COMMENTARY – No regrets for making Haiti a ‘shithole’?

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By Sir Ronald Sanders

The effect of the inappropriate depiction of Haiti, El Salvador and all African nations as “shit hole” countries is a matter that the people of the United States of America and their government and Congress should contemplate seriously. The responses have been swift, showing a mixture of outrage and shock.

Hopefully, representatives of the U.S. in other countries will distance themselves from it, and apologise as discreetly as they can. I am here concerned particularly with the remarks about Haiti, a member state of the Caribbean Community and the current Chair of the group’s Heads of Government caucus.

My colleague, the Ambassador of Haiti to the United States, Paul Altidor, rightly said,
We feel in the statements, if they were made, the president was either misinformed or miseducated about Haiti and its people.

In a real sense, from the moment of that assertion of freedom, Haiti was earmarked for the “shithole” status now applied to it. It was punished by every European nation, particularly France, and successive governments of the United States aided and abetted in the process. France demanded huge reparations for the slaves and plantations it lost at the revolt of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

In 1825, Haiti’s leaders were forced to agree to pay France the harsh levy of 90 million gold francs, which the country did not finish repaying until 1947. For almost a hundred years, Haiti was pushed into poverty by the French demand, upheld by Western European nations and the US.

Taking advantage of Haiti’s lack of capacity to defend itself from external intervention, U.S. naval ships entered Haitian waters no less than 24 times between 1849 and 1913, ostensibly “to protect American lives and property”.

Finally, in 1915, the U.S. invaded Haiti and ruled the country as an occupying force for 20 years.

During that period, Haiti and the Haitian people, already impoverished, exploited and isolated by what was then ‘the international community – Western European nations and the U.S – were further disadvantaged.

Their constitution was rewritten against their will, something the U.S. State Department admitted in 1927. Haitians were described as “coons”, “mongrels”, “unwholesome”, “a horde of naked niggers”. The New York Times reported U.S. representatives as saying that Haiti needed “energetic Anglo-Saxon influence”.

Incidentally, the U.S. has had balance of trade surpluses with Haiti for many decades. Yet, the Haitian people maintain stability in a continuing struggle.

The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the OAS.
He is also a Senior Fellow at. The views expressed are his own.

Resoomer

COMMENTARY – No regrets for making Haiti a shithole ?

By Sir Ronald Sanders The effect of the inappropriate depiction of Haiti, El Salvador and all African nations as shit hole countries is a matter that the people of the United States of America and their government and Congress should contemplate seriously. The responses have been swift, showing a mixture of outrage and shock.


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