The fault line in Haiti runs straight to France

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The fault line in Haiti runs straight to France

Post by Guysanto » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:43 am

January 21, 2010

The fault line in Haiti runs straight to France

The earthquake's destruction has been aggravated not by a pact with the Devil, but by the crippling legacy of imperialism
Ben Macintyre

Where does the fault lie in Haiti? For geologists, it lies on the line between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. For some, the earthquake is evidence of God's wrath: the American evangelist Pat Robertson has even suggested that the horror is recompense for some voodoo pact made with the Devil at Haiti's birth.

More sensible voices point to the procession of despots who have plundered Haiti over the years, depriving it of an effective infrastructure and rendering it uniquely vulnerable to natural disaster. But for many Haitians, the fault lies earlier — with Haiti's colonial experience, the slavers and extortionists of empire who crippled it with debt and permanently stunted the economy. The fault line runs back 200 years, directly to France.

In the 18th century, Haiti was France's imperial jewel, the Pearl of the Caribbean, the largest sugar exporter in the world. Even by colonial standards, the treatment of slaves working the Haitian plantations was truly vile. They died so fast that, at times, France was importing 50,000 slaves a year to keep up the numbers and the profits.

Inspired by the principles of the French Revolution, in 1791 the slaves rebelled under the leadership of the self-educated slave Toussaint L'Ouverture. After a vicious war, Napoleon's forces were defeated. Haiti declared independence in 1804.

As Haiti struggles with new misfortune, it is worth remembering that noble achievement — this is the only nation to gain independence by a slave-led rebellion, the first black republic, and the second oldest republic in the western hemisphere. Haiti was founded on a demand for liberty from people whose liberty had been stolen: the country itself is a tribute to human resilience and freedom.

France did not forgive the impertinence and loss of earnings: 800 destroyed sugar plantations, 3,000 lost coffee estates. A brutal trade blockade was imposed. Former plantation owners demanded that Haiti be invaded, its population enslaved once more. Instead, the French State opted to bleed the new black republic white.

In 1825, in return for recognising Haitian independence, France demanded indemnity on a staggering scale: 150 million gold francs, five times the country's annual export revenue. The Royal Ordinance was backed up by 12 French warships with 150 cannon.

The terms were non-negotiable. The fledgeling nation acceded, since it had little choice. Haiti must pay for its freedom, and pay it did, through the nose, for the next 122 years.

Historical accountancy is an inexact business, but the scale of French usury was astonishing. Even when the total indemnity was reduced to 90 million francs, Haiti remained crippled by debt. The country took out loans from US, German and French banks at extortionate rates. To put the cost into perspective, in 1803 France agreed to sell the Louisiana Territory, an area 74 times the size of Haiti, to the US, for 60 million francs.

Weighed down by this financial burden, Haiti was born almost bankrupt. In 1900 some 80 per cent of the national budget was still being swallowed up by debt repayments. Money that might have been spent on building a stable economy went to foreign bankers. To keep workers on the land and extract maximum crop yields to pay the indemnity, Haiti brought in the Rural Code, instituting a division between town and country, between a light-skinned elite and the dark-skinned majority, that still persists.

The debt was not finally paid off until 1947. By then, Haiti's economy was hopelessly distorted, its land deforested, mired in poverty, politically and economically unstable, prey equally to the caprice of nature and the depredations of autocrats. Seven year ago, the Haitian Government demanded restitution from Paris to the tune of nearly $22 billion (including interest) for the gunboat diplomacy that had helped to make it the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

In the wake of last week's earthquake, the effect of which has been so brutally magnified by Haiti's economic fragility, there have been renewed calls for France to honour its moral debt. There is no chance that it will do so. The view from the Élysée is that the case was closed in 1885. In 2004 Jacques Chirac set up a Commission of Reflection under the left-wing philosopher Régis Debray to examine France's historical relations with Haiti: it concluded blandly that the demand for restitution was “non-pertinent in both legal and historical terms”.

As Haiti faces social breakdown, government paralysis and death on a shattering scale, the French finance minister has called for a speeding up of the cancellation of Haiti's debt. This is grim irony: if France had not saddled the country with debt almost from its inception, Haiti would have been far better equipped to cope with nature's spite.

Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, is calling for a “reconstruction and development” conference. “It is a chance to get Haiti once and for all out of the curse it seems to have been stuck with for such a long time,” President Sarkozy said.

This seems uncomfortably close to Mr Robertson's insulting suggestion that Haitian slaves made a “pact with the Devil” to free themselves from Napoleon's grip. The original curse was economic, not religious, and laid on Haiti by imperial France.

Haiti does not need more words, conferences or commissions of reflection. It needs money, urgently. So far, official donations from France are less than half of those from Britain.

