Recently, Haiti has caught the attention of the American press again. This time, the headlines are 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 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. 100 years ago, one year after the start of WWI, on July 28, 1915 the U.S. under the leadership of 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 conceivably in 2015, Haitians’ territories and minds are still being occupied by the U.S. as evident with the presence of the Clintons, U.S. celebrities, United Nations, 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 has led to unintended and negative consequences for Haiti.
These consequences include, but are not limited to the U.S. gaining complete control of Haitian finances; the manipulation of the political 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 United States, Canada, Europe, United Nations, and 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. can successfully link Haiti to the global market as established by the gold standard and the U.S. Federal Reserve System. However, to secure its economic interest and to finance its war against Germany and other central imperial powers, the U.S. expropriated Haitian territories for the cultivation of sugar, coffee, banana, sisal, rubber, and mahogany.
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 Street in New York City. The U.S. not only seized Haiti’s banks, customs house, and the port at Mole-Saint Nicolas, but Haiti’s economic prosperity and socio-political future.
Politically, Franklin D. Roosevelt who served as the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy rewrote Haiti’s Constitution and strategically extracted Dessalines’ Article 12 forbidding foreigners from owning land in Haiti. Thus, allowing Americans to seize and own land in Haiti. Under Woodrow Wilson, the entire island of Haiti was under the direct jurisdiction of the U.S. Marines who were designated as 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 assassination of Peralte and Batraville. To further subdue and terrorize the masses, the U.S. publically displayed the dead body of Peralte.
Prior to 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, 2015, 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 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.
Professor Patrick Delices is a political analyst/commentator for the Black Star News and the author of “The Digital Economy,” Journal of International Affairs. For nearly a decade, Prof. Delices has taught Africana Studies at Hunter College. He also served as a research fellow for the late Pulitzer Prize recipient, Dr. Manning Marable at Columbia University. Prof. Delices can be contacted at [email protected].