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Racist U.S. commentators slander Haiti

Published Jan 20, 2010 7:53 PM

For the crudest reactionaries like Pat Robertson and Bill O’Reilly, as well as David Brooks of the New York Times, it is “Voodoo,” the religion that a majority of Haitians practice, which explains both the misery of Haiti and its poverty.

Pat Robertson says that Haiti’s misery and disasters come from a pact it made with the devil 200 years ago. “They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil.” (Christian Broadcasting Network)

Survivors carry water in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 15.

David Brooks says that Haiti’s poverty can be explained in large part by “the influence of the [V]oodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile.” (New York Times, Jan. 15)

These attacks on Voodoo go back over 200 years when the U.S. bourgeoisie, which was in large part a slavocracy, was completely shocked that the enslaved Africans of Haiti could organize themselves, rise up, smash the old order, kill their masters and set up a new state that was able to maintain its independence.

Voodoo played an inspirational and unifying role in this revolution. It gave the enslaved African people of Haiti the solidarity they needed to organize a mass uprising under the noses of the slave owners.

Two hundred delegates gathered August 14, 1791, at Bois-Caïman, set the date for the uprising for one week later, and selected Boukman Dutty, a Voodoo priest, to lead the uprising. According to well-founded but oral sources, Boukman made the following speech: “The god who created the sun which gives us light, who rouses the waves and rules the storm, though hidden in the clouds, he watches us. He sees all that the white man does. The god of the white man inspires him with crime, but our god calls upon us to do good works. Our god who is good to us orders us to revenge our wrongs. He will direct our arms and aid us. Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often caused us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of us all.”

This was not a “pact with the devil.” It was a call for revolution — a conscious, planned revolution.

Another myth is that Haiti, once the richest European colony in the Western Hemisphere, is now the poorest nation because of some defect in its national character. For example, Brooks claims “Responsibility is often not internalized.” This is nothing less than vile racism and baseless slander.

To discount the effects of oppression, slavery and repression, Brooks goes on to assert, “Well, [Haiti] has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well.”

Haiti was rich before the enslaved Africans successfully revolted because they were so harshly exploited. The wealth Haitians produced was one-third to one-half of the gross domestic product of France, and supplied the foundations of its current national wealth. For 13 years France waged a genocidal war of extermination against the Haitian people, killing over half of them. After a heroic rebellion in Barbados, hundreds of rebels were executed, but the overall lasting damage was limited compared to the slaughter of Haitians.

After Haiti declared its independence in 1804, the United States refused to recognize it until 1862. France used its fleet to force Haiti to pay 150 million gold francs for the freedom it won at the cost of so many lives. France sold the Louisiana Purchase to the U.S. for 80 million gold francs.

Haiti had to borrow the money from the U.S. to pay France and didn’t finish paying off this debt until 1947. The current value of what Haiti paid is about $20 billion.

The U.S. propped up the Duvalier dictators, father François and son Jean-Claude, from 1957 to 1986, while they stole hundreds of millions of dollars and ran Haiti for the benefit of the U.S. corporations, themselves and their cronies. The U.S. Air Force flew the driven-from-office Jean-Claude Duvalier to France in 1986 to protect him from the Haitian justice system.

How Jean-Bertrand Aristide won two democratic elections as president — the first in 1990 with 67.5 percent of the vote, the second in 2000 with 92 percent of the vote — and how the U.S. organized and financed his removal after each election is completely distorted, if mentioned at all. Tens of thousands of Haitians, at the risk of their lives, have marched in the streets over the past six years to demand his return. Signs calling for his return are popping up all over Port-au-Prince, according to press reports.