D H
Jan 14, 2019 · Last update 8 mo. ago.

Is the current situation in Haiti linked to the countries revolutionary past?

Haiti’s Revolution was the largest successful revolt against slavery in history and the only one to lead to the founding of a new state for those freed from slavery. However Haitian society today remains in turmoil and the country has the lowest Human Development Index of the whole of the American continent. How did Haiti end up in this situation and how big a part did its revolutionary past have to play in this?
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Yes - Slaveholder reparations
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Yes - Corruption in Haiti
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Geographic problems
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Partially, but foreign interference is a bigger factor
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Yes - Slaveholder reparations

The Haitian Revolution has undoubtedly had lasting effects on Haiti as a country but there are some direct outcomes of this revolt that have crippled Haiti until present. One such example is Haiti’s huge independence debt, demanded by France in 1825 through an act of gunboat diplomacy. In order for France to recognise Haiti’s sovereignty the former colonising power demanded 150 million Francs (later lowered to 90 million - around $21 billion in present day USD) from Haiti to compensate France for the loss of its slave colony and the slave population with it.

This act warrants modern day French reparations to Haiti as it is widely recognised to have led to the modern downfall of Haiti. The chairperson of the Haiti-Jamaica Exchange Committee, Myrtha Desulme, has claimed that Haiti has grounds to demand reparations as a result of this massive slaveholder debt. The debt, plus its interest, took Haiti until 1947 to fully pay off, leaving the country with a huge amount of spiralling debt that without doubt led the country to its current economically unstable position. Indeed Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, famously demanded reparations from France for the Haiti indemnity controversy in 2003. Aristide maintains this was something that led to his removal in a coup d’etat the very next year, a coup that he maintains was orchestrated by the United States.

hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/haiti forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/12/06/in-1825-haiti-gained-independence-from-france-for-21-billion-its-time-for-france-to-pay-it-back nytimes.com/2019/04/16/opinion/when-slaveowners-got-reparations.html web.archive.org/web/20081202065348/http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=22828

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DH edited this paragraph
The Haitian Revolution has undoubtedly had lasting effects on Haiti as a country but there are some direct outcomes of this revolt that have crippled Haiti until present. One such example is Haiti’s huge independence debt, demanded by France in 1825 through an act of gunboat diplomacy. In order for France to recognise Haiti’s sovereignty the former colonising power demanded 150 million Francs (later lowered to 90 million - around $21 billion in present day USD) from Haiti to compensate France for the loss of its slave colony and the slave population with it.

Yes - Corruption in Haiti

Corruption has a long history in Haiti, and is arguably a result of the state becoming independent so early amidst the many varied continental struggles against colonialism and their slavery-based economies. Haiti’s history as a result has just become a continuous power struggle, and the country has often been isolated by embargoes following years of corrupt dictators, and this is a situation no one seems able to fix. Corruption is widespread in this part of the world and common in many countries that were once dependant on slavery. This was made worse historically by the continuation of a plantation based economy by leaders such as Henri Christophe, and made worse still in recent history by leaders such as François "Papa Doc" Duvalier who orchestrated a reign of terror to maintain power.

Since Haiti’s revolutionary beginnings, like France, the country quickly fell under the control of military dictatorship, and just or democratic rule was mired by internal and external struggles for power which included war, such as the Dominican War of Independence, and massacres, such as the 1804 Haiti massacre. This period was followed by a US occupation that further solidified inequality through selected development that predominantly aided elite groups of Haitians, while carrying out killings, forced labour and other human rights abuses on others. This period gave rise to the Duvalier dynasty that ruled over Haiti from 1957 to 1986, when François “Papa Doc” Duvalier took power his despotic administration used death squads to murder all political opposition and solidified modern corruption in the country's political system. Numerous politicians have since been elected on a promise to fight corruption but all have allowed corruption to persist in a modern-day Haiti that is plagued by gang violence, drug trafficking, and organised crime.

sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/haiti.htm theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/14/haiti-history-earthquake-disaster academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1043&context=cc_etds_theses;The web.archive.org/web/20160126113832/http://www.cgu.edu/PDFFiles/Presidents%20Office/Addressing%20Systemic%20Corruption%20in%20Haiti%20_3_.pdf jacobinmag.com/2017/01/haiti-reparations-france-slavery-colonialism-debt

