspended aid. The George H.W. Bush Administration also embargoed and then blockaded Haiti, suspending all but humanitarian aid.

Haitian history is a rich one can see the marks of US involvement all over it which has of course given me a conflict being a Haitian American. I imagine it would be like being Algerian living in Paris during the late 60’s early 70’s . To me, all the Presidents of Haiti: Duvalier Father, Duvalier Son, and Aristide, they were all criminals put there by US backing. It makes me wonder when the island will finally be free both in spirit and in reality. I do not have definitive answers. I have strong opinions though.

I kind of feel that to say that the Haitian government killed or failed their people is only partially true. It’s a half truth that prevents the full truth from being depicted. Don’t get me wrong the government is as corrupt as a government can be. I am not looking to place blame. I am actually looking to think in terms of 200+ years of the existence of the nation of Haiti.

The question that remains for me to be answered honestly is: did about 2 centuries of heavy involvement in Haiti’s political, and financial by the USA play a part however small in the current situation the nation faces ?

Largely at the behest of American bankers, U.S. marines occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. By 1919, Haitian Charlemagne Péralte had organized more than a thousand cacos, or armed guerrillas, to militarily oppose the marine occupation. The marines responded to the resistance with a counterinsurgency campaign that razed villages, killed thousands of Haitians, and destroyed the livelihoods of even more. The military atrocities and abuse of power during the Caco War of 1919–1920 led to a U.S. Senate investigation into the occupation.

United States withdrawal was under way by 1932, when Hoover lost the presidency to Franklin Roosevelt. On a visit to Cap-Haïtien in July 1934, Roosevelt reaffirmed an August 1933 disengagement agreement. The last contingent of U.S. Marines departed on August 15, 1934 after a formal transfer of authority to the Garde. The U.S. retained influence on Haiti’s external finances until 1947.

To give you an idea my father was born in 1950. His father was born in the 20’s and my maternal great grand mother who died at  94? was born approximately 1904 – almost a hundred years after Thomas Jefferson the then slave owning President shut down trade between Haiti  decimated the Haitian economy, already weakened by 12 years of hard fighting and much destruction.

But before doing that let me share some things with you from a recent article:

Haiti’s earthquake generated a $9bn response – where did the money go?

We found that about 94% of humanitarian funding went to donors’ own civilian and military entities, UN agencies, international NGOs and private contractors. In addition, 36% of recovery grants went to international NGOs and private contractors. Yet this is where the trail goes cold – you can look at procurement databases to track primary contract recipients, but it is almost impossible to track the money further to identify the final recipients and the outcomes of projects.

Breaking the figures down by donor isn’t much better: 60% of US-disbursed recovery funding is “not specified” (pdf), as is 67% of Canada’s aid to Haiti (pdf). Data for the European commission shows that 67% of humanitarian funding and 43% of recovery funding is to “other international NGOs” (pdf). Data reporting becomes even more opaque when one looks for the specific organisations, agencies, firms or individuals that have received grants or contracts in Haiti. Detailed financial reports and rigorous impact evaluations are hard to find.

It is a contradiction that the Haitian government is asked to improve transparency when the international aid community itself fails to provide adequate information to the public. Pierre Erold Etienne, director general of the Haitian finance ministry, said: “[The] real problem is that we do not have – or, I should say, we have only very little – overall information on aid (pdf) … We are required to be transparent. We publish the financial information relevant to the execution of our budget. All we ask is for the same transparency from our donor friends, which should help both us and them.

Because I am a student of history and a little pessimistic I wonder how much a third world country can change when other countries benefit from their being a mess. Foreign aid to me doesn’t help to make a nation better, it works to better indenture a people, to buy their silence. The help doesn’t reach the people well at least 94% of it doesn’t reach the people. I’ve seen something similar before

In 1937, claiming that Haiti was harboring his former Dominican opponents, Trujillo ordered an attack on the border, slaughtering tens of thousands of Haitians as they tried to escape. The number of the dead is still unknown, though it is now calculated between 20,000 and 30,000.

The Haitian response was muted, but eventually called for an international investigation. Under pressure from Washington, Trujillo agreed to a reparation settlement in January 1938 that involved the payment of US$750,000. By the next year the amount had been reduced to US$525,000 (US$ 8,384,201.39 in 2013); 30 dollars per victim, of which only 2 cents were given to survivors, due to corruption in the Haitian bureaucracy.

I wonder a lot about the future for Haiti. I believe too that Haiti’s recovery rests on a less piecemeal aid effort and a greater willingness to put the country in control of its own destiny, but what does that mean?  How many countries are really in control of their own destiny ?  I don’t mean in that superficial after school special feel. I lost hope long ago in politics and foreign policy or in the fact that Haiti would ever be free. for me Haiti is a dream, something that is not tangible, a construct of my mind and the  circumstances of my birth

Recommendation

Henry Louis Gates Jr Did a wonderful series for PBS called Black in Latin America. This series was a salve for my mind in many ways. My lady who lived with my family and I for many years  and can imitate a Haitian accent almost as well as I can, really learned a lot from this video and I thought I would Share it with you all.

Don’t just check this one video out check out all the other videos too: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/black-in-latin-america/category/video/

Random things

(In no particular order)

  • On October 9, 1779, a force of more than 500 Haitian gens de couleur libre (free men of color) joined American colonists and French troops in an unsuccessful push to drive the British from Savannah in coastal Georgia.
  • In the 19th century, the United States and the European powers used Haiti’s extreme diplomatic isolation and the devastation resulting from its revolution against the French slave owners to control it. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the United States uses Haiti’s dire poverty.
  • Jefferson was implacably opposed to Haitian independence. He tried hard to prevent any contact between the United States and Haiti. Jefferson called upon Congress, which his party controlled, to abolish trade between the two countries. France and Spain, two major colonial powers in the Caribbean at the time, were also enforcing boycotts of Haitian trade. Consequently, partially in 1805 and finally in 1806, trade between the United States and Haiti was formally shut down.
  • After France’s conditional recognition, Great Britain and the other European powers quickly followed suit. But the United States refused.
  • France’s financial hold on Haiti continued until the first U.S. occupation in 1915. This hold was so complete that even when Haiti set up its Banque Nationale in the 1880s, it was done with French capital and French bank officers.
  • During the 1800s Haiti had two neocolonial overlords: France and the United States, both of which extracted as much as they could from the country, blaming Haiti’s economic problems on what Haitians were forced to do.

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