Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History; A Play in Three Acts CLR James, edited by Christian Hogsbjerg Duke University Press 2013 222 pp., $47.99 Hegel, Haiti & Universal History Susan Buck-Moss University of Pittsburgh Press 2009 176 pp., $89.99 “I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man,” said Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the successful Haitian slave revolt of 1791 to 1804.
"Haiti offers a marvelous opportunity for American investment," reported Financial America in 1926. "The run-of-the-mill Haitian is handy, easily directed and gives a hard day's labor for 20 cents, while in Panama the same day's work costs [US]$3." That may be the most honest portrayal of the offshore industry in Haiti yet.
A social and political rights movement of indigenous people is rising across Canada and making international headlines. Protests by the “Idle No More” movement began last month and continue to grow. The movement has rallied daily across the country in shopping malls, at US border crossings and on major railway lines. Three days ago, it compelled Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to climb down from his refusal to meet with indigenous leaders to discuss their very deep concerns.
“As if the mud, misery, loss of life and homelessness in Hurricane Sandy’s wake weren’t bad enough, the worst may yet be to come for disaster-ravaged Haiti,” Caribbean360.org said on October 31. The article said: “Massive crop damage throughout the southern third of the country, as well as the likelihood of a spike in cases of cholera and other water-borne diseases, could mean that the impoverished country will experience the deadliest effects of the storm’s havoc in the days and weeks ahead.
The devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on impoverished Haiti has received far less attention than the havoc wrecked by the superstorm on the United States' east coast. This lack of coverage extend as far as US site WFSB.com reporting on October 30 on the "first Sandy-related death", days after as many of 65 people in the Caribbean (51 in Haiti) had been killed by the freak storm. Below, progressive alternative news outlet based in the US, Democracy Now!, looked at Sandy's impact on Haiti and the Caribbean in this October 29 report.
Member countries of Latin America’s alternative integration bloc, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), met for its 11th summit in Caracas on February 4 and 5 to discuss advancing the organisation. ALBA is made up of the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. Formed in 2004, ALBA seeks to develop trade on the basis of solidarity and cooperation.
United States officials led a far-reaching international campaign aimed at keeping former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide exiled in South Africa, secret US State Department cables show. Aristide, who won the 2000 presidential elections, was rendered a virtual prisoner for the past seven years. Aristide was overthrown in a bloody February 2004 coup supported by Washington and fomented by right-wing paramilitary forces and the Haitian elite.
United States diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks make it clearer than ever that foreign troops occupying Haiti for more than seven years, under the banner of the United Nations, have no legitimate reason to be there. They show that this a US occupation, as much as in Iraq or Afghanistan, and it is part of a decades-long US strategy to deny Haitians the right to democracy and self-determination.
US officials in Haiti warned that the Haitian government would be unable to handle a catastrophic earthquake five years before a devastating tremor ended up destroying large swathes of the Haitian capital and surrounding towns, killing tens of thousands and destroying hundreds of buildings. The information was revealed in a secret US cable obtained by the media organisation WikiLeaks.
Disaster capitalists flocked to Haiti in a “gold rush” for contracts to rebuild the country after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, wrote the current US ambassador Kenneth Merten in a secret Febuary 1, 2010 cable obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Haiti Liberte. “THE GOLD RUSH IS ON!” Merten headlined a section of his 6pm situation report ― or Sitrep ― back to Washington.
The United States embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi's, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to aggressively block a paltry minimum wage rise for Haitian assembly zone workers. The moves to block a wage rise for the lowest paid in the western hemisphere were revealed by secret US State Department cables obtained by Haiti Liberte and The Nation magazine. The factory owners refused to pay $0.62 an hour, or $5 per eight-hour day, as mandated by a measure unanimously passed by Haiti’s parliament in June 2009.
Haiti finds itself with a president-elect with ties to the extreme right — thanks to a concerted effort by foreign powers to continue thwarting the social justice aspirations of the Haitian people. President-elect Michel Martelly is closely associated with the forces that overthrew elected governments in 1991 and 2004. He told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio’s The Current on April 7 that Haiti has been “going in the wrong direction for the last 25 years”.
In the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of Haiti’s January 12, 2010 earthquake, a brutally frank account of the plight of its people was delivered by a highly placed diplomat. Ricardo Seitenfus, the representative to Haiti of the Organization of American States, delivered a hard-hitting assessment of the foreign role in that country in an interview in the December 20 Swiss daily Le Temps. Seitenfus, a Brazilian, was immediately recalled from his posting.
“Haiti’s infamous dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, returned to his country this week, while the country's first elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is kept out”, Mark Weisbrot wrote in the January 20 Huffington Post. “These two facts really say everything about Washington’s policy toward Haiti, and our government's respect for democracy in that country and in the region.”
Of all the commentaries and interviews coinciding with the anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake, none are likely to exceed in significance the interview granted by OAS Representative to Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus, to the Swiss daily Le Temps on December 20.
Those who counselled against holding a national election in Haiti in the midst of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis will take no comfort in the debacle it became. Our thoughts rest squarely with the tens of thousands of people afflicted with cholera, or the hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims still without shelter, clean water and hope. How much suffering could have been alleviated with the tens of million of dollars spent on a wasted electoral exercise?