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A Century In The Development Of Haiti (1915 To 2014): Foreign Domination Serving Foreign Interests

2113 words - 8 pages

US intervention in Haiti exacerbated poverty and inequality within the past century stifling Haitian democracy and independence. These relations have adversely affected the economic and social life as well, creating the conditions which Haiti currently faces. I have chosen to start in the year 1915 because that is when US Marines began their occupation of Haiti. I have ended in modern day because the US’s relations with Haiti have continued to be exploitative. I will analyze the political decisions imposed on Haiti by the US government, including military occupation, supporting dictatorial rulers, and suppressing democratically-elected leaders. I will use these three stages of US-Haitian relations as the means of proving how US-chosen political regimes exacerbated social and economic issues of Haitian society, especially considering Haiti’s colonial past.

First, the history of Haiti’s colonial past which will help explain why Haiti has been ripe for exploitation. Hispaniola, the island where Haiti would later be founded, was first ‘discovered’ by Columbus in 1492. Due to its location, many European colonial powers contested Spain’s claim of the island until in 1697, when the western third of the island was ceded to the French—who named it Saint-Domingue. This French colony would become the most profitable of the Americas for quite some time due to the harsh conditions the French employed. These conditions included animal-like inspections and brandings, lack of clothing, sixteen-hour days, torture, and the no provision of food leading to a life expectancy of only seven years after capture (Boisvert, 63).

Eventually, in light of the French revolution, a rift grew “between supporters and opponents of extending citizenship to free colored proprietors. This strife set the scene for a massive slave uprising in August 1791” (Blackburn, 646). By 1804, Touissant-Loverture and his black generals were able to expel the Spanish, British, and even “Napoleon [who] with British and U.S. encouragement, sought to reassert metropolitan power and to reestablish slavery and white supremacy in Saint Domingue” (Blackburn, 647). Independence would come at a high price, “a free and independent Haiti was launched in a sea full of the colonies of white European slave-holding states, among them the most powerful nations in the world, for which reason the Haitian people had to be punished” (Mintz, 78). Haiti was diplomatically and commercially isolated, as well as economically burdened by having to pay France 150 million Francs to be recognized (Mintz, 78).

Carolyn Fick explains that reparations and isolation limited Touissant’s options on how to structure the economy, leading him “to restore the colony’s war-torn economy… Touissant would reinforce, rather than reform, the existing agrarian structure…moreover; he created a new category of landholders…further reducing the laborers to a condition of quasi-feudal serfdom” (Fick, 125). Haitians fought against this with...

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