TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: The US-French-Canadian Axis Against Haiti

6 pm
CJSRFM-88.5 Edmonton live or archive

Of all the nations in the western hemisphere, none is more impoverished than Haiti. Many in the West may assume that such poverty is the result of an intrinsic Haitian backwardness, corruption, criminality or ignorance.

Such racist assumptions ignore the realities. Haiti, the second republic in the hemisphere, never escaped the crushing effects of imperialism and White supremacy. France, its forever occupier, subjected the newly liberated state to a debt of what in today’s money would be nearly $22 billion. France described this ransom as “reparations.”

Haiti’s people, who had so recently freed themselves, found that the French revolution’s ideals of liberty, equality and brotherhood did not apply to them; the extortion money was to “repay” the people who claimed to have owned them. No French thought was given to the idea that reparations should have flowed in reverse. Without the payment, France would refuse diplomatic recognition and trade. As the Haiti Action Committee writes in its report “The US War Against Haiti,” To make the first payment, Haiti closed all its public schools in what has been called the hemisphere’s first case of structural adjustment."

The first US invasion of Haiti was in 1915; the subsequent and brutal occupation lasted 19 years. But the American war on freedom had begun far earlier, with its leadership of “a worldwide boycott against Haiti and [the refusal] to recognize the new nation until 1864, fearing that its freedom would pose a danger to the U.S. system of slavery."

The US, as the world’s supposed champion of democracy, championed dictatorships in Haiti including the infamous Duvalier regimes. The chief motive in such repression, as always, was economic. As War reports, “In the early 1980s, U.S. policymakers picked Haiti as a showcase for the neoliberal economic programs—tariff reduction, deregulated markets and privatization—that constitute part of what is now usually referred to as ‘globalization.’ Under the control of the ruthless Duvalier family dictatorship since 1957, Haiti seemed ideal for testing out the new policies....

"As has happened throughout the developing world, the application of neoliberal policies quickly disrupted the small-scale farming that formed the base of the economy, driving many Haitians out of the countryside. Some ended up in the new low-wage assembly plants that were churning out everything from clothes to major league baseballs for the U.S. market under the 1983 Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) trade legislation; others sought economic refuge in the United States itself.”

Haitians developed a new pro-democracy movement to counter their oppression; finally overthrowing the Duvaliers in 1986, though, they were soon under siege by five years of coups and counter-coups. American attempts to install Marc Bazin as a more permanent collaborator failed with the landslide election of charismatic populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was initially hailed—at least in public—by the United States, but his enemies soon overthrew him. The parallel to Pinochet’s US-backed regime in Chile is striking; between 1991 and 1994 the new regime murdered somewhere between three and five thousand people.

US support for Aristide’s enemies was clear.

As Noam Chomsky said in a speech in Chicago in 1994, despite supposed US sanctions against Haiti, the US Treasury Department instructed Texaco to ignore the sanctions and their legal punishments--in Chomsky’s words, “Shell and Exxon shipped oil there from their foreign subsidiaries, but Texaco was doing it directly from the U.S. They asked if it was OK to set up a blind trust, and were told that was illegal, but again not to worry about it. Chomsky also reports that US-Haiti trade actually increased under the sanctions.

So much for the myth that Bill Clinton had an affinity for Black people.

If it were possible, things went downhill after that. Despite invading Haiti with the supposed aim of restoring Aristide and his populist revolution, the US spent years actively undermining him and his government’s plans for development. The Haiti Action Committee notes that "Since 2000, the Bush Administration has effectively blocked more than $500 million in international loans and aid to Haiti. This included a $146 million loan package from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) intended for healthcare, education, transportation and potable water. Under the terms of the loan agreement, Haiti paid fees and interest totalling more than $5 million long before seeing any money. Since December 2001, the Haitian gourde has lost 69% of its value and Haiti’s foreign reserves have shrunk by 50%, largely due to the embargo.”

The dramatic end to the Aristide revolution came in spring 2004, when the United States, France and Canada colluded to overthrow the government of Haiti and remove its president, exiling him to the Central African Republic. The coup was filled with what US Congresswoman Maxine Waters called Duvalier-loyalists and led by a former US Special Forces soldier who is an alleged drug lord. Aristide was removed from his homeland on a “Pentagon plane” in what many, including Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, reported as a US kidnapping. Not surprisingly, things haven’t gone well for Haiti under its new US-approved regime, and UN occupation troops have been accused of numerous atrocities.

Tonight we’ll hear from several sources on the subject. In the second half of the show, marchers in a February 7th mobilisation in San Francisco discuss aspects of the Western orchestration of Haitian oppression. But first we’ll go to Ginette Apollon, a leader in the Confederation of Haitian Workers, in Edmonton to educate Canadians about Western profit in Haitian misery, and what Canadians can do to promote peace, democracy and development in her homeland.

Apollon is the elected leader of the Women’s Commission of a trade union called the Confédération des Travailleurs Haitiens (CTH). Members of the CTH are generally so impoverished that the union is almost entirely volunteer-run, since few of its members can pay dues. Indeed, the daily legal minimum wage is a mere $1.20 US.

Still, despite labour repression, the CTH claims a membership of 110,000 among nurses, the ports and the garment industry, and is currently developing a series of social programs for health, education and economic development. Ginette Apollon rose to international prominence as a representative of the CTH following the US, French and Canadian-backed coup.

Despite a massive influx of Western money since the overthrow, Haitians are still suffering under local and imported brutality, and without sufficient education, health care or decent jobs. Canadians might ask why our government helps undermine and eventually overthrow others, and does little to nothing to help the poorest people in our hemisphere.

If the Liberal and Conservative governments have overseen Canadian money going into Haiti when its citizens are so oppressed, the logical questions might be, What are we investing in with all that blood money? and Who is profiting from it right now?

I spoke with Madame Apollon yesterday at the Varscona Hotel in Old Strathcona, prior to a speech she delivered that evening at Faculté St. Jean. Translation was provided by Marie Gervais of the Northern Alberta Alliance on Race Relations. And now on The Terrordome, my conversation with Ginette Apollon of the Confederation of Haitian Workers.

Apollon’s speaking tour was organised by the Canada-Haiti Action Network and has been endorsed by scores of national, provincial and local trade unions across Canada including the Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the National Union of Public and General Employees. It was sponsored locally by APIRG, the Alberta Public Interest Research Group (APIRG) and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA).

For further information, check:

Canada Haiti Action
UN massacre caught on film

Haiti Timeline 1
Haiti Timeline 2 Audio of the 2007 February 07 Rally

The U.S. War Against Haiti, Haiti Action Committee, March 2004


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