I began to learn about Haiti long ago when I interviewed President Aristide, and he told me that thousands of Haitians were being murdered by assassins paid by the CIA. Haiti has long been controlled by the USA, since the slave revolt in Haiti overthrew the French.
In the movie Vers le sud, a waiter named Albert describes himself: “My whole family fought the Americans during the 1915 occupation. I think my father never shook a white man’s hand. He saw them as lower than monkeys. He used to say ‘I look behind a white man to see if he has a tail.’
“My grandfather didn’t bother with that. To him, a white man was an animal, period. When he talked about ‘the white man,’ he really meant Americans. The invaders, occupiers, people who dared to tread on Haitian soil. If he knew I was a waiter for Americans, he’d die of shame. This time the invaders aren’t armed, but they have more damaging weapons than cannons—dollars! So that everything they touch turns to garbage. The whole country is rotten.”
Indeed, President Aristide has called the USA “The Cold Country to the north.”
The original reason the USA began to keep democracy from breaking out in Haiti is fear. Interest in Haiti by the USA began during the Jefferson presidency, when Napoleon made Jefferson an offer of the Louisiana Territory, much of that which is the central USA land mass today, for 68 million francs.
Napoleon had a war going on with England at the time and was badly in need of funding for it. He also assured Jefferson that he was planning to put the slaves of Haiti back under control had he the financing to dispatch an army to Hispaniola.
Haiti was the crown jewel of France in the Americas, providing great wealth from its plantations until the slaves overthrew Haiti’s French government.
Jefferson’s worry was that a slave revolt might happen in his country. Even word of Haiti’s slave revolt had been kept from America’s slaves out of fear that they might get ideas. Jefferson welcomed Napoleon’s word that he would put down the rebellion in Haiti and make other slave revolts in the hemisphere less likely, by setting a stern example of what happens to disobedient slaves.
Unfortunately for our slave-owning Founders, Napoleon could not put down the rebellion, as the slaves in Haiti showed their military prowess was superior to that of the French Army, some of the finest soldiers in Europe. This did not discourage the US government, however.
The lighter skinned Haitians, whose ancestors were African mothers and French fathers, were better educated, took control, and to this day speak French. Dark skinned Haitians were the field hands and were subjugated by the mulattos. To this day the darker-skinned Haitians are mostly of the poor and working classes, and speak Creole.
When I interviewed Aristide, I noticed that he is very dark-skinned, and an exception to the rule, well-educated. He was born into a poor Haitian family but got some breaks and became an educated Catholic priest. I brought a French teacher with me not aware that Aristide speaks English very well. He also speaks Spanish, Hebrew, German, Portuguese, Italian, French and Haitian Creole, which is so different from French that the French teacher who accompanied me could not understand a word of it.
By 1915 President Wilson actually sent in the Marines to control Haiti. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had served as assistant secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration, later boasted, “I wrote Haiti’s Constitution myself, and if I do say it, it was a pretty good little Constitution,” to show how absolute has been American control of Haiti.
When the Marines eventually left Haiti, it was in the hands of U.S. sycophants, and remains so to this day. The most brutal period was 1957-86, when Papa Doc Duvalier, and later his son Baby Doc, ruled as cruel tyrants, working to serve U.S. interests. They tried to murder Jean Aristide four times as he spoke out on behalf of democracy for the people.
Before I interviewed Aristide, I read his book, In the Parish of the Poor, which I highly recommend. In that book Aristide talks of people being murdered for trying to teach the poor to read. Haiti’s rulers, working generally for the interests of transnational corporations and the US government, had no use for an educated public, believing that ignorant people are easier to control.
The Haitian government sent death squads to murder Aristide, once shooting into a church where he was speaking, killing and wounding a great many.
When the people of Haiti overthrew him, Baby Doc flew out on an American aircraft and was allowed to retire with a life of luxury in France (it looked bad to locate him in the USA as had other overthrown dictators). Left behind were the death squads, then called FRAPH, and headed by Emmanuel Constant, on the CIA payroll.
FRAPH’s job was to murder supporters of Aristide, and they killed thousands. When many fled Haiti on boats and rafts for the Florida coast, they were captured by the Coast Guard and sent back to Haiti, where they were murdered by FRAPH. I asked President Aristide, when he was in exile, after he’d been overthrown by the US government, if he had documentation to show that those returned to Haiti by the U.S., had been murdered, and he said he did.
The corporate media wrote stories saying that the Haitian boat people were economic refugees, an outright lie, and generally convinced the public that it was best they be sent back to Haiti. I do believe that most of the corporate media people are simply ignorant and write what they are given. A great example is the way they are covering the slow coup in Venezuela, replete with outright lies.
When U.S. corporate media representatives go to Haiti, they speak with the ruling class French speakers, not realizing that they are getting a biased opinion. Since none of them speak Haitian Creole, they don’t get the viewpoint of the masses.
Aristide was first overthrown by a coup headed by General Cedras. But the rest of the world installed a trade embargo pressuring the coup regime for the return of Aristide. President GHW Bush and later President Clinton exempted American companies from the trade embargo, showing their true face.
In a phony pretense, Aristide was returned to the office of president when the people of Haiti showed overwhelmingly their support for him and their hatred of the coup leaders. The trade embargo had hurt Haiti’s economy greatly. President Clinton pretended to care about democracy, while undercutting President Aristide at every turn.
Aristide was overthrown a second time after being reelected, again by US government stooges, the second time under President GW Bush.
Both times Aristide was overthrown it was shortly after his making an announcement that he was pushing to have the minimum wage increased. Aristide told me he wanted those working all day long to be able to feed their families a plate of rice and beans, asking if I thought this was too much.
The US government resists allowing Haitians a higher minimum wage for a good reason. The reason is that which has caused 26 people on the planet to have as much wealth as the bottom 50%, or modern capitalism.
You see, by keeping Haiti’s people starving, the wealth of the super rich expands faster. If, for example, an American worker asks for a living wage, their boss will threaten to move their job to Mexico. If a Mexican worker asks for a living wage, their boss will threaten to move their job to Honduras. And if a Honduran asks for a living wage, their boss will threaten to send their job to Haiti. And that is Haiti’s job, to help the rich blackmail the working class.
Allowing Haiti’s minimum wage to increase to a point at which a worker, working all day, will be able to provide his family with a plate of rice and beans, upsets the entire financial system. Imagine a world in which the super rich were limited to a hundred yachts, not acceptable to the modern capitalist system.
Jack Balkwill has been published from the little read Rectangle, magazine of the English Honor Society, to the (then) millions of readers USA Today and many progressive publications/web sites such as Z Magazine, In These Times, Counterpunch, This Can’t Be Happening, Intrepid Report, and Dissident Voice. He is author of “An Attack on the National Security State,” about peace activists in prison.