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DH edited this paragraph
http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/haiti.htm https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/14/haiti-history-earthquake-disaster https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1043&context=cc_etds_theses;The https://web.archive.org/web/20160126113832/http://www.cgu.edu/PDFFiles/Presidents%20Office/Addressing%20Systemic%20Corruption%20in%20Haiti%20_3_.pdf https://jacobinmag.com/2017/01/haiti-reparations-france-slavery-colonialism-debt/

Geographic problems

The situation in Haiti is not simply a direct result of its revolutionary past but also caused by factors such as additional geographic problems. The country is situated on a fault line and in a hurricane zone, an unlucky combination that has meant Haiti has had much more than just political issues to deal with. Hurricanes regularly devastate the country with flooding a common occurrence, but in 2010 a huge magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people, this was followed by a cholera epidemic later in the year, again made worse by that year’s Hurricane Tomas.

However the picture is somewhat more complex, as the countries geographical problems are exacerbated by issues such as political instability that may have some connection to the country's revolutionary past. Haiti is now one for the poorest nations on the planet, and poor infrastructure, deforestation and failure to prepare for earthquakes and hurricanes worsen the country's disaster response abilities and confound the country's development. The World Risk Report assesses the impact of natural disasters, and according to their scientific director, Dr Matthias Garschagen from the United Nations University, planning laws and basic infrastructure, such as sanitation, healthcare and evacuations shelters, massively effect a country's ability to respond to these crises. Natural disasters remain an ever-present destabilising force in Haiti, one that may have fleeting links to the country's revolutionary past, but regardless pose a significant hurdle to the country's fortunes.

theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/04/why-is-haiti-vulnerable-to-natural-hazards-and-disasters wfpusa.org/countries/haiti unicef.org/stories/haiti-earthquake-10-years-later foxnews.com/world/4-dead-as-floods-from-hurricane-tomas-hit-refugee-camps-in-haiti

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D H
Mar 8
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DH edited this paragraph
However the picture is somewhat more complex, as the countries geographical problems are exacerbated by issues such as political instability that may have some connection to the country's revolutionary past. Haiti is now one for the poorest nations on the planet, and poor infrastructure, deforestation and failure to prepare for earthquakes and hurricanes worsen the country's disaster response abilities and confound the country's development. The World Risk Report assesses the impact of natural disasters, and according to their scientific director, Dr Matthias Garschagen from the United Nations University, planning laws and basic infrastructure, such as sanitation, healthcare and evacuations shelters, massively effect a country's ability to respond to these crises. Natural disasters remain an ever-present destabilising force in Haiti, one that may have fleeting links to the country's revolutionary past, but regardless pose a significant hurdle to the country's fortunes.

Partially, but foreign interference is a bigger factor

In a nutshell, Haiti’s revolutionary past led to war with the Dominican Republic, a range of failed leaders, and the economy was disastrous ever since, but foreign interference has played a much bigger on going role in recent years in shaping the current situation in Haiti. For decades the US has shipped surplus agricultural crops to Haiti as “food aid”, something that was ramped up massively under Bill Clinton in the 1990s, which has killed the Haitian rice industry to the benefit of Arkansas rice farmers. This is something that massively exacerbated hunger following the 2010 earthquake, as Haiti now imported 80% of its rice, even though it was self-sufficient in this crop until the 1970s; US foreign policy has had increasingly negative consequences here.

Studies have demonstrated that even USAID, which is responsible for US aid and development schemes in Haiti, is rife with corruption, 55% of USAID expenditure goes straight back to American companies based around Washington DC. This, coupled with direct political interference and the support of dictators that have violently repressed the Haitian people, enabled corruption to flourish in Haiti and has destroyed any hope of political change within the country. Foreign interference in Haiti has allowed corruption and food insecurity to run rampant in and has had much more of influence on social issues in Haiti than the country’s revolutionary past.

cfr.org/backgrounder/haitis-troubled-path-development theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/11/haiti-and-the-failed-promise-of-us-aid haitisolidarity.net/in-the-news/how-the-united-states-crippled-haitis-domestic-rice-industry aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/9/30/what-is-really-behind-the-crisis-in-haiti huffpost.com/entry/why-the-us-owes-haiti-bil_b_426260

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