Ban and Bill or Jack and Jill? In Haiti, It Depends on the Hill

Posted on March 11, 2009

With great fanfare,the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and former US president, Bill Clinton, paid a visit to Haiti this week.  In light of the US intention to deport 30,000 Haitians currently living in the US back to Haiti, this high-powered duo should be viewed very suspiciously. It is tough to keep a straight face about a deportation order when you consider Haiti’s extreme poverty and hunger. But, Ban and Bill are in Haiti to put a pretty face on the country so that the order is executed without a hitch.  Yet, even this kind of star quality cannot erase 200 years of the US’ predatory policies towards Haiti. Ban and Bill no doubt will pronounce Haiti “fit” for more hell, but the irony that they represent Haiti’s prime abusers –the United Nations and the United States — is inescapable.

And so, like Jack and Jill, let’s go up the hill to see what lies on the other side. The US, upon Haiti’s declaration of independence from France in 1804, refused to recognize the new country and promptly coordinated a worldwide embargo against it.  When the US finally recognized Haiti, it was not until 1862 and only because Lincoln was contemplating sending slaves from the US there.  As World War I erupted, the US, under the guise of stopping German infiltration into the Caribbean, invaded Haiti in 1915 and occupied it until 1934.  During those nineteen years, the US stole all the gold out of the Haitian treasury, enslaved Haitians into work gangs known as “corvees,” and slaughtered thousands in what is known as the “Cacos” wars.

Beginning in 1957, the US found a Haitian diamond in the rough — Francois Duvalier — otherwise known as Papa Doc Duvalier.  Here was a leader who kept the people of Haiti in line via the vicious “Ton Ton Macoutes,” attaches who wielded machete terror wherever they roamed.  But, Duvalier earned his keep even more by being the US’ anti-communist beacon in the Caribbean keeping tabs on socialist movements such as that in Cuba.  Duvalier was rewarded handsomely by the US with loans from international lending institutions — unfortunately, a totally improversihed Haiti is paying back those loans to this day.

Finally, two US-inspired coups (1991 and 2004) lodged against the only Haitian leader that ever gave a damn about the people, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, sealed Haiti into perpetual poverty and dissolved its sovereignty. Approximately 10,000 UN peacekeepers were sent to Haiti in the wake of the second coup.  Ostensibly, their mission was to bring peace and security to Haiti, but as Kevin Pina states in his documentary film, “Haiti:  We Must Kill the Bandits,” their mission was to prop up the highly unpopular and illegal government installed by the US after Aristide’s departure.  Pina maintains that had the UN not been in Haiti, the illegal government would have fallen in a week.

So Ban and Bill went up the hill in Haiti to apply band-aids to cover the scars, to cover the truth. No doubt the press releases will be cheerful and full of hope with pronouncements about Haiti’s readiness to welcome home 30,000 of its citizens. And, as has become customary, they will be accompanied by the usual promises of more loans, yet nary a word about debt relief.

Ban and Bill went up the hill, but never saw Haiti — they could have accomplished their mission from their offices in New York.