The legacy of colonialism worldwide is a bitter one, but in few countries is there a more direct link between the sins of the past and the horrors of the present. Merely a French acknowledgement that the unfolding catastrophe is partly the consequence of history, and not merely blind fate, would go some way to salving Haiti's wounds.

France does not pay for its history. But imagine what the reaction might be if, the next time you receive an outrageous bill in a French restaurant, you declare that payment is non-pertinent, set up a commission of reflection and walk out.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/commen ... 995750.ece

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Le devoir particulier de la France envers Haiti

Post by Guysanto » Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:01 am

[quote]Le devoir particulier de la France envers Haiti

Par Claude Ribbe

Haiti est frappée, une fois de plus, mais Haiti se relèvera, malgré ses souffrances. Haiti existe et continuera d'exister, n'en déplaise aux racistes. J'entends pleurer les crocodiles. La fatalité. Une malédiction peut-être. Le diable probablement. Ces reptiles affligés sous-entendent que les Haitiens auraient fait certainement quelque chose de terrible pour que la nature s'acharne à ce point sur eux. Cependant, aussi spectaculaire soit-il, le séisme qui fait aujourd'hui des milliers, des dizaines de milliers de victimes peut-être, est-il plus violent que les catastrophes imposées à ce pays depuis trois siècles par des hommes? Et puisqu'il faut bien qu'un Français au moins le dise, j'avoue, en tant que français, que mon pays porte, à l'égard des malheurs d'Haiti, une responsabilité particulière. La France y a déporté pendant cent cinquante ans un million d'hommes, de femmes et d'enfants d'Afrique, niant qu'ils fussent des êtres humains, les exploitant en esclavage d'une manière qui ne leur laissait qu'une espérance de vie de quelques années seulement. Ces hommes, ces femmes et ces enfants ont pris les armes. Deux ans plus tôt, les bourgeois de Nantes et de Bordeaux, devenus députés, pensaient qu'ils pourraient se déclarer, eux, libres et égaux tout en continuant de s'enrichir en trafiquant les Africains.

Les Haitiens, en abattant l'esclavage, ont rendu la déclaration des droits de l'homme universelle, sans distinction de couleur.. Napoléon a voulu les remettre dans les fers. Ne pouvant y parvenir, il a tenté l'extermination sur le fondement de la couleur, utilisant tous les moyens, ouvrant en quelque sorte la voie à toutes les barbaries. Ce n'est pas à Napoléon qu'il faut en vouloir, mais à ceux qui aujourd'hui encore tentent de défendre ses bassesses parce qu'ils aimeraient les reproduire.

L'indépendance était la seule issue. Les Haitiens ont gagné la guerre contre l'armée qui faisait trembler l'Europe et le monde. Vingt et un ans plus tard, les Français, pour se rembourser du prix des esclaves qu'ils avaient perdus, ont imposé par la force un traité par lequel les Haitiens se condamnaient d'avance à la misère. Cent vingt-cinq millions de francs or, réduits à quatre vingt dix millions, mais alourdis des intérêts des emprunts que naturellement des banquiers français s'étaient empressés de consentir. Le principal représentait au bas mot l'équivalent d'un milliard d'euros.. On ne sait trop à quelle somme on aboutirait si l'on tenait compte de la dépense globale imposée aux Haitiens par cette opération de racket. Ils ont mis plus d'un siècle à payer. En 1972 encore, la France ergotait sur des sommes dérisoires qu'elle exigea avant de signer un prétendu traité de coopération. En 2004, un grand admirateur de Napoléon, devenu ministre des Affaires étrangères, a fini d'enfoncer Haiti dans le marasme en y soutenant un coup d'État qui a occasionné, hélas, par ses conséquences, autant de morts qu'on risque d'en dénombrer après le tremblement de terre du 12 janvier 2010. Des rapports objectifs l'attestent. Aucun Français n'a eu le courage de se dresser contre cette révoltante injustice ni de dénoncer l'enlèvement d'un président démocratiquement élu. Personne n'a osé protester contre ce coup d'État qui n'avait d'autre but que d'empêcher Haiti de célébrer le bicentenaire de son indépendance. Personne excepté moi. Il est des circonstances où la voix discordante d'un seul homme peut sauver l'honneur d'un pays tout entier. L'histoire l'a démontré. L'histoire peut le démontrer encore.

Au moment où le tremblement de terre a frappé Port-au-Prince, les pays qui se vantent de constituer la communauté internationale (dont les Africains et leurs descendants seraient implicitement exclus) s'apprêtaient à organiser des élections prétendument démocratiques, en interdisant au principal parti haitien d'y prendre part, quitte à obtenir un résultat acceptable avec deux pour cent de participation au scrutin.

