notes on haiti

Another hurricane, another disaster, but this one is also man-made, like the one in New Orleans, in many ways. I have yet to hear one single journalist, when they go on and on about Haiti having the highest poverty rate in the Western Hemisphere, ever say anything about the U.S. backed coup of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Might this have something to do with current infrastructural and impoverished conditions in Haiti?:

Multiple sources that just spoke with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide told Democracy Now! that Aristide says he was “kidnapped” and taken by force to the Central African Republic. Congressmember Maxine Waters said she received a call from Aristide at 9am EST. “He’s surrounded by military. It’s like he is in jail, he said. He says he was kidnapped,” said Waters. She said he had been threatened by what he called US diplomats. According to Waters, the diplomats reportedly told the Haitian president that if he did not leave Haiti, paramilitary leader Guy Philippe would storm the palace and Aristide would be killed. According to Waters, Aristide was told by the US that they were withdrawing Aristide’s US security.

TransAfrica founder and close Aristide family friend Randall Robinson also received a call from the Haitian president early this morning and confirmed Waters account. Robinson said that Aristide “emphatically” denied that he had resigned. “He did not resign,” he said. “He was abducted by the United States in the commission of a coup.” Robinson says he spoke to Aristide on a cell phone that was smuggled to the Haitian president.

Or perhaps the story is older than this one. Perhaps it is the story of an island that is known for its resistance to colonization and slavery through the example of Toussaint L’Overture who organized 40,000 slaves to rebel in the north of St. Domingue in 1791. Both the French and English armies tried to intervene in the uprising, as did Washington and Jefferson. This bloody revolt lasted 2 1/2 years during which 150,000 Haitian slaves died. But their resistance gave half a million Haitian slaves their freedom. Indeed, they were so inspiring that many American slaves fled their own bondage to participate in this revolt. Thus, Haiti became the first colony with enslaved Africans and indigenous people to liberate itself. And they’ve been punished ever since. For France lost 2/3 of its income. For the U.S. it feared that African slaves in on its soil would learn by example. (And while we’re on the subject of France and the U.S., this is actually why the French sold Louisiana to the U.S. in the first place–offering yet another connection between Haiti and New Orleans.)

I’m thinking about this strong, brave Haitian past while I watch images on the news of Haitian people losing their lives to storm after storm. It seems that two more storms are on the way. That 500 people are dead. That relief remains difficult because of the flooding, the mud, the incessant storming.

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