Opinion: US history with Haiti has led to their suffering, says Madrid resident
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - 6:14 am

To the Editor:

Most Americans have heard about Trump’s remarks regarding Haiti, El Salvador, and the countries of Africa. Many Americans are rightly up in arms about the national chauvinism and racism evident in these remarks. It is a good time to take a look at the history of the United States’ dealings with the countries Trump chose to deride.

After being conquered by colonial powers Haiti existed as the slave colony Saint-Domingue. Brutal conditions killed off slaves within a couple of years of work on Haitian plantations; the average lifespan of a slave during French rule was 21 years. Many chose suicide rather than live in such a nightmare. At this time US merchants grew rich from trade with the wealthy white landowners who exploited these slaves to death.

During the Haitian struggle for independence, the United States provided material support for slavemasters. The US didn’t recognize independent Haiti for six decades, participating in an embargo led by France that would eventually extort 90 million francs from the new nation, equivalent to roughly $21,000,000,000, allegedly as compensation for the slaves France lost to freedom. In the 2000s, the US would assist in deposing Haitian President Aristide after he demanded this sum in reparations from France.

The United States oppression of Haiti does not end with its complicity in the unconscionable acts of French aristocrats. The US policy of intimidation toward Haiti reached its apex in the early 20th century with a full-blown military occupation. During this time physical assault, theft, and rape by US soldiers were daily realities for Haitians, along with the humiliation and resentment that loss of sovereignty entailed.

The decades since have seen a heavy US hand over Haitian politics. In 2009, the minimum hourly wage was raised from 27 to 61 cents. The Obama administration lobbied the Haitian president aggressively to keep wages as low as possible, succeeding in creating a minimum wage of 31 cents for garment workers, who are primarily employed by US corporations.

It is no wonder why Haiti continues to suffer today. I encourage readers who find behavior of the US toward Haiti appalling to join the North Country Anti-War Working Group. We work to educate ourselves and others about US aggression toward other countries and to demand an immediate stop to it. Find us on Facebook or join our mailing list by emailing [email protected].

Corey McGrath

North Country Anti-War Working Group, Madrid