Le chef de ce parti éliminé par le monde dit civilisé, en exil forcé depuis six ans, protégé des assassins par l'Union africaine et la Caricom, n'aurait pas le droit de rentrer chez lui parce qu'il dérangerait le jeu dont quelques anciens pays esclavagistes auraient fixé les règles ?

Certes, le passé est le passé. En tant que français qui n'a pas dédaigné de porter les armes pour son pays (ce qui n'est pas le cas de tous ceux qui me critiquent) je ne cherche pas à humilier ma patrie. Mais certains trous de mémoire ne sont-ils pas plus humiliants encore que certains repentirs ?

J'observe que les chefs d'État de la République française se sont rendus dans tous les pays du monde. Tous les pays, sauf un : Haiti. Cette absence ne trahirait-elle pas un embarras ? Une gêne obscure ? La France n'a peut être pas de dette à l'égard d'Haiti. Mais n'aurait-elle pas un devoir ?

C'est pourquoi j'appelle le président de la République française, M. Nicolas Sarkozy, d'abord à débloquer, pour cette ancienne colonie, qui n'a pas renoncé à parler notre langue, une somme assez significative pour qu'elle n'ait pas l'air d'une misérable et indigne aumône qui ridiculiserait la France eu égard à l'effort consenti par d'autres nations qui n'ont, elles, rien à se reprocher.

Je l'appelle également à se rendre dès à présent en Haiti pour qu'il soit ainsi le premier chef d'État de la République à accomplir ce geste fort. Au nom de la dignité de la France, au nom de l'identité nationale dont il veut que nous débattions. Oui, de l'identité nationale, car, sans même tenir compte des dizaines de milliers de Français d'origine haitienne qui apprécieraient ce signe de solidarité, Haiti, qui fit vivre pendant cent cinquante ans un Français sur huit, fait partie intégrante, comme l'histoire de l'esclavage, de l'identité nationale, aussi sûrement que ma part de refoulé fait partie de moi-même.

J'appelle du même coup le président de la République française à rendre à l'instant ses droits au plus méritant des Haitiens de France, le général Alexandre Dumas, père du célèbre écrivain, qui s'est sacrifié pour la Révolution et la République et dont on refuse depuis deux cent huit ans, simplement à cause de sa couleur et de son origine, de lui rendre la place qu'il mérite dans le cœur et la mémoire des Français.

Voici que qu'écrivait le fils de ce héros en 1838 : Il serait bon que les Haitiens apprissent à la vieille Europe, si fière de son antiquité et de sa civilisation, qu'ils n'ont cessé d'être français qu'après avoir fourni leur contingent de gloire à la France. [/quote]

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Post by Tayi » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:45 pm

[quote]In the wake of last week's earthquake, the effect of which has been so brutally magnified by Haiti's economic fragility, there have been renewed calls for France to honour its moral debt. There is no chance that it will do so. The view from the Élysée is that the case was closed in 1885. In 2004 Jacques Chirac set up a Commission of Reflection under the left-wing philosopher Régis Debray to examine France's historical relations with Haiti: it concluded blandly that the demand for restitution was “non-pertinent in both legal and historical terms”.[/quote]

Under what pretext?

Tayi

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Post by Guysanto » Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:13 pm

N'importe quoi! Président Jacques Chirac, during a visit to Guadeloupe, also said: "Haiti, à proprement parler, n'a pas été une colonie française." (Haiti, properly speaking, was not a French colony.") The French establishment is in DEEP DENIAL, just like in those days when it vehemently promoted the idea that, properly speaking, African slaves were not to be considered human beings.

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The Hate and the Quake

Post by Guysanto » Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:06 pm

The Hate and the Quake

1/19/2010

By Sir Hilary Beckles

The University of the West Indies is in the process of conceiving how best to deliver a major conference on the theme "Rethinking and Rebuilding Haiti". I am very keen to provide an input into this exercise because for too long there has been a popular perception that somehow the Haitian nation-building project, launched on January 1st 1804, has failed on account of mismanagement, ineptitude, corruption.

Buried beneath the rubble of imperial propaganda, out of both Western Europe and the United States, is the evidence which shows that Haiti's independence was defeated by an aggressive North-Atlantic alliance that could not imagine their world inhabited by a free regime of Africans as representatives of the newly emerging democracy.

Freedom

The evidence is striking, especially in the context of France. The Haitians fought for their freedom and won, as did the Americans fifty years earlier. The Americans declared their Independence and crafted an extraordinary constitution that set out a clear message about the value of humanity and the right to freedom, justice, and liberty. In the midst of this brilliant discourse, they chose to retain slavery as the basis of the new nation state. The Founding fathers therefore could not see beyond race, as the free state was built on a slavery foundation. The water was poisoned in the well; the Americans went back to the battle field a century later to resolve the fact that slavery and freedom could not comfortably co-exist in the same place.

