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vendredi 28 août 2009

Commentary: Haiti, this unfortunate nation!

Published on Saturday, August 22, 2009

By Jean H Charles

It was destined to be the lantern of the world! Christopher Columbus, on his journey to find spice, silk, and other exotic stock from India through a shorter way, stumbled into the Western Hemisphere. When he arrived in Salvador, a small island of the Bahamas, he fell in love with the land and the people. The Indians told him their island was nothing compared with the main one named Ayiti. Keep sailing down you will find not only gold but people with innate renaissance values.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.
When Columbus arrived one day later into the beautiful natural port that he named Bay St Nicholas to correspond with the fiesta of St Nicholas on December 6, 1492, he exploded with the exclamation: "This is marvelous indeed!" The land was beautiful; the people were genuinely hospitable, immensely organized. Yet it took Christopher Columbus only one generation, 25 years, with guns, forced labor and imported disease to exterminate the entire indigenous population, more than one million Tainos.

Akin to the Greeks, the Tainos civilized the entire region; the Caribs inhospitable and cannibal used to effectuate frequent raids into Ayiti to kill the men and captivated the women who finally civilized them. To dig the gold and create a commercial outpost for Spain, La Casas, a Spanish priest who fell in love for the Indians and their fate, obtained the permit from the Queen to import black slaves from Africa more resistant to the hard labor than the Indians.

As such, for three centuries, they came bonded, gagged, chained, sold and resold to toil the land, mine the gold, and be the work force for the thousand of engines to produce the sugar so prized in the old world. The revenue created the basis of the wealth and the capital of the financiers of France, Holland, Portugal, Spain and England. The island of Ayiti was so prized that it was coveted by all and called: the Pearl of the Islands.

Through the generations, the blacks, the mulattoes (products of white men and black women) and the white settlers created a splendid but racist society with its aspiration to enlighten, freedom, culture and hospitality. This human urge to elevation was crystallized in 1789 with the destruction of the monarchy in France.

The commoners in France, as well as the slaves in Ayti were thirsty for democracy, a government for the people and by the people. The freedom talk had echo from France to Ayti. Toussaint Louverture, a transcendental soul that arrives once a generation, galvanized the aspirations of all the people, black white and mulattoes into creating a society that would be hospitable to all. His governance was similar to the young, independent nation named the United States that ten years earlier has shaken the British yoke to create their own independent nation.

Both nations were helping each other, until the unfortunate election of 1800 when John Adams lost the election to Thomas Jefferson. In France, Napoleon Bonaparte with his hegemonic ambitions wanted to dominate not only the nations of Europe but also the entire Western Hemisphere. He temporarily found an ally in Jefferson who authorized the colonial flotilla of 100,000 French soldiers to sail through the Atlantic to reach Haiti to quail the black insurrection.

Napoleon had an early success by using sentimental feelings to capture Toussaint Louverture. His two sons, Placide and Isaac were used as a Trojan horse on one of the boats. Toussaint wanted to see them. He was soon kidnapped, imprisoned and jailed in France. He died two years later on April 7, 1803, of tuberculosis.

Napoleon's plan to regain colonial Ayti did not work out as planned. A combination of bravura of Haitian generals such as Jean Jacques Dessalines, Henry Christophe and Alexandre Petion, mixed with the stings of the mosquitoes, causing death through yellow fever, decimated the entire French army. Haiti busted into its final independence day on January 1, 1804.

Haiti became a curse than and now! Traveling through the towns and the cities of the country, I can fairly say that the only place the Haitian experience has not failed is its population two hundred years later did not face the fate of the original Indian population. It has endured three hundred years of slavery; it has also survived two hundred years of post slavery that did not fare better.

Alexandre Petion and his successor Jean Pierre Boyer have succeeded where Napoleon has failed; they have created an ethos of social, economic and political structure that set Haiti to fail within and without. While Toussaint, Dessalines and Christophe were contemplating the establishment of a nation hospitable to all, Petion and Boyer created a country built on expedient policies with demagogic land distribution to soldiers in 1809, destroying forever the economy that enriched the island for 300 years. They also made believe they were anti-foreign power advocates while using the colonial empires to keep them in power and rule as chief predators.

Boyer accepted to pay to France a tribute of 2 billion dollars to receive the French recognition of its sovereignty. Unable to obtain the money to pay, he borrowed from France at usurious terms to meet the installment payments. Haiti dragged this debt for more than a century compromising its development in education, infrastructure and economy.

The United States recognized Haiti as an independent country only in 1864. The Latin American countries that received money, munitions and assistance from Haiti in their struggle for independence shunned the country in regional and international support. Finally, in 1915, the United States invaded Haiti. The invasion lasted 15 years; it did not plant the seeds of development nor democracy. It did, indeed, reinforce the culture of inhospitality towards the large majority of Haitians, the rural sector.

Jean Price Mars, the grand-father of negritude: black is beautiful did try to set Haiti into the right course in 1918 with his seminal books, as told by the uncle and the vocation of the elite... The politicians Lorimer Denis, Francois Duvalier, Dumarsais Estime prostituted the concept to mean: power to the few blacks who could detain and retain the strings of the government.

Haiti is being ruled with the support of the international community under that formula. Using any standard, even the lowest, I could not find in Haiti a benevolent government concern about and interested in the welfare of its people. The rural areas, the small towns, the large ones the capital are all shanty towns where electricity is sporadic, potable water is nonexistent, a public health system is scarce, school overcrowded and in dilapidated condition while the combination of public officials and international workers live in a luxury that leave Croesus and the ancient Romans as orphans.

The year 2011 is a turning point for Haiti. Will those in power with the help of the international community (represented through MINUSTHA) maintain the status quo? Or will the Haitian people choose without pressure a government that has at heart their welfare and their progress? Stay tuned...!

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