The French, also, declared freedom, fraternity and equality as the new philosophies of their national transformation and gave the modern world a tremendous progressive boost by so doing. They abolished slavery, but Napoleon Bonaparte could not imagine the republic without slavery and targeted the Haitians for a new, more intense regime of slavery. The British agreed, as did the Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. All were linked in communion over the 500 000 blacks in Haiti, the most populous and prosperous Caribbean colony. As the jewel of the Caribbean, they all wanted to get their hands on it. With a massive slave base, the English, French and Dutch salivated over owning it - and the people.

The people won a ten-year war, the bloodiest in modern history, and declared their Independence. Every other country in the Americas was based on slavery. Haiti was freedom, and proceeded to place in its 1805 Independence Constitution that any person of African descent who arrived on its shores would be declared free, and a citizen of the republic. For the first time since slavery had commenced, Blacks were the subjects of mass freedom and citizenship in a nation.

Ostracised

The French refused to recognise Haiti's Independence and declared it an illegal pariah state. The Americans, whom the Haitians looked to in solidarity as their mentor in Independence, refused to recognise them, and offered solidarity instead to the French. The British, who were negotiating with the French to obtain the ownership title to Haiti, also moved in solidarity, as did every other nation-state in the western world. Haiti was isolated at birth - ostracised and denied access to world trade, finance, and institutional development. It was the most vicious example of national strangulation recorded in modern history. The Cubans, at least, have had Russia, China, and Vietnam. The Haitians were alone from inception. The crumbling began.

Then came 1825; the moment of full truth. The republic is celebrating its 21st anniversary. There is national euphoria in the streets of Port-au-Prince. The economy is bankrupt; the political leadership isolated. The Cabinet took the decision that the state of affairs could not continue. The country had to find a way to be inserted back into the world economy. The French government was invited to a summit.

Officials arrived and told the Haitian government that they were willing to recognise the country as a sovereign nation but it would have to pay compensation and reparation in exchange. The Haitians, with backs to the wall, agreed to pay the French.

Systematic destruction

The French government sent a team of accountants and actuaries into Haiti in order to place a value on all lands, all physical, assets, the 500 000 citizens who were formerly enslaved, animals, and all other commercial properties and services. The sums amounted to 150 million gold francs. Haiti was told to pay this reparation to France in return for national recognition. The Haitian government agreed; payments began immediately. Members of the Cabinet were also valued because they had been enslaved persons before Independence.

Thus began the systematic destruction of the Republic of Haiti. The French Government bled the nation and rendered it a failed state. It was a merciless exploitation that was designed and guaranteed to collapse the Haitian economy and society. Haiti was forced to pay this sum until 1922 when the last instalment was made. During the long 19th century, the payment to France amounted to up to 70% of the country's foreign exchange earnings. Jamaica today pays up to 70% in order to service its international and domestic debt. Haiti was crushed by this debt payment. It descended into financial and social chaos. The republic did not stand a chance. France was enriched and it took pleasure from the fact that having been defeated by Haitians on the battlefield, it had won on the field of finance. In the years when the coffee crops failed, or the sugar yield was down, the Haitian government borrowed on the French money market at double the going interest rate, to repay the French government.

Fledgling nation crushed

When the Americans invaded the country in the early 20th century, one of the reasons offered was to assist the French in collecting its reparations. The collapse of the Haitian nation resides at the feet of France and America, especially. These two nations betrayed, failed, and destroyed the dream that was Haiti; crushed to dust in an effort to destroy the flower of freedom and the seed of justice. Haiti did not fail. It was destroyed by two of the most powerful nations on earth, both of which continue to have a primary interest in its current condition. The sudden quake has come in the aftermath of summers of hate. In many ways the quake has been less destructive than the hate. Human life was snuffed out by the quake while the hate has been a long and inhumane suffocation - a crime against humanity.

Moral obligation

During the 2001 UN Conference on Race in Durban, South Africa, strong representation was made to the French government to repay the 150 million francs. The value of this amount was estimated by financial actuaries as US $21 billion. This sum of capital could rebuild Haiti and place it in a position to re-engage the modern world. It was illegally extracted from the Haitian people and should be repaid. It is stolen wealth. In so doing France could discharge its moral obligation to the Haitian people. For a nation that prides itself in the celebration of modern diplomacy, France, in order to exist with the moral authority of this diplomacy in this post modern world, should do the just and legal thing. Such an act at the outset of this century would open the door for a sophisticated interface of past and present, and set the Haitian nation free at last.

(Sir Hilary Beckles is Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus)

http://www.barbadosadvocate.com

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